“One of the strengths of the exhibition is it allows the voices of the incarcerated people to be heard,” said Carlson. And this is often subtle: One photograph, taken by Lange in Centreville, California, shows a family patiently awaiting their evacuation bus. They stand as if posing for a formal portrait, despite several telling clues: Their duffel bags are painted with their surname, in case they’re lost during the eviction process, and each member of the family wears an identification tag around his or her neck. Lange took several similar photographs of soon-to-be-incarcerated Japanese-American families—dressed in their finest clothing, clinging to their self-worth, gathered together as they await the unknown.
A series of portraits by Ansel Adams, taken at Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, utilizes low camera angles and intentionally close-cropping (avoiding the backdrop of the camp itself) to emphasize the strength and determination of the Japanese American prisoners. At the time, the images were criticized for showing sympathy to their subjects. Lange took issue with them as well—but because they did not fully convey the true hardship these individuals faced.