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VIDEO: Why French Artist Sophie Calle Bought a Burial Plot in Bolinas
KQED Newsroom

July 28, 2017



Sophie Calle has been a regular visitor to in the sleepy coastal town of Bolinas ever since she launched her professional career there, producing a series of photographs of gravestones in the late 1970s.

Recently, the famous French conceptual artist made the unusual move of buying herself a grave plot in Bolinas cemetery. KQED’s senior arts editor Chloe Veltman caught up with Calle among the gravestones while the 63-year-old artist was in the Bay Area for the opening of a major exhibition of her work at the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture in San Francisco.

Curated by Ars Citizen, Sophie Calle’s exhibition, Missing, is on view at the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture in San Francisco through Sunday, Aug. 20. Entry is free.

This segment originally aired on Friday, Jul. 28 on KQED Newsroom. To watch the full show, click here. To view the segment at KQED Arts, click here

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'Nobody has one button': Steve Jobs opera sings Apple founder's praises – and flaws
The Guardian

July 25, 2017

Edward Parks as Steve Jobs in the new opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (Photo: Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera)

Read the original story in The Guardian here.

When San Francisco bay area-based composer and electronic music DJ Mason Bates recently visited the childhood home of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Jobs, he was in awe.

“It all started in that garage,” Bates said in a hushed, reverent voice, as we pulled up in the composer’s 1970s Alfa Romeo outside the nondescript bungalow at 2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos. Located on an un-trafficked suburban street, the building’s only distinguishing feature was the “no trespassing” sign on the austere patch of lawn out front. “That’s where he built the early Apple computers,” Bates said, hesitant to get out of the car to take a closer look, lest we disturb the occupants. “That’s where the world’s most valuable company began. In that little garage.”

The fabled garage was designated a historical landmark in 2013. It’s been eulogized in films like Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999) and Jobs (2013), as well as books such as Walter Isaacson’s expansive 2011 biography of the Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

And now that garage has found its way on to the stage in a new opera about Jobs, with music by Bates and libretto by Mark Campbell. The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs opens this weekend at the Santa Fe Opera, a major international festival that unfolds each summer in an open-air amphitheatre, dramatically perched in the desert just north of the New Mexico capital.

The opera careens backwards and forwards between episodes in Jobs’s life. In one scene, he’s launching the iPhone at MacWorld 2007. Then it’s 1974, and he’s dropping acid in an orchard with his girlfriend. Then we’re in 1980, watching Jobs berate his employees at Apple’s corporate headquarters.

The garage is a linking motif through all of this. It’s where the opening scene, circa 1965, between a young Jobs and his adoptive father, Paul, takes place. And it’s a fundamental part of the set design: the garage walls fly apart after the first scene and reform periodically to create different backdrops for the drama as it unfolds.

For Bates that garage, Jobs’s career and Silicon Valley as a whole represent “a place where technology and creativity intersect”. The 40-year-old composer himself has made a career at this intersection. Bates often uses digital technology in his orchestral works. He’s written pieces that make integral use of electronic sounds for top-tier arts institutions such as the San Francisco Symphony and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

And he’s often seen sitting in the middle of the orchestra, playing the laptop part in performances of his compositions. In The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, Bates commands two laptops and an electronic drum pad alongside the other musicians in the pit.

Appropriately, the composer has created a sound world for his new opera’s protagonist that features quicksilver electronics. It includes beeps, pops and whizzes from actual vintage Apple gear, such as the Mac Plus, released in 1986. That particular noise is a prominent feature of the overture. “While you might not be able to pick out exactly that’s a spinning hard drive of an Apple I, a Power Mac or Mac Plus key click, I think the accumulation of those sounds does lend an authenticity to the sound world,” Bates said.

But it takes more than an authentic sound world to make sense of Jobs’s epic life story on stage. The man ran three major companies: Apple, NeXT and Pixar, where he oversaw the release of many wildly successful products and movies such as the iPhone and Toy Story.

Jobs also had a complicated personal life. He was adopted as a baby; he refused for years to publicly acknowledge his first child, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter he had out of wedlock in his early twenties with his then girlfriend Chrisann Brennan; and he died young of cancer, at age 56, in 2011. 

“He was such a complex individual, I cannot even imagine how you’d capture Steve’s life in an opera,” said Andy Cunningham, who worked closely with Jobs as a publicist during the early years of his three companies. Cunningham witnessed the ups and down of the entrepreneur’s career – and erratic temperament – firsthand.

She said Jobs hired and fired her several times, and once demanded calla lilies for his hotel room at midnight. “Steve was a very emotional person, and he was driven largely by his emotions,” she said. 

Other individuals and organizations have also questioned the idea of transforming Jobs’s story into opera.

The San Francisco Opera turned down the opportunity to host the world premiere when Bates and his early collaborator on the project, University of Berkeley arts presenter Cal Performances, approached the opera’s leadership in 2013. (Since the project was workshopped in San Francisco in 2015 and 2016, the organization has come around and will be producing the work in its 2019-2020 season.) 

Apple Inc and the Estate of Steve Jobs have not endorsed the opera, and the creators behind The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs take ample liberties with their source material.

This includes radically simplifying Jobs’s story in some ways, to make it fit into two hours of stage time. For instance, it ignores the title character’s significant contribution to the animation industry through Pixar and his years in exile at NeXT, the short-lived computer company Jobs founded after being ousted from Apple in 1985.

But Bates and his collaborators get at the complexity and emotionality of their subject in other ways. “I was fascinated with the tension that is at the center of Jobs’s life: how do you create these sleek and beautiful devices that miniaturize our communication when people are so messy?” Bates said. “People are so complicated. Nobody has one button.”

To reflect this complexity, the composer weaves together intricate theme tunes for each individual character. There’s jazzy brass music for Steve Wozniak, Jobs’s partner in the formative years of Apple; lush strings signify Jobs’s eternally patient and grounded wife, Laurene; and Jobs’s spiritual adviser, Kobun Chino Otogawa, appears against a backdrop of prayer bowls and gongs.

As usual with opera, there’s plenty of drama. But librettist Campbell injects some fun. My favorite example is a garage scene in which Wozniak proudly shows off the circuit board of his brand-new creation, the Apple I computer.
“She sure is ugly,” sings Jobs.
“An interface only a motherboard could love,” Wozniak responds.

And while operatic heroes are usually played by tenors, this one’s a baritone – a darker, more nuanced voice. The American singer Edward Parks plays Jobs in the world premiere production. Equally tall but more heavyset than the emaciated Jobs, the performer cuts an imposing, intense figure on stage.

Dressed throughout in the entrepreneur’s signature uniform of black turtleneck, jeans and sneakers – according to Isaacson’s biography, Jobs ordered more than 100 of those turtlenecks from Japanese designer Issey Miyake – Parks, like a true baritone, isn’t afraid to embrace Jobs’s dark side.

“I’m mostly drawn to his flaws,” Parks said. “The arc of his life is grand. There’s a lot of betrayal, there’s a lot of anger towards people, and there’s a lot of love as well.”


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Silicon Valley Composer Transforms Steve Jobs’ Life Story Into Opera
KQED Arts

July 24, 2017

To listen to the audio version of this story which ran on KQED's The California Report and KPCC, click here.

Composer and electronica DJ Mason Bates is listening intently to the sound of a clicking computer key through speakers rigged up to a laptop in his Burlingame music studio.

Bates admits the key clicks don’t sound like much on their own. But the opening music in his new opera, "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs", morphs out of those simple sounds.
"When you take them together and then turn them into a rhythmic device, they create a bit of a tapestry," he says.
Composer Mason Bates in his home music studio in Burlingame.
Composer Mason Bates in his home music studio in Burlingame.
Bates often uses digital technology in his orchestral works. He's written major pieces for the likes of the San Francisco Symphony and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., among other top-tier arts institutions.
But this is his first full-length opera. And it matters to the 40-year-old composer that the pops, beeps and whizzes in his score come from genuine Apple gear. The key clicks are those of the Mac Plus computer, released in 1986.
"While you might not be able to pick out exactly that’s a spinning hard drive of an Apple I, a Power Mac or Mac Plus key click, I think the accumulation of those sounds does lend an authenticity to the sound world," Bates says.
Steve Jobs in 2003. Creative Commons.
Steve Jobs in 2003. Creative Commons.
But it takes more than an authentic sound world to make sense of Steve Jobs’ epic life story on stage; it's not for nothing that Walter Isaacson's well-known 2011 biography of Jobs (which Bates cites as a major source of inspiration for his opera) runs to more than 650 pages.
After all, the man ran three major companies -- Apple, NeXT and Pixar -- where he oversaw the release of many wildly successful products and movies like the iPhone and Toy Story.
He also had a complicated personal life. Jobs was adopted as a baby; he refused to publicly acknowledge his first child, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, for years; and he died young in 2011 of cancer at the age of 56.
Edward Parks as Steve Jobs in ‘The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs’.
Edward Parks as Steve Jobs in ‘The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs’.
"He was such a complex individual, I cannot even imagine how you’d capture Steve’s life in an opera," says Andy Cunningham, who worked closely with Jobs as a publicist and witnessed the ups and down of his career -- and erratic temperament -- firsthand.
Cunningham says Jobs hired and fired her several times, and once demanded calla lilies for his hotel room at midnight. "Steve was a very emotional person, and he was driven largely by his emotions," she says.
Andy Cunningham worked as a publicist for Steve Jobs in his early years at Apple, NeXT and Pixar. She witnessed the ups and down of his career — and erratic temperament — first hand.
Andy Cunningham worked as a publicist for Steve Jobs in his early years at Apple, NeXT and Pixar. She witnessed the ups and down of his career — and erratic temperament — firsthand.
Other individuals and organizations have also questioned the idea of transforming Jobs' story into opera.
For instance, the San Francisco Opera turned down the opportunity to host the world premiere when Bates and his early-stage collaborator on the project, UC Berkeley arts presenter Cal Performances, approached SF Opera's leadership in 2013. (Since the project was workshopped at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2015 and 2016, SF Opera has come around, and will be producing the work in its 2019-2020 season.)
But Bates revels in the complexity and emotionality of his subject. "His actual life is the stuff of opera," Bates says.
The opera careens backward and forward between episodes in Jobs’ life. In one scene he's launching the iPhone at MacWorld 2007. Then it’s 1974 and he’s dropping acid in an orchard with his girlfriend.
The work also weaves together intricate theme tunes for each individual character. There's jazzy saxophone music for Steve Wozniak, Jobs' partner in the early years of Apple. Gongs and prayer bowls illustrate Jobs’ spiritual adviser, Kobun Chino Otogawa.
Garrett Sorenson as Steve Wozniak and Edward Parks as Steve Jobs in ‘The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs’.
Garrett Sorenson as Steve Wozniak and Edward Parks as Steve Jobs in ‘The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs’.
Appropriately, Bates has created a sound world for the opera's protagonist that features quicksilver electronic sounds and acoustic guitar -- an instrument that Jobs adored, especially as played by Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.
And while operatic heroes are usually played by tenors, this one’s a baritone -- a darker, more nuanced voice. American singer Edward Parks plays the character of Jobs in the world premiere production, opening in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this weekend. Like a true baritone, Parks isn’t afraid to embrace Jobs’ dark side.
"I’m mostly drawn to his flaws," Parks says. "The arc of his life is grand. There’s a lot of betrayal, there’s a lot of anger towards people, and there’s a lot of love as well."
All ingredients ripe for opera.
"The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs" opens this weekend at Santa Fe Opera in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There will be a California production at San Francisco Opera during the company's 2019-2020 season.

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A Trump-Tinged ‘Julius Caesar’: What Now?
KQED Arts

June 12, 2017

A 2003 production of 'Julius Caesar' at Cal Shakes, directed by Jonathan Moscone, featured L. Peter Callender as a Caesar that recalled the director's father, the late George Moscone.

In Act III of Hamlet, when the skirt-chasing, king-killing, crown-usurping villain Claudius watches a play entitled The Murder of Gonzago about a similarly skirt-chasing, king-killing, crown-usurping villain, he recoils at seeing himself portrayed and runs screaming from the theater: “Give me some light, away!”
So it’s been no surprise over the past few days to witness the knee-jerk reactions from the Trump team, the right-wing media and two major corporations to the Public Theater’s latest production of Julius Caesar, which depicts the murder of a Trump-esque Caesar in gory fashion. Over the weekend, the president’s own son performed a wounded sparrow act on Twitter, Breitbart and Fox acted suitably scandalized and Delta Airlines and Bank of America withdrew financial support of the show.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the political fence, the media has been aflame with defenses of Shakespeare’s 1599 political drama (Shakespeare makes it clear that the murder of Julius Caesar isn’t a good thing) as well as Oskar Eustis’ production for the Public (the director’s production notes include a warning: “Those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic methods pay a terrible price and destroy their republic.”)
At a time when stage productions outside of Hamilton rarely make headlines, it’s been edifying to see the art form do what it was set up to do since back in the days of Aristophanes and Aeschylus: make trouble. But because we’re not used to theater having this kind of impact, we’re left wondering, what now? “People talk about what theater does, but it’s rare that it actually hits a nerve,” says theater director and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Jonathan Moscone. “Here we are in a situation where theater is hitting a nerve and we don’t know what to do with it.”
But there are several things art can do in the face of such an assault on the freedom of creative expression. The most important is to stick up for itself.
Moscone has an interesting cautionary tale about the time he produced a production of Julius Caesar for the California Shakespeare Theater that speaks to this necessity. It was in 2003, when Moscone was near the start of his tenure as artistic director of the company. His take on Caesar -- like all productions of this play -- was politically charged, referencing the 1978 slaying of his father, San Francisco mayor George Moscone.
In preview performances, Moscone had the actor playing Brutus pull a gun and shoot Caesar, instead of stabbing him. This theatrical glance at real-life events -- the death of the mayor -- caused consternation among audience members in previews, Moscone says. “The thing that triggered this was literally a trigger,” Moscone says. “I had people run up to me and yell at me for doing that.”
Still relatively young in his role with the company, Moscone decided to replace the gun with a knife. “It was a decision I made at the time as a new artistic director,” Moscone says. “Would I do that now? No.”
A 2003 production of 'Julius Ceasar' at Cal Shakes, directed by Jonathan Moscone, featured L. Peter Callender as a Ceasar that recalled the director's father, the late George Moscone.
A 2003 production of 'Julius Caesar' at Cal Shakes, directed by Jonathan Moscone, featured L. Peter Callender as a Caesar that recalled the director's father, the late George Moscone.
Later in that same season, when audiences complained about a Cal Shakes staging of Measure for Measure which included an executioner wearing a George W. Bush mask, Moscone didn’t change course. “It’s a dangerous place to be,” Moscone says. “We should be doing this all the time.”
But there’s a certain peril in staging productions that make obvious political parallels between Shakespeare’s world and our own. Should they end up failing in their mission to get the message across, they fail all the more spectacularly. Which brings me to the second important thing theater should do at this moment, which is to more carefully consider its tactics.
When the Oregon Shakespeare Festival produced Julius Caesar in 2011 with a woman in the title role -- Vilma Silva -- you couldn’t help but have to balance Silva’s brilliant portrayal of a leader drunk on power with the murder of a female premier destroyed by the men around her. The production brought out all the complexities of Shakespeare’s play while making a strong feminist political statement without needing to resort to putting Silva in a Hillary Clinton pantsuit or Queen Victoria pearls.
The reason we keep coming back to Shakespeare and other great dramatists like him is because their messages about power, leadership and its undoing transcend the moment. They endure. So whether a director puts Caesar in a toga or a red tie ultimately doesn’t matter. If it’s a strong production, its resonance to today’s world should be loud and clear.
Sigh.
If only that were really the case. In the din of today’s media landscape, where many people draw their conclusions based on a headline or an opinion expressed in 140 characters or less, it makes sense, at one level, for a theater director who wants to make an impression beyond the confines of an auditorium to go for the bleeding obvious -- and put Trump, complete with gold bathtub and Slavic-accented wife, right there up on stage. After all, great art is subtle and rarely easy on the brain; understanding it requires patience, and who the hell has time for that? “Shakespeare demands breathing room and we as a nation are not breathing,” Moscone says. “We’re choking and everything is crisis responding.”
This reality causes Eric Ting, who took over from Moscone as artistic director of Cal Shakes in 2015, a great deal of concern. He notes that the problems for the Public arose when people took the one epic moment in the company’s production of Julius Caesar -- the grisly murder scene of the Trump-like Caesar figure -- out of context, unable to see the larger and more nuanced message of the whole play. “This is a single moment in a production of a great, classical drama,” Ting says. “What is missed is the context of that moment: that Julius Caesar is a play that says ‘violent means beget violent ends.’”

What’s a theater director to do? By presenting Shakespeare (or for that matter Bertolt Brecht, Suzan-Lori Parks or Caryl Churchill) in all its depth and subtlety, one risks reaching only fans of the performing arts, and the show tip-toeing quietly into oblivion. But when trying to grab the public’s attention with some kind of shock tactic that causes less than a moment of thought prior to eliciting a reaction, there’s every chance it will be misinterpreted.
Which brings me to my third and final thing that theater can do: It should never give up. What the hoopla surrounding the Public’s Julius Caesar teaches us is that this art form can make a great noise and send the corporate overlords into a tailspin. As I write, I wouldn’t be surprised if others among the Public’s sponsors stepped up to redouble their support of the company in the wake of Delta Airlines’ and Bank of America’s withdrawal.
And if the day should come when we end up in a nuclear wasteland, where all power is down and none of our electronic devices work, at least there’ll still be theater -- a few actors walking across a stage -- to bear witness, tell the important stories of our times, and spread hope.

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Why We Should Sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’s’ Obscure Fifth Verse
KQED Arts

March 3, 2017

L.A.-based history professor Stephen Mucher thinks the fifth verse of the national anthem
is the one we should focus on today (Photo: Chloe Veltman)
Go here to check out the full radio, text, photo and video package for KQED's The California Report and NPR's All Things Considered I created about the little-known fifth verse of 'The Star Spangled Banner' -- a verse which a Los Angeles-based history professor thinks is the one we should be singing today. 

You can also hear the radio story separately here: 


And here is a link to the video piece: 



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SFCM Talks: The Role of Arts Journalism
San Francisco Conservatory of Music Online News

February 21, 2017


Chloe Veltman, Senior Arts Editor at KQED, visited SFCM early this February to give a talk titled “How to Get Noticed” to set the business mindset that students need as they develop programs and concert series of their own. Over her career, Veltman has contributed to media outlets including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal, in addition to authoring the blog lies like truth, and worked as an associate producer and screenwriter for Keeping Score with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony.

Veltman started her talk by reading several recently rejected journalistic proposals, all of which were valid and projects in their own right, like the world premiere of Dream of the Red Chamber at the San Francisco Opera. What was it about these projects that didn’t make them appealing options as journalistic features? What was it about these projects that didn’t allow them to come to fruition as journalistic features? It became clear that while many had interesting angles to explore, they lacked a connection to the present moment and current political climate. “We’re living in a world where, in the foreseeable future, we can’t in good conscience take a business-as-usual approach,” explained Veltman. “We can’t do this as arts journalists and, as I’m going to suggest today, we can’t as artists either. Why? Because regardless of your political beliefs, it’s impossible not to see that every day brings news of new protests against the Trump administration, immigrant ban policy, climate change denial and other issues. The reactions to all of this are international in scope.”

Veltman did not suggest doing away with the old, but simply recommended changing at least one aspect of the performance. She explained that no matter what one’s political views are, it is a crucial aspect of the artist’s life to be a part of the dialogue between the world around you, the press, and the audience. Changing the frame can be anything from bringing classical music to the people in schools or public parks, to holding a benefit concert, to prominently featuring female or Muslim composers, to composing a work in reaction to the world around you. Student Andrew Grishaw ’17 attended the talk and said, "The talk that Chloe Veltman gave was intriguing because of the connection she made between the arts and the political climate. Specially, we spoke about how to connect to all sides of the political spectrum through the work that we do. This is something I believe is vital to the improvement of our communities and our nation."

Veltman emphasized her conviction about “how artists and arts journalists can learn from each other to encourage the creation of art that’s meaningful and puts culture in the center of our eyes rather than the fringes, that makes art something that we need to have rather than a nice luxury.” Violist Anna Heflin ’16 attended the talk and was “happy to hear that arts journalists want us as musicians to continually change the frame, because that gives us a lot more artistic freedom and supports our endeavors.”

This month, current SFCM students, including vocalist Jasmine Johnson ’18, are taking Veltman’s advice, joining with faculty and alumni to present STRANGE FRUIT, an evening of music, poetry, and original works celebrating the black experience. Its mission is to promote multicultural, experiential arts, and the positive image of ethnic diversity at SFCM. On STRANGE FRUIT, Johnson says, “Raising black awareness for the creations and inventions of black Americans should happen everyday, not just during black history month, but that may never happen. That being said, art is the creative expression that unites us as humans. I believe it is important for the arts to promote a positive image of creative ethnic diversity to reflect the political climate in America because art is a universal language that has the ability to change the world.”

Find the original story here.
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Dorothea Lange Photos Lead Historians to Japanese Camp Survivors
KQED Arts

Read and listen to the original radio and web story at KQED's website here.


There are nearly 200 photographs in Michael Williams and Richard Cahan’s new book Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War Two. But one in particular stands out for Cahan. “The photograph of Rachel, in my opinion, was the most compelling and beautiful photograph in the book,” Cahan says. “Dorothea Lange had this unique ability to get so close to people, even people that were strangers, and look into their eyes.”
Lange’s portrait of Rachel Kuruma is startling in its simplicity: The 11-year-old San Francisco schoolkid looks into the camera, smiling quietly, in a cute, floral-print dress. The shock comes at the fact that only days after Lange shot this photo at Raphael Weill Elementary School on April 20, 1942, Kuruma and her family were bundled off to prison camp.

Awakening long-lost memories

Fast forward 75 years, and Kuruma is back at her former school for the very first time since Lange took her picture in 1942. Cahan and Kuruma have become friends since he tracked her down for his book project last year, and we're there to see if the surroundings might help jog childhood memories for Kuruma. But the school, which is now called Rosa Parks Elementary, has changed almost beyond recognition since she was a student. And the spry, 85-year-old has absolutely no recollection of posing for Lange.
Rachel Kuruma returns to Raphael Weill Elementary School, now called Rosa Parks Elementary, on Jan. 24, 2017. It was her first time back since Dorothea Lange took her picture in 1942.
Rachel Kuruma returns to Raphael Weill Elementary School, now called Rosa Parks Elementary, on Jan. 24, 2017. It was her first time back since Dorothea Lange took her picture there in 1942.
Cahan has brought a copy of Lange’s photo along. Being at the school and looking at the picture gradually brings back distant memories for Kuruma of the three-plus years she spent living in the prison camps at Tanforan, California, and Topaz, Utah as a girl. “The toilets, none of them had doors,” she says. “So you tried to pick one that was facing against the wall, preferably the one in the corner so you have some privacy.”

Executive order 9066

On Feb. 19, 1942, in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This led to the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II at prison camps across the western United States.



Roosevelt’s government hired photographers like Lange to show off the camps in their best light. But she and some of the other hired guns ended up exposing what life in the dusty, hastily-built enclaves was really like. As a result, Cahan says, some of her images were locked away during the war. “They were impounded primarily because they gave away ‘military secrets’ -- that guards were using machine guns and that there was barbed wire around the camp,” Cahan says.

Tracking down survivors

After the war, the photos ended up in the National Archives in Washington, D.C, where the collection can still be found today. (It’s also available online.) Many more photos from the approx. 7,500-image collection have appeared in publications since the war years. But Cahan and his co-author decided they wanted to go deeper, to truly get people to understand what innocent Japanese Americans went through during the war. So they set about capturing the personal stories of as many of the people in the pictures as they could.
Rachel Kuruma poses for Richard Cahan in roughly the same spot where Dorothea Lange took Kurumas picture on Apr. 20, 1942.
Rachel Kuruma poses for Richard Cahan in roughly the same spot where Dorothea Lange took Kurumas picture on Apr. 20, 1942.
“The book lets you hear the words of the people who were picked up,” Cahan says. “When you see a person 75 years earlier and hear them talk about that very picture and that very day and what happened to them, I think it has great power. I think that there’s an emotional hole that it fills that really has not been filled before.”
Cahan says tracking down survivors wasn’t easy. In Kuruma’s case, her name was misspelled in the records -- as “Rachael Kurumi” instead of “Rachel Kuruma." “I had the list of all of the survivors of the camps,” Cahan says. “There was no ‘Rachael’ spelled that way, and there was no ‘Kurumi’ spelled that way."
Rachel Kuruma hung up the phone when Richard Cahan called her for the first time. Now the prison camp survivor and photo journalist are friends.
Rachel Kuruma hung up the phone when Richard Cahan first called her. Now the prison camp survivor and photojournalist are friends.
A search on the genealogy website Ancestry.com led Cahan to a 1949 yearbook photo of Kuruma as a student at Lowell High School. He did more poking around on Google. Then, one day, he got hold of her phone number. But Kuruma thought the caller was trying to sell her something. “I called her, and she picked up the phone,” Cahan says. “I said ‘My name is Rich Cahan and I’m a…’ and before I had said ‘journalist’ she hung up the phone.”
Cahan was persistent. Eventually, he managed to meet Kuruma. She says she rarely thinks or talks about the prison camps, and had no idea the photograph existed until the day Cahan showed it to her. “He’s talking about this picture. I say, what picture?” Kuruma says. “So he brought it over and I looked. It was kind of interesting.”

The past as a catalyst for present-day activism

Some of the people the authors approached weren’t so taken by surprise when Cahan got in touch. Berkeley psychotherapist, filmmaker and activist Satsuki Ina was born in a maximum security prison camp in Tule Lake, California in 1944, after her parents were labeled as dissidents for refusing to swear unqualified allegiance to the United States. She’s studied the National Archives photo collection. The arresting image in Cahan and Williams’ book of a young woman standing in line in San Francisco, waiting to hear news of her fate, is one Ina knows very well.
Shizuko Ina waits in line in San Francisco to hear news of her fate in the wake of President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066.
Shizuko Ina waits in line in San Francisco to hear news of her fate in the wake of President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066.
“This is a photo of my mother,” she says, looking at the picture in Un-American. “She had no idea what this was going to lead to, where they were going to be and for how long. So I see that expression on her face. It captures the confusion and the fear that she wrote about in her diary.”
Ina has made a study of her parents’ diaries and letters from the camp. She shows me her mother’s original journals, segments of which she gave Cahan and Williams permission to use in their book. Ina locates the entry dated Friday, Apr. 24, 1942, from right before Lange took that photo of her mother.
She reads it aloud, and the reality of this young woman’s predicament, as she waits to receive her marching orders, suddenly feels three-dimensional: “Twelve noon today our evacuation order is effective," Ina reads. "Every corner of the block has a notice on it. There are so many people that we’ve been waiting almost three hours to get a slip of appointment for tomorrow.”
Satsuki Ina reads her mothers journal at home in Berkeley.
Satsuki Ina reads her mother's journal at home in Berkeley.
Ina has made documentary films based on the diaries and other memorabilia, and is at work on a book. Like others from her community, she sees a worrying link between how the U.S. government treated Japanese Americans during the Second World War and recent calls by the Trump administration for a Muslim registry. “People were hysterical about Japan attacking the U.S.," she says. "So today of course that resonates with the same kind of mass hysteria that is being rung up about terrorism.”
Like Cahan, Ina says she wants to do everything she can to teach people about this irredeemable chapter of American history -- to prevent the same horrors from happening again.
Q.Logo.Break
Editor's note: Although the phrase "internment camps" is most commonly used in this country to describe the sites where 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated  during the WWII, many members of the Japanese community believe that "internment" is not an accurate descriptor for the camps. Members of the Japanese community believe they were wrongfully imprisoned, and many use the terms "incarceration camps" or "prison camps" to describe the sites where they were detained against their will. We opted to use these terms in lieu of the more common term out of respect for the community.
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