Art of Gaman – Starting a New Project

While I maintain the romantic belief that I can change the world with my pictures, I know from experience that meaningful long term photo projects usually change me more than the other way around. I can already feel the transformation now that I have started a new project about the Japanese American Internment Camp and The Art of Gaman.

 (bryan farley)

Before a new project comes into focus, there is a paradoxical excitement that Robert Frost never quite captured. There are infinite roads and I want to rush down all of them at once…  into the past and back to the future. There are so many more roads not taken than I was led to believe.

 (bryan farley)

If there is such a thing as “an official start” to this new project, it began during the Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. Day On at the California Museum in Sacramento, on Sunday January 19, 2014. The next day I visited families in Reedley, California. Unofficially, the project began many years earlier when I met Carol Egoian at my local farmers’ market in Oakland. Carol lives in Reedley which is near my childhood home Fresno, California.

 (bryan farley)

Even though I know Carol well, I did not learn about The Art of Gaman exhibits until last summer when Carol told me that she would miss a couple markets, because she was traveling with her family to Hiroshima for the exhibit’s Japanese opening. I wanted to go.

  (bryan farley)

Delphine Hirusuna, the author of The Art of Gaman, describes the Japanese word “gaman” as  “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.” I am not familiar with this term. I am not familiar with the concept, but I can already feel myself changing. I can feel my soul being carved and my heart breaking as I meet survivors and their families.

 (bryan farley)

I also realize that my tendency to push past boundaries serves me well with this project. Sometimes. Do I have gaman? Probably not, I am too impatient, but I am kind and I can endure. At this point, patience is probably not as important as endurance and kindness. I also love meeting new people and hearing their stories. I already miss this family and this woman who told me how her father carved wood with broken glass. (The next day, she wore my glasses. Neither of us could see, but we felt better.)

 (bryan farley)

By the time I arrived in Reedley the next day, I realized that I was onto a bigger story. Japanese Americans farmed Central California before World War II. Many lost their farms. Some returned and became successful farmers. What has happened now to the Central Valley farmer? Will I discover a lost Twilight Zone episode written by John Steinbeck where crowds march into a Walmart and a woman yells, “Grapes of Wrath! It’s not a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. It’s a guide book for big business!”

 (bryan farley)

Does this story become a coffee table conversation that, to borrow a borrowed phrase, explores “what we talk about when we talk about the internment camps?.. or what we ignore? And why do so many Americans, especially those who look like me, ignore this topic? When Americans recite Pastor Niemöller’s  poem, do we understand that we did not rescue people in Europe because we were busy in America. (bryan farley)

Does this become a project about the aging of America or the aging of rural America? Will this project challenge how many Americans view the American Farmer? When Norman Rockwell envisioned America, did he imagine old Japanese ladies playing Shanghai off a country road? Who does?

 (bryan farley)

Is this a project about the 442nd, the Japanese American version of the Tuskegee Airmen? Or will I find myself exploring the connection between the events of December 7 and 9/11? Are there emotional ripple effects when a government interns people and demands their loyalty?

 (bryan farley)
Then again, as I feel my heart break, I might learn patience. I might open to something new and realize that this story is about something greater. I have often used art to connect to my own resilience. Art has often been my way to communicate endurance. Perhaps the art of those who have had to endure more will teach me that despite all the terrible things we do as humans, somehow we have the capacity to carry on. to care for others. to love.
 (bryan farley)

and to see the world through another person’s lenses… even if they are blurry.

Comments

comments

21 Responses to “Art of Gaman – Starting a New Project”

  1. Alice J Pierson-Knapp says:

    thanks!

  2. Bryan
    These photos and your writing are so moving–as always. Thank you for shining a spotlight on the art of gaman and these families.
    Best
    Jessica
    http://livingwellwithepilepsy.com

    • bryan farley says:

      Thank you Jessica. You know, living well with epilepsy is similar to the definition of gaman (“enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.”) There are so many people who have learned how to endure with difficult situations. Some even celebrate and support each other.

  3. Judy Kobayashi says:

    Bryan,

    What a wonderful photo project/blog you have started! I met you at the museum with my aunt (I’m behind her in the picture at the museum)and loved the pictures you captured on your visit to Reedley! Thanks for sharing the wonderful thoughts and priceless pictures of my aunts, cousin Carol, and their friends!

    • bryan farley says:

      Judy,

      I remember you. Thank you so much. I am grateful to you and your family for having this opportunity. (I took some more photos when I was at the museum that I can share one day too.) If you have any suggestions or requests for how I can tell this story, I hope that you will share them.

      bf

  4. Tisha says:

    Hi Bryan, I’m Carol’s oldest daughter, Tisha. These photos are fantastic! Thank you for capturing so much more than just pictures. Hope to meet you one of these days when my daughter and I are up at the market with my parents!

    • bryan farley says:

      Tisha,

      Maybe we can coordinate a visit to Reedley so that your daughter can be photographed with the oldest generation. (I already miss your aunt, grandmother and their friends.) I can’t wait to see your parents this Sunday to talk about the visit.

      If you and other family members have ideas about how I can tell this story more genuinely, please let me know. I am just the storyteller; this is not my story.

      • Tisha says:

        Glad I finally got to meet you! And Libby had so much fun with “Uncle Special Guest,” too. Hopefully you’re next trip will will be a little more fruitful.

        Has my mom shown you our family history book? That might help you a little with the storytelling. And you should really have my mom get you in contact with my Uncle Shig (he lives in San Leandro), I think he would be a great person to talk to! Hope that helps!

        Oh, and I see that my mom has still not commented….I’ll nudge her for you. 🙂

        • bryan farley says:

          Tisha,

          I really enjoyed seeing you and your daughter… and how could my next trip be any more fruitful? I have already been named “Uncle Special Guest.” That is pretty cool. Do you want to see some photos of your daughter?

          I would love to meet your Uncle Shig some day too… just us two uncles. 🙂

          bf

          • Tisha says:

            Uncle Special Guest IS a pretty prestigious title! :o)
            I would love to see the photos of Libby, my mom said you got some great ones!

          • bryan farley says:

            I have more photos of Libby and the family. I am saving them for an entire post, althugh if you search my site you can find the images. Did you notice that my most recent post has a Libby for Mayor sign? Libby seems to be a popular name in my life right now.

  5. Sara says:

    Hi Bryan,

    I just wanted to thank you for such a wonderful depiction of an amazing family, a piece of their family history, and that of so many others. I may not be related by blood but I have considered them to be my “second family” for the last 25 years. Thank you for putting in to words, and pictures, what I could never begin to verbalize.

    • bryan farley says:

      Sara,

      Thank you for your kind compliments. I have been fortunate to know Carol, Jim and her kids for about ten years I thought that I knew them really well. After the last week I have a much deeper appreciation for the family. Please stay in touch as I continue further down the path. I am sure I will discover much more.

  6. Renee says:

    Hi Bryan,

    You have done an amazing job with this project. The family you have captured are wonderful people and your photos only amplify their beauty. Very nicely done.

  7. Bart says:

    Bryan – While looking for articles about the Art of Gaman show, it was a fantastic surprise to stumble upon your blog and gallery. These are great images, not only of my aunts and cousins, but of Reedley. You really captured the feel of the town, and, by extension, all of the California Central Valley farming communities. Thanks for visiting my dad’s home town, spending time with my family and for helping to get the story of this wonderful exhibit out there.

    • bryan farley says:

      Bart,

      Thank you for the comments. I saw Carol at the Oakland market the next week and she told me that you forwarded the entire photo gallery of my visit to her. (She had not seen all the photos yet.) I am grateful that I have been allowed access into the family so that I can show these stories. I am guessing that if your family has inspired me then other people will be inspired if I can tell the story well.

      Thank you for helping spread the word.

      bf

  8. Jim & Carol Egoian says:

    Hi! Bryan, Surprise…hope this one reaches you. I can’t thank you enough for taking an interest in the Art of Gaman, and bringing more light on the subject of the relocation camps. (I still can’t believe that there are people that don’t know about them.) My family’s become ‘groupies’ of the Art of Gamam. Seeing my grandfather’s carvings and so many of the other ‘crafts’ made at camp makes me realize the strength they had in enduring such a terrible injustice, just as so many other minorities have. A really big Thank-You for taking the time to come out to Reedley and capturing my mom and aunt in their comfort zone. They usually don’t like their picture taken but you were able to catch them in great moments. Thanks again….see you Sunday!
    Jimmy & Carol

    • bryan farley says:

      Carol,

      Thank you for allowing me into your family. I could see myself becoming a groupie of your extended family as I try to share this story with the people who have not heard about the camps and the farming communities where you live. There is much that you probably take for granted that I see as special.

      I miss Fresno and the surrounding area and you bring a little bit of home to the Bay Area every week to our farmers’ market. Thank you for reminding me of home and teaching me more about the background.

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