An all-day exhibit by photographer Gary Miyatake will be held during Nisei Week on one day only, Sunday, Aug. 12, at Toyo Miyatake Way (off San Pedro Street between Second and Third streets), in front of Sakura Crossing in Little Tokyo.
A graduate of the Art Center College of Design, Miyatake learned the art of photography from his grandfather, Toyo Miyatake (1896-1979), who documented Little Tokyo’s history, including the internment at Manzanar. Toyo Miyatake Way was dedicated last year along with a full-size bronze relief of the photographer.
The exhibit includes never-before-shown portraits of Toyo taken by Gary 35 years ago, along with Gary’s other photography and artwork.
Gary Miyatake recalled working side-by-side with his grandfather, who was in the twilight of his life. “There would be times when I had to go in and take a portrait of a person and my grandfather would take one squint (and say) ‘I’ll teach you a few things.’ He’d point out how to use light to … make the person look as good as you can.”
Miyatake remembered a conversation the two had when his grandfather was reading in the front office. “I said, ‘Grandpa?’ He looked up and said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Someday I’m going to be better than you.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Good.’”
Another memory from their lunchtime conversations was that “it was his dream that there would be gallery in Little Tokyo that showed off his work.”
Although his middle name is Toyo, Gary — who runs TOYO Photography in Gardena — explained that he wasn’t exactly named after his grandfather. “I was the first grandson on both sides of the family, and Toyo was one grandfather and Yozo was my other grandfather … They took the first syllable from Toyo and the first syllable from Yozo … That’s how I got my name.”
The exhibit will also feature Miyatake’s recent portraits of Nisei veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service, signed by the veterans.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena), grand marshal of the Nisei Week Parade, is scheduled to visit the exhibit around 4 p.m. The congressman introduced legislation, signed into law by President Obama, to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 100th/442nd and MIS.
Patricia Fukuma, who has been working with her daughter Nina on the veterans’ photo exhibit, is the daughter of an MIS veteran. “Both my daughter and I wanted to recognize and pay tribute to the Nisei World War II veterans, who really helped pave the way for us to have a much better life here in the U.S.,” she said.
A percentage of proceeds from sales of the veterans’ photos will be donated to the Go For Broke Educational Foundation.
For more information, contact Gary Miyatake at (310) 324-8941 or [email protected].
— J.K. Yamamoto