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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Seventeen: Memories in Metal and Stone: How monuments, sculpture, and tombs express ideas. > War Relocation Center, Manzanar, California, 2006
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War Relocation Center, Manzanar, California, 2006

After Japan attacked the United States in 1941, more than 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast of the US were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to ten remote desert relocation centers such as the one at Manzanar, just outside Lone Pine, California. Many lost their jobs, their homes, and their property. Two thirds of internees were American citizens. More than 11,000 internees were enclosed by barbed wire in this mile square camp between 1942 and 1945. More than 40 years later, the US government offered an apology and compensation to the former internees, and the camp itself was demolished. One of the few remnants of the camp is a small monument, built in 1943 by the Japanese internees. It stands in a tiny cemetery, and the inscription refers to it as “soul consoling tower.” I abstract the monument down to a fragment of that inscription. A stone rests on its ledge, along with a few pennies, telling us that those who lived and died here are still remembered. Although it is essentially a monochromatic subject, I wanted to photograph it in color so that these memories will seem more real.

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Phil Douglis19-Jan-2008 04:07
A ha! You did just that. You clicked the thumbnail, and I think you get the point. Would the image has been as lonely if you knew how big or small the whole monument was? I doubt it.
Guest 03-Jan-2008 18:46
Another interesting way of looking at the monument. Much simpler...when I look at the lone rock, I think of the extreme loneliness they must have felt.
Phil Douglis09-May-2007 19:32
Thank you, Jen, for joining Tim and Ai Li in commenting on this image. It is a lean image, but what is there does indeed speak of pain and remembrance. The monument itself is a fresh reminder of the tragedy of war. And this photograph of only a small part of that monument and the stone placed upon it, intensifies its freshness through abstraction and symbolization.
Jennifer Zhou09-May-2007 10:32
I am always moved by stories in war time, how ordinary people find their strengths to survive and fight, but the stories are always sad because the war itself is a tragedy.

You framed the image down to its minimum, only one inscription imprinted on the wall, on people's hearts of as well, deeply, heavily, that after more than half century it is still as new as yesterday. So does the pain, still fresh.
Phil Douglis02-Mar-2007 17:14
You are right, Ai Li. This is a "less can be more" image. The stone and penny, small as they are here, carry a lot of history with them.
AL02-Mar-2007 12:11
Phil, you captured it in a simple zen manner. It's moving too, especially after knowing the true story and meaning behind this picture. How a tiny stone and a few pennies carried so much weight of suffering and memories...
Phil Douglis01-Nov-2006 18:45
Your eloquent words put this image into context for us, Tim. Thanks for noting the symbolic connation. I agree -- it is a bleak, uncomprimising image that seeks to define the essence of a bleak subject in a bleak place.
Tim May01-Nov-2006 17:44
Your framing and vantage point help so much in giving this image its meaning for me. In its bleakness it speaks of the vast bleakness of the larger environment and the bleakness in the heart when confronting death. It also echos the culture that created the monument and the sensibility of the people who placed the stone and coins.
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