Photo Caption: O.N.E. volunteer Betty Jean Harry working with Portland area Nisei at the Oregon Buddhist Temple as they help identify photos from the Frank C. Hirahara Collection. Photo Courtesy of Rich Iwasaki.
The Oregon Nikkei Endowment (O.N.E.) recently contributed the Frank C. Hirahara Collection to the Densho Digital Repository. Between 1948 and 1954, Frank C. Hirahara, a serious amateur photographer who worked for Bonneville Power Administration, captured hundreds of photographs depicting community picnics, beach outings to the Oregon Coast, teen socials and dances, wedding receptions, and life in the heart of Portland’s Japantown.
A native of Yakima, WA, Frank honed his skills as a young photographer and photo editor of the Heart Mountain High School Tempo Annual while incarcerated during World War II with his family in Wyoming. He and his father George took and processed over 2,000 photos of Heart Mountain from 1943-45 and amassed what is considered one of the largest private collection of photos of the concentration camp. The George and Frank C. Hirahara Collection of Heart Mountain was donated to Frank’s alma mater of Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.
As a member of the Photographic Society of America, Portland Photographic Society, and the Oregon Camera Club, where he served on the Board of Directors, Hirahara also took photographs of aspiring local models, Portland’s Rose Festival Parade, and was an award-winning photographer in the Pacific Northwest.
According to O.N.E. Director of Collections and Exhibits Todd Mayberry, “This remarkable collection of post-war photographs provides a revealing glimpse into the community and lives of Portland’s Nikkei.” Mayberry continues, “The identification of the faces and places in these photos couldn’t have been possible without the help of community curators like Jean Matsumoto and dozens of Nisei volunteers. We’re thrilled to have exhibited a portion of this collection as part of the exhibit ‘Capturing a Generation through the Eye of a Lens.’”
Now, thanks to two years of behind-the-scenes work on the part of O.N.E. staff and volunteers as well as funding from the Japanese American Confinement Sites program of the National Park Service and the Oregon Heritage Commission, we are able to share the entire collection digitally.
Densho’s Photo and Document Collections Manager, Caitlin Oiye, notes that the significance of this addition to the Densho Digitial Repository, “The Frank C. Hirahara collections provides a rare glimpse into the post-WWII Japanese American experience in the Pacific Northwest. We appreciate all the work the staff and volunteers at O.N.E. have put into this project—the amount of time they took to caption photos and identify individuals makes this collection an especially valuable contribution to our Archives. We look forward to continuing the partnership and making more of their great collections available digitally.”
Scroll through a preview of the collection here, but be sure to visit the Densho Digital Repository to browse it in its entirety.