Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Archie Miyatake Interview
Narrator: Archie Miyatake
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: August 31 & September 1, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-marchie-02-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: Now how long after he talked to you and how long did it take for the actual camera to be made, the box?

AM: It was about four or five months. He found the carpenter and he told him exactly what he wanted to have made, he gave him the measurements and then what had to be done so he could put the film holder in the back of the camera, so this man was very clever in making it. And then for focusing the lens he had to move the lens in and out, so what he did was, there was an auto mechanic that he knew very well, he was head of the automobiles repair section of Manzanar, so he asked him if he could make something so he could make the lens go in and out. And he thought and thought, and he got an idea of using a drain pipe. It's about this long and had thread all the way, from beginning to the very end, so what he did was he got the drain pipe and the, also the round ring that goes around it and then had, this had the thread on it so he could screw in the pipe in and out so my father could focus the image on the ground glass. So he made that. It was amazing. It's right here.

MN: Can you show us how this works? This is the actual camera that your father had made in Manzanar. So what you just touched right now, was that the drain pipe?

AM: Yeah. It's... let's see, forgot how it worked. [Laughs] I can't turn the drain pipe, I don't know why. Anyway...

MN: But that is a drain pipe?

AM: Yes. It's in there.

MN: Oh, and that's how your father was able to focus? He just kind of twisted it in or twisted it out?

AM: Yeah.

MN: And this box has no nails on it.

AM: No. This carpenter was very clever and he, what he did was he fitted the corners so well that he just, it's held by glue. And then, as you can see, there's a lot of pieces put together to make the wood, the board.

MN: So if you wanted to use this camera now, would, could you take a picture with this?

AM: Yes. The shutter works on here.

MN: So that piece that you're touching right now, is that something your father had to bring in?

AM: Yes.

MN: So he brought that piece in and then the film holder, you said.

AM: Yes, and this part here.

MN: And then everything else was made in camp.

AM: And then this is the film holder.

MN: Now where does that go? Does that go inside?

AM: Yes. So the film goes in here.

MN: Pretty amazing.

AM: Yeah, see how clever he made these things? So that it'll stay up until he, this, when he finished, then he could just go like this and close it. And then also he made this part where he could put it onto a tripod.

MN: Wow. That is really amazing.

AM: Yeah, he was, and this is all made out of tin and piece of aluminum, for the handle.

MN: And you said this took about four or five months to make?

AM: Yeah.

MN: Do you remember who made this box?

AM: No, I can't remember the carpenter's name. But the one that made this part here, he was a mechanic. His name was Mr. Kanemoto.

MN: So I'm, to get a sense of time, your family probably went into Manzanar about June and then about four months later your father had this talk with you. So maybe October? October 1942?

AM: Yeah.

MN: And then another four or five months later is when your father actually had a camera. So between that time your father was not shooting then?

AM: No. And then [puts camera away] --

MN: Thank you.

AM: -- when the Manzanar camp was, we were, oh, about seven, eight months into the camp, and then when the camera was made, my father found out that this man that worked at the California Hardware was coming to take orders for hardware because California Hardware had a contract with the WRA, so the man that was, my father helped build a studio for the California Hardware for, was representing the company to take orders from Manzanar --

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.