Photography by Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Toyo Miyatake Explores the Power of Gardens

October 30, 2020  15:54  |  News

Portland Japanese Garden presents art exhibition, “Healing Nature: Gardens and Art of Manzanar” opening Saturday, October 31. The exhibition examines the gardens and art at Manzanar Relocation Center through the lens of three leading twentieth-century photographers to reveal the resilience, perseverance, and resourcefulness of Japanese American internees during World War II.

Photography by Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Toyo Miyatake Explores the Power of Gardens

“Evacuees enjoying the creek which flows along the outer border of this War Relocation Authority center” (WRA no. C-793) Dorothea Lange, Manzanar, Calif, 1942. Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library ©

“Today, in the face of the many political and cultural challenges, there is need for cross-cultural understanding in communities around the world,” says Aki Nakanishi, Portland Japanese Garden’s Arlene Schnitzer Curator of Culture, Art, and Education. “We hope to facilitate peacemaking and intercultural understanding through programs like this.”

The exhibition highlights gardens created by the Japanese Americans incarcerated at Manzanar Relocation Center in the Owens Valley of California. While a concentration camp in the high desert is an unlikely place for any garden, the imprisoned community built these gardens as a way to find a sense of normalcy under harsh conditions, add beauty and hope to the desolate landscape, and assert their Japanese heritage.

Each photographer offers a different perspective on the exhibition. Lange, a documentary photographer, was on assignment through the War Relocation Authority and captured the raw emotion of Japanese Americans as they were being sent to or arriving at camp. Adams, whose parents’ longtime employee faced incarceration, came nearly a year later and provided a more personal glimpse from the outside in. Miyatake was an internee who risked his life by smuggling in a camera lens to document life from within so that history wouldn’t repeat itself. All three captured profound moments of life in the face of civil injustice.

Portland Japanese Garden was established in 1963 on the heels of World War II to provide the citizens of Portland with a garden of great beauty while rebuilding their connection to Japan. Inspired by its own history and in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, Portland Japanese Garden is honoured to host an exhibition that provides a look into the past to create a better future.

“Healing Nature: Gardens and Art of Manzanar” will be available through January 10, 2021. For information and tickets, please see






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