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Guide to the Jack Iwata Collection, 1942-1945
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Jack Iwata collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1942-1945
    Origination: Iwata, Jack Masaki
    Extent: 166 photographs and copy negatives
    Repository: Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, Calif.)
    Los Angeles, California 90012
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research by appointment. Please contact the Japanese American National Museum's Collections Management and Access Unit at (213) 830-5615 or collections@janm.org to schedule an appointment.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from materials in this collection must be submitted to the Collections Management and Access Unit at the Japanese American National Museum (collections@janm.org).

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Photo by Jack Iwata, Gift of Jack and Peggy Iwata, Japanese American National Museum, 93.102.


    Iwata, Jack Masaki (1912-1992). Photographer. Through his images, Iwata chronicled not only the evolution of U.S.-Japan relations for nearly six decades, but was especially immersed in the popular culture of both countries, photographing scores of Japanese and American celebrities in the 1950s and 60s. A Kibei Nisei born in Seattle, Iwata spent his formative years in Hiroshima Prefecture where he attended the Sotoku Chugakko. In recognition of his scholastic achievements, his father presented him with his first camera-a unique gift by any standard in Japan during that period. With the help of a local studio, Iwata learned the process for developing photos and his fascination with the craft of photography continued to blossom.
    In 1928, he returned to the United States where he worked for his father while attending Whittier College. Never far removed from his passion, Iwata continued to take photos of events taking place in the Nikkei community as well as accompanying his father on a number of nature outings to the nearby mountains and seashore. His professional career began in 1937 when famed Little Tokyo photographer, Toyo Miyatake took an interest in the young Iwata, offering him a position at his studio. Having married in 1938, Iwata continued to work for Miyatake until the outbreak of World War II when he and his wife were forcibly removed to the Manzanar Concentration Camp. He rejoined forces with Miyatake at Manzanar and helped to organize the camp's first photo lab. Reuniting with his father at the Tule Lake Concentration Camp, Iwata was appointed the official camp photographer in 1945 where he captured some of the most poignant pictures of his career.
    In 1946 Iwata returned with his family to Los Angeles where he continued to work for Miyatake. After a brief stint operating his own photography studio, "Jack's Photo Lab," Iwata joined the Kyodo News Service as a "stringer," and ultimately became one of the agency's most invaluable representatives. While at Kyodo News, Iwata became known for his stunning photographs of celebrities as diverse as Elvis Presley, John Wayne, Bette Davis, and Elizabeth Taylor, in addition to scores of Japanese notables. He played a fundamental role in the founding of Kyodo News California Inc. in 1986 and was general manager of that organization until his death in 1992 at the age of eighty.

    Scope and Content

    This collection consists of 166 photographs and copy negatives of photographs taken at Manazanar and Tule Lake concentration camps between 1942 and 1945. Subjects include scenes of daily life, group portraits, and landscapes.