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Google announced today that it has come to an arrangement with TimeInc to host the LIFE Archive. The archive is one of the largest collections in the world comprised of over 10 million images. This is an incredible new resource for photophiles worldwide. Twenty percent of the images went live today.
A very preliminary search using the keyword “Prison” returned twelve pages of 200 images. I was struck by the strength of the handful of images from the Santo Tomas Prison Liberation Series (Manila, Philippines). The Carl Mydans photographs were captured in the days following the camp’s liberation by allied forces. It was one of four camps liberated in the space of a month in January/February 1945.
Rest assured, I will return to this archive in time to source material and discuss more widely the politics of power partially described by the photographic collection. “Mexico Prison“, with over 150 images, certainly looks like interesting material.
I would like to make clear that this is a hastily put together post and its main function is to draw attention to this fantastic whale-sized new archive – I might go as far to say our archive – I might even go as far to say its bigger than a whale. I do not condone personal whale ownership.
I would also like to clarify that while the LIFE Archive refers to the Santo Tomas Complex as a prison, it was in fact an internment camp – not that naming conventions matter to those who were subject to its walls and discipline. Still, we must always bear in mind the different types of sites of incarceration; what they purported to do; what, in truth, they did; from what context they arose and operated; and how they fit into our general understanding of humans detaining other humans.
Personally, I encountered a strange coincidence over this matter. Internment camps are low on my list of primary interest. I am not an expert on internment camps. But, only yesterday I received a fantastic email from a Berkeley art history undergraduate who is focusing on the work of Ansel Adams, Toyo Miyatake and Patrick Nagatani at Manzanar War Relocation Center, California. From the internet monolith that is Google to the academic interests of aspiring students, the histories, memories and powerful images of Second World War internment push themselves to the fore of thought.
It is conventional wisdom that World War II had two sides. Unfortunately, the military definitions of ‘ally’ and ‘enemy’ spilled into civic life with catastrophic consequences. The US internment of Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans has since been proved to be based not on national security but state-sanctioned discrimination. As testimonies and images attest, where stories are concerned, there are more than two sides.
Click here for the LIFE Archive on Google. Here is an obituary for Carl Mydans, the photographer at Santo Tomas. Try here and here for first-hand account of detention and to find audio and visual resources about Santo Tomas Internment Camp.