Manzanar War Relocation Center closed almost 80 years ago—little remains of the original camp. Yet enough clues can be found to feel the echoes of the frustrations, fears, and even hopes of the more than 10,000 people of Japanese descent who were forcibly, and without due process, incarcerated there. It’s a subtle place now. Of the original 800 buildings on only 540 acres, only three remain. Four newer structures, built from the remains of the original buildings, help share the story. Desert scrub fills the rest of the landscape, concealing much of what little remains.
Manzanar National Historic Site, as it is now known, is the best protected and preserved of the original ten camps spread across the western United States. Still, it has been protected for only the last 40 years. Because of the scarcity of tangible proof, I am searching for metaphorical photographs rather than historical ones—the idea rather than the artifact.