It is difficult to synthesize the events of 2016-2017. In many ways, it seems the world is spinning out of control. Global warming, political violence, and the growing disparity in wealth between economic classes worldwide threaten our very existence. These conditions provide the tinder for the fires of racism and exploitation. Through the images in this show, I hope to spark deliberations and conversations about the concepts and connections between preservation, avarice and conservation.


The concept of preservation relates to our natural environment, our identity, and our continued existence on this planet. Competition for scarce resources has always driven fear, which, in turn, can be manipulated for political gain. We saw it in World War II, and we are hearing echoes of it today in the voices of those advocating for the registry and banning of entire groups of people in the United States. History has lessons for us, if we listen. Two years ago I visited and photographed the Manzanar Internment Camp in the California desert with my wife and children. Walking inside the barbed wires and under the wooden gun towers was a powerful and disrupting experience for me. Presidential order 9066 authorized the relocation; 117,000 people of Japanese descent were affected, 2/3’s of which were American born. My mother-in-law, Rose Wenjen, had to leave her San Francisco home on 48 hours notice. She was only allowed to take what she could carry. Thousands of Japanese owned farms and businesses across California were seized in the name of national security. Military assessments that Japanese Americans on the west coast posed no threat were suppressed. This forced relocation is a stain on American history, as eventually acknowledged by President Regan. In 1988, reparations of $20,000 were granted to the survivors of the internment camps. I was stunned when in the past year, Japanese internment camps were prominently discussed as a plausible model for registering Muslims in the U.S. The call went out to protect our country from virtually all Muslim immigrants, even though there have been 10,000 deaths by US domestic gun violence for every one U.S. death by terrorism since 2001. Terrorism is certainly a problem, but the level of concern and actions taken are grossly disproportionate to the statistical threat. This vilification of millions of Muslim people and disproportionate response only makes sense when understood in context of the need to have an “other” on which to blame our problems. The concept of the "other” is not new to the U.S. -- Native Americans, Germans, Irish, Chinese, African-Americans, Mexicans, Catholics, Jews, among others have all been discriminated against. The “other” is a useful vessel for those in control to use as a rallying point to solidify power. Despots often rally the masses against the “other” so they can appear as a savior. Thankfully, Americans have confronted this type of exploitation before. Our better nature has eventually led us to largely, if not perfectly, overcome the accompanying racism and exploitation. It is my hope we will do so again. My portraits of Hapas (1/2 Asian) children encourages deliberation about how our concept of the "other” has changed. As Japanese Americans (and other ethnic groups) mix, marry and have children, our concept of “other” changes. America is always changing, integrating, and reinventing its culture. “Hapa” is a Hawaiian pidgin word used to describe mixed-race people – primarily, though not exclusively, half white and half Asian. Although the term was initially derogatory, the term “Hapa” has since been adopted proudly by many, as a tribute to their mixed heritage. Seventy-five years after WWII, “hapa”, biracial or “mixed” race people are now seen by many as beautiful and are often prominently portrayed in print media and movies. Multi-racial people are at the cutting edge of social and demographic change in the U.S. Although the case that struck down the ban on inter-racial marriage, Loving v. Virginia 388 U.S. 1, (1967), was decided over 50 years ago, it was not until 2000, that the U.S. census allowed individuals to choose more than one race. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of black and biracial Americans more than doubled, while the population of adults with a white and Asian background increased by 87%. The Pew Research Center estimates the current multi-racial composition at 6.9%, and estimates that this population will triple in size by 2060. California and the Western U.S. now lead the U.S. in inter-racial marriage. Increasingly, what was the “other” is now literally a part of our family.


Global wealth concentration has become obscene. 62 people are as wealthy as half of the world’s population. This concentration of wealth has corrupted the U.S. political system and allowed billionaires and global corporations to accrue grossly disproportionate influence. EPA regulations designed to protect our clean air and water are being repealed at a blistering pace in the name of corporate efficiency and cutting red tape. Our Secretary of State is the former CEO of a global oil conglomerate. He received a paltry $130 million dollar severance package when he left Exxon-Mobil. It isn’t hard to draw the lines between our foreign policies, fossil fuels and the pursuit of wealth. What does it say about us when we are more concerned about drilling for gas and oil than preserving clean air and drinking water? Our most precious natural resources will be irreparably damaged by the continued production and consumption of fossil fuels. Already our oceans and treasured lands have been repeatedly damaged by drilling and oil spills. Fracking has raised the risk of earthquake in some midwest areas to a level on par with California’s earthquake risk. Locally, in the South Bay, the former Exxon Mobile Refinery, now the Torrance Refinery, had a potentially catastrophic explosion in 2015. The explosion nearly released modified hydrofluoric acid (HF), which forms a dense low-flying cloud that travels along the ground for miles. HF causes severe damage to the respiratory system, skin and bones, and could even cause death. Depending on which way the wind blows HF from the Torrance Refinery could could kill tens of thousands of people in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance and Palos Verdes. The Torrance Refinery is one of only two refineries in California that uses HF. Federal safety reviews of the plant found multiple safety management deficiencies, and called the 2015 explosion a "serious near miss." Profits were put before safety. Avarice on the scale we are seeing today is closely related to preservation and conservation. Extreme and unbridled avarice threatens the preservation of lives and land and makes conservation of our beautiful natural resources even more critical.


Photographing our national parks reminds me of the importance of conserving our precious natural resources. Continued reliance on fossil fuels is very likely to have dire consequences for future generations. Although attitudes are changing in favor of renewables, particularly among younger generations, many still favor fossil fuels and the continuation of our dependency on those energy sources. Clean air, water, oceans and national parks are treasures worth fighting for. I was profoundly reminded of that while photographing six national parks over the last two years, capturing a natural beauty that, for me, would be otherwise indescribable. The Milky Way in June in Yellowstone is an otherworldly sight. The countless stars scattered across the inky night sky left me awe struck. Watching bison in their natural environment is wondrous. The magnificent geysers of Yellowstone provide nature’s contrast to our mechanized excavation and refinement of the oil that fuels our consumptive society. This is an intensely personal show for me. These are issues I care deeply about. I know and understand some may not feel the same way. Hopefully, we can disagree without being disagreeable. Photography allows us to study one moment in our frenetic world. Let images of difficult realities be vehicles for achieving common ground, discussion, and deliberation.

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