By STEVE NAGANO
This past year I was fortunate to move to Little Tokyo and to meet many interesting people and to get to know sides of friends I hadn’t known previously. One such person has been Mario Reyes.
Mario to most of us has been an iconic figure, a J-Town mainstay, ubiquitous, photographing everything JA (his term). He acquiesced to my request to interview him and produce a short video piece on how the JA community has embraced him and he, likewise, embraced the community. Can you imagine how much of our community’s history Mario has chronicled in the past 22 years? And what a unique experience and perspective would a Mexican American have of “our” community?
It was a rewarding experience to learn of Mario’s introduction to the community, his initial introduction to Japanese foods, and the issues in the JA community that are close to his heart. However, most surprising was learning about Mario’s photography outside of his work at The Rafu. In fact, my comment upon viewing of his art photography was, “It seems like you have a day job (at The Rafu) but your real passion is art photography.”
It was told to me that his first love is photography. We see his thoughtful pictures in The Rafu that capture the essence of the moment, be it a community meeting, the Nisei Week Parade, or an awards banquet. What we haven’t seen are his beautiful photos of sunsets, landscapes, flowers, portraits and nudes, all artfully shot.
Mario, like the other photographers presented here, has an eye, a perspective, a point of view that we rarely have the opportunity to view. Photojournalists, through their pictures, need to tell a story, need to present “a picture that is worth a thousand words” for their readers. Art photography, the pictures shown here, are photos that instead of telling a story, reveal the photographer’s soul, evoke an emotion. These pictures are an insight into these photographers, how they capture a moment, how they interpret beauty, how they reveal beauty, like poetry is to prose.
Take the time to contemplatively view these photos, enjoy the beauty, and the emotions that these photos bring to you. Too often we view a picture and see the content without appreciating its beauty, without considering the thoughtfulness of the photographer, the framing, the angle, the color, the shadows, the motion, the focus. Enjoy these pictures and learn about the photographers, about their interpretations of beauty, their unique viewpoint, about what’s important to them, about their souls.
Like the eyes that are the windows to the soul, similarly these photographs are our windows to the souls of these photographers.
Just before Halloween in October, I decided to purchase a fisheye lens. The first subject I shot was Ayame Kousaka, Rafu’s gifted graphic artist and dear friend. Every year since I have known her, she creates these elaborate, creative costumes. This year she chose a Batman theme and so she became “The Batkid.”
I enjoyed playingwith this new lens. I saw things with a new perspective, so I decided to take it along with me on my trip up north and try it out on the road. After I got bored shooting with my old workhorses, I decided to pull out the fisheye. Things started to look interesting and I really enjoyed myself.
The image of pampas grass overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in Big Sur about 30 feet from Highway 1. As you can see, the horizon will start to warp—anything left and right screen will start warping inward. By the time I decided to leave the site, I had shot about 100 images, but I felt energized and looking forward to my next stop up the road, wherever that was.
The images in the photo album are from my collection dating from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.
Archie Atsufumi Miyatake, son of photographer Toyo Miyatake, was born in Los Angeles in 1924. Archie was trained in art photography by his father. In 1942, the Miya-take family was incarcerated in the Manzanar concentration camp, where he and his family were confined for the duration of World War II. Archie was attending Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights as a sophmore at the time. He eventually graduated from Manzanar High School while still incarcerated.
Archie continued to run the Toyo Miyatake Studio in Little Tokyo alongside Toyo until his father’s death in 1979, eventually moving the business to its current location in San Gabriel. Now retired, Archie and with his wife of 63 years, Take, reside in Los Angeles.
Archie’s submission is an image of a Calla lily captured on a Canon Powershot G10 with auto setting. Metadata was unavailable. The image was adjusted in Adobe Photoshop CS5.
Grandson of Toyo Miyatake, son of Archie Miyatake, and proprietor of Toyo Miyatake Studio, Alan Miyatake was on a fishing trip up at Twin Lakes in Bridgeport, Calif., when he was able to bag this image of a brown trout with a Pentax Optio W30. In his free time, Alan prefers shooting in the outdoors, mainly in the Sierras.
Metadata information: ISO 64, an f.6.6 stop, auto flash, then minor adjustments made using Adobe Photoshop CS5.
Christy Ishimine is a third-generation Japanese American Angeleno designer, photographer, and artist. She graduated from SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture) and pursued a career in architecture, interior design and historic architectural preservation. Today she is focusing on other arts, including photography, documentary film and jewelry design. She continues to be passionate about her Japanese American cultural heritage and Los Angeles.
“This image was taken in Malibu at my favorite place, the ocean. It was taken with a Canon IXY Digital 800 IS camera, 1/1000th second at f/5.6 at 5:19 p.m., Nov. 3, 2011.
“The feeling I tried to capture is of hope, looking to the future, finding a bit of blue sky. I chose happiness and am on my life’s journey with a positive consciousness, and that is why my photographs are mostly taken from a point of view of looking upward, looking for the good and infinite possibilities.
“This day, I saw the image of baby birds swimming towards a beautiful sunset, the light, a little bit of blue sky.”
GENERAL MIXED ARARE
Mixed Arare Productions has produced six privately published pictorial book titles, including “Mixed Arare,” “Leaning Toward Light” and “L.A. Odori,” as well as art cards and mounted photographic prints. Their photographs have been featured in exhibitions at Little Tokyo’s Hold Up Art Gallery, and are on extended view at Little Tokyo’s Koban Tourist Information Center, as well as at the historic Japanese confectionery, Fugetsu-Do.
Their books provide photographic essays documenting the active and growing interest of Americans in Japanese and Japanese American cultural arts. For example, the softbound “L.A. Odori” pictorial surveys the popularity of Southern California Bon Odori festivals, which have now grown to some 15 different locations throughout the region. David and Christy’s photography focuses on the sheer visual splendor and color of kimono-clad dancers moving in time to Japanese traditional music in a spirit of joy and festivity.
A core mission of Mixed Arare Productions is to help preserve and promote the increasing interest in Japanese and Japanese American cultural art forms. Through artistic photographic and other presentations, Mixed Arare’s mission is to capture and present the most beautiful aspects of these art forms to document and preserve them, and to encourage continuing and growing support for their survival into the future.
David Osako has been an artist and photographer all his life. Raised in Southern California of mixed Japanese American descent, he attended the former Maryknoll Elementary School near Little Tokyo, then moved north to attend UC Berkeley and the University of San Francisco for undergraduate and law degrees before returning to L.A. to resume his life in the creative arts. He and his partner, Christy Ishimine, comprise Mixed Arare Productions, which has privately published six books of photography, and whose books, prints and art cards have been selected for sale at the Japanese American National Museum and Kinokuniya Bookstore in Little Tokyo.
“I took this image at Grand Park this summer during one of the public Obon-type dance events they held there for the first time. While looking for a better vantage to photograph the dancers, my attention was distracted by this praying mantis, the only one I had ever seen downtown, and its colors melded nicely with the city trash receptacle on which it was perched against a night-lit background. I took it with a borrowed Nikon D800, 1/30th second, ISO 2800 at 9:32 p.m., Aug. 10, 2012.”
Nobuyuki Okada is 71-plus years old and retired, but you would not know it by the way he jumps from spot to spot to get his shot. He has had a very erratic path to be where he is today. Starting with entering a technical school in Japan, then joining a fledging car company by name of Honda.
At Honda he was requested to take photos of the progress and failures of the early prototypes. Okada has also worked as a helicopter technician, auto mechanic, and salesperson selling uni. As the years passed he was known to be handy with a camera, so his services were often requested.
Today he volunteers his photo services to the Japanese American National Museum, and also teaches a photo class at the Japanese Community Pioneer Center.
Using a Nikon D300S with an 18mm wide angle lens mounted, Okada photographed the Endeavour as it left LAX at 10:30 p.m. The exposure was set at an ISO speed of 1000, f.3.5 aperture and no flash shot with existing light. Adobe Photoshop CS2 was used for final adjustments.