PORTLAND, Ore.–Created to preserve, educate, and honor the history and culture of Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest and to advocate for the protection and civil rights for all, the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center has opened its 25th anniversary season with the new exhibit “Capturing a Generation through the Eye of a Lens: The Photographs of Frank C. Hirahara, 1948-1954.”
This collection of post-war photographs taken of the Japanese and Chinese American communities in Portland, activities of the Oregon Camera Club and the Portland Photographic Society, the Portland Rose Festival, the Epworth Methodist Church, and the Oregon Buddhist Temple provide a revealing glimpse into the depth of Hirahara’s photography.
One of Hirahara’s award-winning portraits was of Oregon’s own Patti Throop, who was a Portland Rose Festival Princess, Miss Portland, Miss Oregon, and a semi-finalist in Miss America in 1954, and is prominently shown in the exhibit.
This collection of over 1,000 images was donated to the Oregon Nikkei Endowment by Frank’s daughter, Patti Hirahara of Anaheim, and these newly discovered images have helped to provide a pictorial record of this time in history.
After his graduation from Washington State University in 1948, Hirahara was hired by the Department of Interior’s Bonneville Power Administration as an electrical engineer in Portland, and he worked there until 1954 before moving to California to enter into the new aerospace boom.
This serious amateur photographer’s work has surprised visitors during advance previews with his attention to composition and detail.
Oregon Nikkei Endowment is in the process of identifying the people in these photographs, with the help of the Portland community, and the Frank C. Hirahara photo collection will become a part of Densho’s online digital collection, which received funding from the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites Grants Program.
Hirahara honed his skills as a photographer while a high school student at Heart Mountain High School, where he was a photo editor and photographer of the school’s Tempo annual. He and his father, George, took and processed over 2,000 photos of the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming from 1943-1945, and this collection is considered to be the largest private collection of photos taken there.
The Heart Mountain collection was donated to Hirahara’s alma mater, Washington State University, and WSU’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections has collaborated with the Oregon Nikkei Endowment for this exhibit in showing photo panels and artifacts from their George and Frank C. Hirahara Collection.
Multiple Emmy Award-winner and news anchor David Ono of KABC-TV’s Channel 7 Eyewitness News in Los Angeles utilized the Hirahara Heart Mountain photos in his documentary “Witness: The Legacy of Heart Mountain,” and a preview of the documentary is being shown with the Heart Mountain section of this exhibit.
The exhibit runs through June 15. The Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center is located at 121 NW 2nd Ave., Portland, Ore., and the exhibit will be open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 3 p.m. Admission is $5 general and free to members of the Oregon Nikkei Endowment. More information can be found at www.oregonnikkei.org, or by calling (503) 224-1458.