FDR Library to Present Oct. 12 Talk on Hirahara Photos

HYDE PARK, NY — The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will present “Close-ups of Time Forgotten: The WSU Hirahara Photos Created in a Secret World War II Underground Darkroom” with Patti Hirahara at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home. The talk is part of the Roosevelt Library’s new special exhibit, “Images of Internment: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II.”


Hirahara, of Anaheim, California, is the last-born descendant of the Hirahara family in the United States and a third-generation photographer. Her family’s unique story of how her grandfather George Hirahara built a secret photo darkroom and mini photo studio under his family’s barrack apartment in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, and produced an over 2,000 photo collection is relatively unknown. From 1943-1945, George—and his high school-aged son Frank C. Hirahara—took and processed what is considered to be the largest private collection of photos taken at this Japanese American incarceration camp.

In 2010, Hirahara donated her grandfather’s and father’s Heart Mountain photographs to WSU, Frank’s alma mater. A National Park Service grant the following year funded the collection’s digitization and preservation—giving the public access to the documented weddings, cultural events, sports, funerals and more that took place under barbed wire and the watchful eyes of guards.

Since then, the collection’s images have been part of ground-breaking projects delving into the history of the Japanese American incarceration during World War II. These have included the Emmy Award-winning documentary “Witness: The Legacy of Heart Mountain,” co-produced by ABC7 Los Angeles Eyewitness News anchor David Ono and Emmy Award-winning TV editor and videographer Jeff MacIntyre; and “Allegiance,” a musical inspired by the personal experiences of actor George Takei.