Iwasaki, Carl

Japanese-American (1924)


Japanese-American Carl Iwasaki took up photography as a middle school student and began receiving assignments for the student newspaper and yearbook as he entered high school. His development, though, was interrupted when he and his family were forced into a prison camp in Wyoming by the War Relocation Authority. This arm of the government was designed to protect American soil during WWII from potentially dangerous Japanese infiltrators and locked thousands of people up for no other reason than their race.

While the experience was not a pleasant one, it did put Iwasaki in line for his first commission. Upon his release, in 1943, he was hired to take photographs for the WRA, chronicling life inside the camps and the relief experienced upon release. Working from Denver, he took over 1300 photographs for the project and gained enough on-the-job training to pursue a full-time photography career after the war. Iwasaki worked for Life, Time and Sports Illustrated, often drawn to stories about the marginalized and disenfranchised; his photos of the civil rights movement are some of the most affecting.