Toyo Miyatake


"It is my duty to record the facts, as a cameraman, so that this kind of thing should never happen again."

Toyo Miyatake was born in Kagawa, Shikoku, Japan in 1896. He migrated to the United States in 1909 to join his father where he settled in the Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles, California. While studying in the arts under Harry K. Shigeta, Toyo bought his own photo studio in 1923. Edward Weston exhibited Miyatake's work and Miyatake credits Shigeta to giving him his first gallery showing. When Miyatake met his wife, his brother was courting her. Miyatake spent lot's of time with Hiro (his future wife) claiming that he was using her as a model for his work. Miyatake's brother was crushed by this and said he "died of a broken heart" at a young age.
During WWII Miyatake and his family were interned to the Manzanar relocation camp in the Owens Valley. He smuggled his camera lens into the camp and constructed a camera body made of wood. The pictures that he sectretly took at the camp are the only ones that show the plight of US citizens detained in the camp during the war.
After the war, the Miyatake's returned to Los Angeles, where their friends entrusted their home during the internment. The Miyatakes were very fortunate because their home was not destroyed like many other japanese families homes so they provided shelter to less fortunate families and internees. During the post-war many residents were unable to afford Miyatake's services and some opted instead to barter good they would have him photograph wedding and portraits. His wife, Hiro ran the office and negotiated his services for items such as a Steinway piano and a litter of poodles.
In 1971 Hiro, his wife passed away and Miyatake moved from his home to Third Street in the East part of Los Angeles. He neighbored Monterey Park and lived with his daughter and her family. Even throughout this period of time her still remained active in his studio. Every morning, Miyatake could be seen walking around Monterey Highlands Elementary School as his daily exercise routine. Miyatake would take his camera and take pictures around the park. His last image that he captured on film was taken at this park. The film was then later discovered and processed after his death.

Toyo's Influences
Toyo really had a big influence on the images that he captured secretly while in the Manzanar relocation camp. He took the risk of possibly being killed for smuggling his camera into the camp, he decided that exposing what went on inside of the camp was crutial for the US citizens to know what Amercian citizens just like them had to experience. Even to this day Toyo's images are a huge part of telling a historical story. But instead of the facts that we are given, Miyatake's photo's physically shows the world what it was like as a hostile in these camps. Being in this generation we are able to relate to the hard times that our families and friends had to face but with courage and staying strong throughout these times.

Miyatake's main genre would be documentary. He also does portraits of people and has his own studio made for that but I believe the main reason that he is so famous to this day is because of his secret documentary of the life inside the internment camp. He did what no one else would do, he smuggled his camera lens into the camp because he felt that the citizens with the United States should know the life of citizens just like them, how they were treated in these harsh times. He showed us the truth about these times and with his photographs you can really connect and feel the mood of the image. For me the images represent so much; they really make the saying "A picture is worth a thousand words" come to life.

Toyo Miyatake's Photographs

In this photograph depth of field and the rule of thirds is being used. The way the mountains and clouds are over powering the camp really adds to the mood of the moment and how the whole situation is being handled. Because Miyatake was a key photographer during WWII this image really says everything it need to or the situation it's being put in. The camp is isolated, which represents the isolation the japanese have in their country, America. The clouds are hovering over the camp as if it were taking over, just like the Americans were. Also the mountain behind the clouds represents the feeling of being trapped. The mountains look as if they are trying to say "Haha there's no way your getting out of here now!"
You can see that the light is coming from the top left hand corner of the image. The light is reflecting off of the clouds adding to the effect of the whole image.

In this image depth of field is being used also a hint of framing can be found. This image is probably the most well-known image taken by Toyo Miyatake from the Manzanar Relocation Camp. These young boys are just like any other american child, they just want to be able to enjoy life on the outside. You can see the hurt, the anger, the fear in their emotions.
You can see that the light is coming from directly above them, shining down on them.

This image gives a really good example of framing. I absolutely love this image because of the irony used in it. The image was taken in the Manzanar Relocation Camp and how the cherry blossom tree, so beautiful, represents the beauty and innocents of the japanese and their culture. I believe that this image represents Miyatakes genre is so many ways. It contrasts with the ways and views of the Americans vs. the views and ways of the Japanese. There are just so many different feelings and words that come with this one image. The light is coming from behind the photographer. You can tell because of the texture and detail the light gives to the mountains in the background.

There isn't much design principle present in this image, although you can say there is a touch of balance with the main subject, the woman, present in the center of the image. This photograph tells a detailed story. The emotions on everyone's face shows the mood of the place at the time. Scared, sad, but brave is the emotions I get when I see this image. The photograph seems so innocent but behind the scenes you would feel the energy of the fear and terror of the citizens.
You can see the light is coming from behind reflecting onto the people waiting for train.

While in the camp Miyatake not only took photos of the hard life while in the relocation camp, he also took the other half of their lives while in the camp. This photograph represents the good times and the new life they got used to over time. While in the camp, the japanese got to experience the american culture. Miyatake not wanted just to show the citizens of American the harsh life they were given, but also the experiences they got to have while in the camp.
The light is coming from the left-hand side of the image and is shinning directly onto the three women.

Photographs by Toyo Miyatake

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Toyo Miyatake's Grave1896-1979

Background 20/20
Influences 5/5
Style/Genre 5/5
5 Photos and Description 25/25
Total 55/55