YAKIMA, Wash. -- A Yakima father and son’s visual documentation of life at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming is the subject of a special presentation at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y., on Oct. 12.
“Close-ups of Time Forgotten: The WSU Hirahara Photos Created in a Secret World War II Underground Darkroom” will highlight the work of George Hirahara and his high-school-age son, Frank C. Hirahara. From 1943 to 1945, they shot and processed what is considered to be the largest private collection of photos taken at the Japanese-American incarceration camp.
George Hirahara built a secret photo darkroom and mini photo studio under his family’s barrack apartment at the camp and produced a collection of more than 2,000 photos.
The father and son’s work is part of the FDR Library’s current exhibition “Images of Internment: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II.”
Patti Hirahara of Anaheim, Calif., the last descendant of the Hirahara family in the United States and a third-generation photographer, donated grandfather’s and father’s collection to WSU, Frank Hirahara’s alma mater, in 2010. She will present and discuss some of the most iconic photos in the collection.
Patti Hirahara will also speak about her family’s lives in Yakima before they were among 1,017 Valley residents of Japanese ancestry forced to leave their homes and businesses in early June 1942 as a result of Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942.
Only about 10 percent returned to the Valley after World War II.
George Hirahara, the son of a Japanese immigrant, ran the Pacific Hotel in Yakima — at 101/2 S. First St. in the city’s Japan Town district — with his wife, Koto, from 1925-42. The family lived in an apartment on the second floor and operated the hotel until they had to evacuate.
The collection has been part of groundbreaking projects delving into the history of the Japanese-American incarceration, including the Emmy Award-winning documentary “Witness: The Legacy of Heart Mountain,” and “Allegiance,” a Broadway musical inspired by the personal experiences of actor George Takei.
Learn more about the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum at fdrlibrary.org.