MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 16, 2012: Remembering Yasuhiro Ishimoto

Celebrating the inspiring cross-cultural life and incredible work of a truly unique and talented photographer.

I’ll publish the last post in my love-inspired series tomorrow; but even though this post wasn’t originally part of the week’s plans, it’s certainly inspired by three very parallel and important emotions. For one thing, I love Yasuhiro Ishimoto’s photographs, and I hope this space has consistently made clear just how highly I value the kinds of emotions and responses that beautiful and powerful works of art can inspire. In fact, the kinds of empathy that great works of art can create—the kind I feel, for example, for the African American father and daughter captured in one of the dozen shots in this CNN gallery—is, I would argue, very similar in crucial ways to the love and connection that we can feel for important people and voices in our lives.

For another thing, I admire his consistently impressive responses to what must have been very challenging and difficult life experiences, from his leaving Japan (where he and his parents had moved shortly after his 1921 birth in California) in 1939 to avoid military service to, ironically and tragically, his being held in a Japanese American internment camp for two years during the war. Rather than allow his perspective or work to be negatively impacted by such experiences, Ishimoto made them part of his art and identity in the best senses, as exemplified by his arguments (textual and photographic) in the book A Tale of Two Cities (1999) for what both sides of his heritage and life had contributed to his career and vision. What I love most about America is precisely its ability to yield such amazingly inspiring lives and stories, voices and identities, and Ishimoto is an entirely worthy addition to the American Hall of Inspiration.

And for a third thing, I will freely admit that I had only barely heard of Ishimoto prior to a couple of days ago, when my good friend and colleague Jeff Renye passed along the above link to the CNN gallery (which also includes, if you scroll over the right-hand side of the page, an obituary for Ishimoto, who recently passed away at the age of 90). That’s not a good thing in and of itself, of course, and so I’m writing this post in large part to argue for why Ishimoto should occupy a more prominent place in our national narratives and consciousness than (if I’m any indication) he does. But what is a good thing, and what is in fact at the heart of my goals for the American Studier website and much of my ongoing work, are the kinds of collaborations and learning that Jeff’s sharing exemplifies, and that define just how powerfully our perspectives and ideas, our voices and identities, can be influenced and strengthened by all those around us. (ADDENDUM: Look for some additional thoughts of Jeff’s in the first comment on this post!)

Lots to love! Last post in the series tomorrow,

Ben

PS. Any nominees of yours for the Hall of Inspiration? Share the love!

2/16 Memory Day nominee: Henry Adams, who built on the legacy of his uber-American family to become one of our most inspiring Renaissance Americans: from his novels, non-fiction, and unique and powerful memoir to his pioneering identity as a transnational, cosmopolitan traveler and thinker.

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