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-02-0020

<Begin Segment 20>

MN: Now, you know your father's doing something that is illegal, did you ever fear for him?

AM: See, I didn't even know he was doing it because he would develop the film after everybody'd gone to sleep. He would do it in the total darkness while we were all asleep. And then as far as water's concerned, he didn't have to worry about paying the water bill or anything, so he would go to the latrine or whatever, or he would set up a thing outside, right outside where there's a faucet and do the washing of the pictures and the films outside in the, where the water faucet was.

MN: So the latrine is, was his darkroom?

AM: Well, more or less, yeah. But he set up the place in the apartment where we lived, but he would put it all away by the morning and we wouldn't even know he was doing anything.

MN: But, you know, the chemical has a real strong smell to it.

AM: Yeah.

MN: I mean, didn't your barrack smell like that?

AM: Well, I didn't notice anything. 'Course, he probably did most of the chemical work in the latrine maybe, or in the laundry room or whatever. Maybe more of a more laundry room because there weren't that many people going to the laundry room as in the toilet because people, you don't know, people might come middle of the night to go to the toilet, thing like that.

MN: So you didn't know he was doing all this?

AM: No.

MN: When did you find out? And how did you find out?

AM: He told me later. He told me what he had done.

MN: Later after camp or during camp?

AM: After camp.

MN: So what did you think when he told you what he was doing in camp?

AM: I thought, my gosh. Was sure taking a lot of chances, I thought. But he was doing it for, with a purpose in mind, so, like he told me, he said he didn't want a thing like this to ever happen again, so he's doing it. And so when the studio was opened he had to get a Caucasian guy to take pictures, but the thing about it is, like I, one time after taking a picture of about two hundred people, this fellow was going, near the closing time, so he took the lens off because he was taking the lens home with him every night so my father can't use it. Well, he took the lens off the camera when the film was still in there, ruined the picture, so my father got so mad at him because film's so hard to get and he did a thing like that, so this guy, after three, four months, he quit. So after he quit my father went to the camp director, told him what happened, so the camp director thought and thought. He was pretty good friends with my father by then, so camp director told him, "I tell you what. I'll get a Caucasian housewife, the husband works at Manzanar, but the wife at, in middle of the desert they have nothing to do all day, so I'll get one of those ladies to be in the studio, and while she's there you can take the picture yourself." I thought, oh, my father thought that's great, that if he could take the picture himself, there's nothing like it. So she would be there, so my father was taking the pictures, and then at the end of the day this lady would take the lens with her so he won't have any lens to take pictures with. Well, each, these ladies, after they worked for a while they would get so bored all day, they'd do nothing but just stay at studio, so one after another they'd quit. So each time they quit my father went to the camp director to find a replacement. After about five, six ladies the camp director said, "You know what, Toyo, I can't see anything goin' down the left side of me," so my father caught on right away, so from then on he was doing all the photographing himself. And as it turned out, this camp director was a good, very good friend of Ansel Adams and also good friend with Edward Weston, so they had a common friend, so that's one of the reasons why the camp director was very, becoming very lenient with my father.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.