In the eye of the beholder

Photographs tell stories, not only of the subjects captured in the camera’s lens, but also, of the photographers whose eyes chose the scene. There’s nothing new about this, really. Why then, is it still surprising when different collections of images purporting to tell the same story, offer such different perspectives?

A new post on NPR’s Code Switch explores three different approaches to Japanese internment as seen through the photos of Dorothea Lange (whose photos were seized by the government), Ansel Adams, and Japanese-American internee, Toyo Miyatake, who smuggled in a camera and took secret photos at dawn and at dusk, before becoming the camp’s official photographer.

Each photographer approached the subject of Japanese internment differently, each approach shaped not only by history, background and politics, but also by proximity to the subject at hand.

As I look at these photos, I wonder at the eyes behind the photos of indentured labourers at the “Coelie Depot” or on plantations or just sitting, eating, smiling, laughing, and walking in the capital city of Paramaribo. Who were the photographers? What stories did they see in front of them? How did they choose to tell them through their camera lenses? How might knowing more about them help me to understand the photographs they took?

You can read – and see – more about the internment photos here.

 

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