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From the Heart Mountain Barracks Project
© Stan Honda
In 1994, staff and volunteers from L.A.'s Japanese American National Museum traveled to Wyoming to dismantle what was left of a frame structure built during World War II. It was a barracks that had held inmates of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center (or "residence control center," as a government bureaucrat euphemized at the time). The discovery that this building still existed had been made by a former inmate at Heart Mountain. He, too, was among the volunteers.
So was Stan Honda, a professional photographer who offered to document the expedition. Because the group's purpose was memorial rather than celebratory, Honda's pictures weren't the casual snaps that people on an outing for fun might have taken of each other. In the photograph above, made while a volunteer struggled to pull nails from a window frame, the figure on the floor is as contorted as a Renaissance painting of a saint in his agony. The shadow becomes the ghost of the thousands of Japanese Americans who were imprisoned in these camps.
Part of this building has been reassembled in the permanent installation at the Japanese American museum, where an album containing this photograph and others made at Heart Mountain can be viewed.
[Originally published in West Magazine : May 28, 2006, p.13]