Granada (Amache) Relocation Camp, Foundations, Prowers, Colorado © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1997. Size: 23" x 31"

Granada (Amache) Relocation Camp, Foundations, Prowers, Colorado © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1997. Size: 23" x 31"

Masumi Hayashi visited every permanent site of Japanese American internment; such was her dedication to its historical truth and visual legacy. I’d like to pay tribute to Hayashi’s artistic rigour, the project and above all her life.

Masumi Hayashi 1945 - 2006

Masumi Hayashi 1945 - 2006

This post is not only a celebration of meaningful photography but also of a life cut short in tragic circumstances.

Gila River Relocation Camp, Dog Grave, Gila River, Arizona © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 38" x 31"

Gila River Relocation Camp, Dog Grave, Gila River, Arizona © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 38" x 31"

Prison Photography has needed to limit itself in discussion, so rich and extensive was Hayashi’s oeuvre. I recommend that you spend a long time meditating her Prison series, Salt Mine series and a spectacular EPA Superfund Sites series.

Let us focus, for now, on the issue at hand – Japanese American Internment.

Professor Hayashi photographed all 10 internment camps on American soil. She also documented the 4 Canadian internment sites. It was a subject close to her heart — she was born at the Gila River Relocation camp in Arizona in 1945.

In most cases, Hayashi photographed a full 360 degrees. The gradient of exposure in her photo montages and her extruded viewpoint lent visual richness, height and vertigo to otherwise mundane landscapes. Hayashi’s indelible presence in the works is a reminder of the former human presence in inhumane environments.

Gila River Relocation Camp, Monument, Gila River, Arizona © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 31" x 75"

Gila River Relocation Camp, Monument, Gila River, Arizona © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 31" x 75"

Gila River Relocation Camp, Foundations, Gila River, Arizona © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1990. Size: 22" x 56"

Gila River Relocation Camp, Foundations, Gila River, Arizona © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1990. Size: 22" x 56"

Topaz Relocation Camp, Foundations, Delta, Utah © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 31" x 72"

Topaz Relocation Camp, Foundations, Delta, Utah © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 31" x 72"

Hayashi’s composite tactic solves the problematic banality of many of the sites. She describes here and here that many of the sites as barren and sun bleached (Manzanar, CA has been well-preserved as a memorial and state park, but it is the exception). The most common denominator among the sites was the concrete sewage system. The large peripheral tanks always remained long after the sheds and tended plots had decayed. A brick structure was a treat, and wooden barns, anomalies.

Minidoka Relocation Camp, Visitors Waiting Room, Minidoka, Idaho © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1992. Size: 27" x 70"

Minidoka Relocation Camp, Visitors Waiting Room, Minidoka, Idaho © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1992. Size: 27" x 70"

Heart Mountain Relocation Camp, Blue Room, Park, Wyoming © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 23" x 45"

Heart Mountain Relocation Camp, Blue Room, Park, Wyoming © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 23" x 45"

Heart Mountain Relocation Camp, Interior, Park, Wyoming © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 31" x 42"

Heart Mountain Relocation Camp, Interior, Park, Wyoming © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 31" x 42"

Hayashi’s endeavours cannot be underestimated. As Candida Hofer noted;

If you consider that each individual photograph has four sides (trust me) then multiply by two decisions for each side—where to cut the edge, where to place in relation to the adjacent photo—that’s eight decisions right there. Then multiply that by say 45 photos (the number in ‘Jain Temple’ for example). That’s 360 decisions! When was the last time you did anything that required 360 of anything?

and

For those of you sitting there thinking, “Oh, yeah, I could take a bunch of little pictures of something too.” No, you couldn’t. Not like this. Her style is built on solid conventional photographic methods (each picture must itself be a very good picture).

Extraordinary.

Heart Mountain Relocation Camp, Hospital, Park, Wyoming © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 32" x 70"

Heart Mountain Relocation Camp, Hospital, Park, Wyoming © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 32" x 70"

Manzanar Relocation Camp, Tree View, Inyo, California © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage withFuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 27" x 63"

Manzanar Relocation Camp, Tree View, Inyo, California © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage withFuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 27" x 63"

Manzanar Relocation Camp, Monument (Version 1), Inyo, California © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 20" x 30"

Manzanar Relocation Camp, Monument (Version 1), Inyo, California © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 20" x 30"

In addition to her photographic work, Hayashi conducted audio interviews of former internees to develop a complete sense of experience across the American internment archipelago.

Manzanar Relocation Camp, Guard Gates, Inyo, California © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1992. Size: 27" x 65"

Manzanar Relocation Camp, Guard Gates, Inyo, California © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1992. Size: 27" x 65"

Granada (Amache) Relocation Camp, Water Tank, Prowers, Colorado © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1997. Size: 23" x 31"

Granada (Amache) Relocation Camp, Water Tank, Prowers, Colorado © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1997. Size: 23" x 31"

Jerome Relocation Camp, Farm, Drew & Chicot, Arkansas © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 22" x 59"

Jerome Relocation Camp, Farm, Drew & Chicot, Arkansas © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 22" x 59"

In August 2006, Hayashi along with her neighbour John Jackson, knocked at the door of the apartment of another neighbour Jacob Cifelli to complain oncemore about his high volume music. It was the last of many noise complaints. Cifelli shot them both to death in the stairwell.

The story has added tragedy as Hayashi had recently reunited with her biological daughter, Lisa Takata, after 39 years of estrangement. Hayashi gave Takata up for adoption within a few days after her birth in the midst of the Watts Riots in 1965.

Photographer, artist and fellow Cleveland resident, Norm Roulet summed up the loss of Hayashi;

I am saddened and horrified to now recognize Masumi Hayashi as the finest photographer and one of the greatest artists Northeast Ohio has ever know, as she was murdered last night in her studio. All local arts lovers and artists certainly knew Masumi and her remarkable work, and of the great value she brought to CSU as a professor there. Her loss to Northeast Ohio as an arts community cannot be overstated. Now, every time I paste together my collages I’ll think of Masumi in fond remembrance. Rest in peace, Masumi Hayashi – I apologize to you for the insanity that is Cleveland today.

Rest in peace, indeed.

Jerome Relocation Camp, Sewer, Drew & Chicot, Arkansas © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 23" x 55"

Jerome Relocation Camp, Sewer, Drew & Chicot, Arkansas © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1995. Size: 23" x 55"

Tule Lake Relocation Camp, Sewer, Tulelake, California © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1996. Size: 32" x 59"

Tule Lake Relocation Camp, Sewer, Tulelake, California © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1996. Size: 32" x 59"

Poston lll Relocation Camp, Sewer, Yuma, Arizona © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1997. Size: 26" x 63"

Poston lll Relocation Camp, Sewer, Yuma, Arizona © Masumi Hayashi. Panoramic photo collage with Fuji Crystal Archive prints, 1997. Size: 26" x 63"

Masumi Hayashi’s work has been exhibited in internationally respected museums and galleries, including the International Center for Photography in New York, the L.A. County Art Museum, the Japanese American National Museum (L.A.), the Tokyo Museum of Photography, the Ludwig Museum of Art in Germany, and the Victoria and Albert Museum of Photography in London, England. In 2003, she had a retrospective one-person exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Professor Hayashi taught photography for 24 years at Cleveland State University, Ohio.

Gallery with pop-out full size images

Thanks to Matt Kelley at Criminal Justice Change.org for alerting me to Hayashi’s work.

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