Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bustos in Charge

I had every intention of posting a second of probably many about Heart Mountain. This is that but with a twist. On the day before the pilgrimage festivities which were to honor internees who had fought in World War Two I was casing the joint and while doing so met a burly gentleman of a certain age who asked why I was photographing the camp. I told him that I was at Heart Mountain to attend the pilgrimage, that I had a deep interest in the topic of camps and hoped I could capture the spirit of the occasion.

John Bustos of nearby Powell was quite a talker and not much of listener but impressive in a drill sergeant sort of way. John had done 27 years in this man’s Army, another 20 or so working for some energy outfit and now had found his calling heading up the local honor guard. He would be commanding the next day’s salute to the 800 Japanese Americans from Heart Mountain who had fought in the war despite their unlawful imprisonment.

So this post is kind of a sidebar to the real story of Heart Mountain but a good one I think.

The guy you see here, the son of an immigrant Mexican mother, still packing 200 pounds of muscle on a 5’7” frame boasted of 75 years on planet earth and by my reckoning could still lead a platoon in Viet Nam as he had in the sixties. Impressive guy.  Great teeth and skin.  But with politics to the right of Attila the Hun. Said there was one live round in the volleys to be fired during the ceremony. That one was reserved for Obama.  Told me twice. It was that funny I guess.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Insult and Injury

Our actions against Americans of Japanese descent was foretold by numerous historic events and by the comments of Franklin Delano Roosevelt well before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As early as 1925 when he was Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt said that any mixing of the white and Japanese races would have catastrophic results and in 1936, citing the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 in which the much smaller Japan defeated Russia, told the Secretary of the Army that in the event of any act of aggression by the Japan to round up all Japanese Americans on the west coast and put them in camps. It was widely believed that American citizens of Japanese descent would rally to Japan’s side and that Japanese Americans could not be trusted.  There is little doubt that this conception stemmed from broad racial bigotry in the United States and more so at the highest reaches of its government. Roosevelt's Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, an ardent racist on a good day, believed that Japanese Americans were subversive terrorists because it was in their blood. Apparently German Americans were not afflicted.

Despite intelligence from the FBI and the Army that there was no identifiable threat from Japanese American’s Executive Order 9066, the Relocation Act of 1942, was instituted and by the fall of 1942 all 112,000 American Japanese from the west coast were safely imprisoned in camps throughout the American west and in Arkansas. Sixty two percent were American citizens.
A generation of Japanese Americans entered the camps as children or young adults. They, it turns out, were the lucky ones as they were able survive and even flourish in the camps. Many of the young men, as if to prove their loyalty either volunteered for service or submitted to the draft. They served with enormous valor as is well documented in the history of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team that served in Italy and became the most decorated unit in American history.
800 men and women from Heart Mountain served. Two of the twenty two Japanese American Medal of Honor winners, James Okubo and Joe Hayashi, were from Heart Mountain. To add insult to injury these American heroes were initially denied the Medal of Honor solely because of their race despite recommendations from their commanders and were relegated to the Distinguished Service Cross. They were finally given their due in 1990 when President Clinton hung the medals around their necks.

In total 26,000 prisoners voluntarily served but 500 resisted the draft. They were found guilty of draft evasion and were sent to federal prisons. These men, in the words of the late Senator Daniel Inouye, himself one of the Medal of Honor winners, "were the really brave ones."

Barney Fushimi Hajiro who refused to own a Japanese car lamented when he received his medal that, “Even after the war they still called me a Jap, you know?”



Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sinclair put the Sinclair in Wyoming

I got a latish start on my long awaited trip to the Heart Mountain Internment Camp near Cody, Wyoming. That allowed for a sleepover in Fort Collins before really getting on the road in earnest. As usual my route plan was sketchy. It’s better that way.

Along about Cheyenne, just 45 minutes above Fort Collins I opted for a couple of hours of I-80 to Rawlins where I would turn north in the general direction of Cody.

Then maybe ten miles east of Rawlins I spied the minarets of a major industrial something or other. “Eureka” I thought. Thermonuclear blight is right up my alley. I got off at the next off ramp to find out who or what was trashing the pristine high desert. What sinister robber baron was having his way with the natural world?

At the nominal first intersection I saw that the town’s name was Sinclair. That alone was not noteworthy till the dim reaches of my dim brain computed that this was, if not the home of Sinclair Oil, at least a satellite branch of same. That there would be a flame belching behemoth of petro production astride the steppes of southeastern Wyoming did not induce amazement either. This, after all, is the state where precisely one third of all pick-up trucks say Halliburton on the door.

Tidy little Sinclair population 437 is a company town. It exists solely to provide labor to Sinclair Oil. At last count there exactly were two commercial enterprises in the town, a Mexican restaurant and the bar called the Corner Bar. If you lived in Sinclair you could live without the Mexican joint.

The Spanish colonial PARCO Hotel circa 1925 has long been stuttered and now houses a fundamentalist Christian church.

Next stop Heart Mountain.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Alter Ego

Apropos of absolutely nothing and mostly because I’ve been on the road for a week and can’t find my words here’s a simple portrait of esteemed Taos photographer Lenny Foster. Lenny is a smiling kind of guy so showing a little attitude in this one seems like a good idea.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Baudinard Fog

My medium telephoto reveals a trip to France in the near future, maybe September. And so, an image from our last sojourn in Provence, that would have been 2011, seems most appropriate today. The photograph is from our little street in Baudinard, the lovely Chemin d’Artignosc. And on this lazy summer weekend I am the soul of brevity. Do I hear applause and murmurs of appreciation?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Members of the Wedding

These images, with all their flaws, reveal unfettered happiness. Yes, my shutter speed didn’t quite stop the action, a little flash would have softened the contrast and that tree trunk interferes big time but, man, those guys were literally jumping for joy. It was life affirming somehow and made me feel good about the human animal at a time when positive signs are all too rare. Kudos to the intrepid wedding photog who choreographed this high stepping sprint down Peachtree Avenue in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood. It took all of my considerable persuasive powers to get them to do that.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Famous last words

A couple of years back I had a brief flirtation with long exposures. I had just purchased a graduated neutral density filter with which I planned to make really long exposures, thirty seconds and more, even in bright daylight. Sad to say, I’ve done little with the device since. There’s always tomorrow I reckon.

The effect on these images of the Martinez Hacienda in Taos is to render a milky sky and richly textured adobe. The hacienda had just received a fresh coat of mud so the earthen colors were particularly robust. It appears to me that the long exposures and the moving light creates roundness and volume in the shapes and shadows of the building making it appear even more organic.


Long exposures are not for the tripod averse and I am that if nothing else. In our recent sojourn to Spain the thing was effective ballast at best. Next time will be different.