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[Sign at entrance to Manzanar War Relocation Center, California]Ansel Adams' Manzanar War Relocation Center Photographs

Collection digitized? Yes. 244 images are available in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (// (The same images are presented on the Library of Congress American Memory site.) [ Retreive online images].

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In 1943, Ansel Adams (1902-1984) photographed the Manzanar War Relocation Center at the suggestion of its director, his good friend and fellow Sierra Club member, Ralph Merritt. Adams wanted to contribute to the war effort while at the same time show the loyalty of the Japanese-Americans interned at Manzanar, located in Inyo County, California, approximately 200 miles northeast of Los Angeles. In 1944, some of these images were published in Adams' book Born Free and Equal. The book had a limited circulation, perhaps due to the political climate of war-time America. When offering the collection to the Library, Adams said in a letter, "All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document, and I trust it can be put to good use...The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and despair by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment."

Beginning in 1965, Adams gave 241 original negatives and 209 photographic prints to the Library. Adams printed the photographs in the 1960's. By this time, his outstanding darkroom style produced prints with rich tonalities. The Library's Duplication Services does not attempt to duplicate Adams' printing style. Adams often cropped his images and his prints are frequently much darker than those printed by the Library's Duplication Services, so patrons ordering prints will not receive ones exactly as Adams would have printed them.


In 1998, to preserve and protect the original photographic prints, LC's Duplication Services printed reference surrogate prints from the original negatives. The surrogate [Lot 10479 (F)] is arranged in eight subdivisions according to subject matter. It includes portraits, photos of day to day activities, and landscapes. Because Adams did not donate original photographic prints for each negative, the surrogate Lot contains more images than have been previously available for research purposes. There are 209 original photographic prints and 241 reference surrogate prints.


This collection is in the public domain, but privacy and publicity rights may apply. When images are reproduced in a publication, the Library requests that the reproduction number be published with the credit, as in the following example. "Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10."


Copies of Ansel Adams' Manzanar photographs may be ordered through the Library's Duplication Services. Orders for copies must be accompanied by reproduction numbers for the desired images. Reproduction numbers can be found on the surrogate reference prints in LOT 10479 (F). For those images that are represented by online catalog records, reproduction numbers (including black-and-white film negative numbers and, in some cases, numbers for color transparencies made by photographing the original print in the collection) are also cited in the catalog record.

If reproduction numbers are not known, the Division's reference staff will search for up to fifteen reproduction numbers in reply to written requests. Such inquiries should include: (1) a photocopy of the desired image, (2) caption, and (3) author and full title of the publication and the page on which the image appeared. Once the reproduction numbers have been identified, photographic prints or transparencies can be ordered directly from the Library of Congress, Duplication Services, Washington, D.C. 20540-5230. Order forms, price, and order instructions will be provided on request.


The following works by Ansel Adams are available in the Prints and Photographs reading room:
  • A portfolio of 15 photographs entitled What Majestic Word; In Memory of Russell Varion (San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1963). These photographs are not in the public domain. Call number: PH - Adams (A.), no. 2 (PORTFOLIO)

  • An early portfolio of 18 photographs entitled Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras (San Francisco: Jean Chambers Moore, 1927). These photographs are not in the public domain. Call number: PH - Adams (A.), no. 4 (PORTFOLIO)

  • Two single photographs, "Basin Peak and the Buttermilk Country Road, " and an undated and untitled portrait of Ella Young. These photographs are not in the public domain.

For information on permission to reproduce work by Ansel Adams that is not in the public domain, see the rights and restrictions statement, "Ansel Adams (Except for the Manzanar War Relocation Center Photographs)" [//]

While not owned by the Library of Congress, another collection of interest is a series of photographs which Adams took for the National Park Service. These public domain images are housed at the Still Picture Branch, Special Archives Division, National Archives, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. These images are available through the National Archives internet site. A summary description of the images is available at Descriptions of individual Ansel Adams' items with digital images can be located by using the National Archives' National Archives' ARC database (


The following publications reproduce a number of Adams' images. The first two deal specifically with Manzanar.

Adams, Ansel. Born Free and Equal, photographs of the loyal Japanese-Americans at Manzanar relocation center, Inyo county, California. New York: U.S. Camera, 1944. Call number: F870.J3A57 P&P

Armor, John. Manzanar. New York: Times Books, 1988. Call number: D769.8.A6A69 1988 P&P

The Mural Project. Photography by Ansel Adams. Santa Barbara: Reverie Press, 1989. Call number: E160.A299 1989 P&P

Ansel Adams: The National Park Service photographs. New York: Abbeville Press; 1984. Call number: E160.A298 1984 P&P

Ansel Adams-Images, 1923-1974. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1974. Call Number: TR654.A33 1974 P&P folio

Adams, Ansel. Yosemite and the Range of Light. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1979. Call number: TR 660.5.A33 P&P

Alinder, James. Ansel Adams: Classic Images. Boston: Little, Brown, 1986. Call number: TR647.A43 1985b

Alinder, Mary Street and Andrea Gray Stillman, eds. Ansel Adams: Letters and Images, 1916- 1984. Boston: Little, Brown, 1988. Call Number: TR140.A3A4 1988 P&P

Hammond, Anne. Ansel Adams at Manzanar. Honolulu: Honolulu Academy of Arts, 2006.Call number: TR647.A236 2000 [P&P]

Newhall, Nancy. Ansel Adams: The Eloquent Light. New York: Aperture, 1980. Call number: TR140.A55N48 1980 x-copy P&P

Prepared by: Jan Grenci, Reference Librarian, 5/11/98

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  March 16, 2012
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