Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

‘Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Confinement in World War II’ on view at Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University through May 12

Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University is presenting Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Confinement in World War II, an extremely rare collection of color photographs of the lives of Japanese Americans behind barbed wire between 1943 and 1944 shot by Bill Manbo, a Japanese American inmate, at the Gallery at the Center, Columbia University, Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Columbia University, 420 Hamilton Hall in New York. The exhibition of photos will be on view through May 12, 2016.

Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Confinement in World War II on view through May 12, 2016. Photo by Lia Chang

Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Confinement in World War II on view through May 12, 2016. Photo by Lia Chang

In 1942, Bill Manbo, pictured, and his family were forced from their Hollywood home into the Japanese American internment camp at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. Copyright 2012 Takeo Bill Manbo

In 1942, Bill Manbo, pictured, and his family were forced from their Hollywood home into the Japanese American internment camp at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. Copyright 2012 Takeo Bill Manbo 

In 1942, Bill Manbo (1908-1992) and his family were forced from their Hollywood home into the Japanese American internment camp at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. While there, Manbo documented both the bleakness and beauty of his surroundings, using Kodachrome film, a technology then just seven years old, to capture community celebrations and to record his family’s struggle to maintain a normal life under the harsh conditions of racial imprisonment.

The photographs on view at the Gallery at the Center, Columbia University, Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Columbia University, 420 Hamilton Hall in New York, through May 12, 2016, are among the sixty-five images featured in the book, Colors of Confinement, Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II, edited by Eric L. Muller and featuring photographs by Bill Manbo. The book is $35 and can be purchased here.

muller colors jacket440

The subjects of these haunting photos are the routine fare of an amateur photographer: parades, cultural events, people at play, Manbo’s son. But the images are set against the backdrop of the barbed-wire enclosure surrounding the Heart Mountain Relocation Center and the dramatic expanse of Wyoming sky and landscape. The accompanying essays illuminate these scenes as they trace a tumultuous history unfolding just beyond the camera’s lens, giving readers insight into Japanese American cultural life and the stark realities of life in the camps.

Billy Manbo clutches a barbed-wire fence. Photo by Bill Manbo

Billy Manbo clutches a barbed-wire fence. Photo by Bill Manbo

A light moment during a sumo wrestling match. Photo by Bill Manbo

A light moment during a sumo wrestling match. Photo by Bill Manbo

At midday on Sept. 21, 1943, a crowd of about 4,000 people gather at the high school to send off 434 detainees departing for the Tule Lake Segregation Center in California after the government deemed them 'disloyal'. Photo by Bill Manbo

At midday on Sept. 21, 1943, a crowd of about 4,000 people gather at the high school to send off 434 detainees departing for the Tule Lake Segregation Center in California after the government deemed them ‘disloyal’. Photo by Bill Manbo

Billy Manbo, in pilot attire, plays with a model airplane. Photo by Bill Manbo

Billy Manbo, in pilot attire, plays with a model airplane. Photo by Bill Manbo

A boy scout and behind him a drum majorette, at the head of a parade. Photo by Bill Manbo

A boy scout and behind him a drum majorette, at the head of a parade. Photo by Bill Manbo

Young women chat at Bon Odori, a dance ritual performed during Obon, a summertime Buddhist festival commemorating one's ancestors. Photo by Bill Manbo

Young women chat at Bon Odori, a dance ritual performed during Obon, a summertime Buddhist festival commemorating one’s ancestors. Photo by Bill Manbo

Billy Manbo with his maternal grandparents, Junzo (left) and Ryo Itaya. Photo by Bill Manbo

Billy Manbo with his maternal grandparents, Junzo (left) and Ryo Itaya. Photo by Bill Manbo

A group of children line up for a photo in front of a barrack wall. Billy Manbo is on the far right. Photo by Bill Manbo

A group of children line up for a photo in front of a barrack wall. Billy Manbo is on the far right. Photo by Bill Manbo

Billy Manbo walks westward along an avenue in the camp lined with piles of coal for the stoves in the barracks. Photo by Bill Manbo

Billy Manbo walks westward along an avenue in the camp lined with piles of coal for the stoves in the barracks. Photo by Bill Manbo

Gallery hours of the exhibition are 10:00AM – 4:00PM, Monday through Friday.

Eric L. Muller, George Takei and Frances Negron-Muntaner, director for the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at the opening reception for Colors of Confinement at the Gallery at the Center at Columbia University in New York on December 7, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Eric L. Muller, George Takei and Frances Negron-Muntaner, director for the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at the opening reception for Colors of Confinement at the Gallery at the Center at Columbia University in New York on December 7, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang and George Takei talk about Broadway’s Allegiance at The Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University

Founded in 1999, the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER) at Columbia University is a vibrant teaching, research, and public engagement space. The Center’s mission is to support and promote the most innovative thinking about race, ethnicity, indigeneity and other categories of difference to better understand their role and impact in modern societies. What makes CSER unique is its attention to the comparative study of racial and ethnic categories in the production of social identities, power relations, and forms of knowledge in a multiplicity of contexts, including the arts, social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities.

To promote its mission, the Center organizes conferences, seminars, exhibits, film screenings, and lectures that bring together faculty, as well as undergraduate and graduate students, with diverse interests and backgrounds. CSER partners with departments, centers, and institutes at Columbia and works with colleagues and organizations on campus and off campus in order to facilitate an exchange of knowledge.

Click here for more information on CSER.
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Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2016 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at lia@liachang.com

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