Thursday, August 11, 2011

Learn More About This Collection

It has been just about a year since I acquired this massive archive of images.

In that time, I have spoken to many community groups, made countless phone calls, and written everyone I know about this archive.

I have met some incredible people along the way.

Still, there is so much more to do.  On this anniversary of acquiring these images, I am once again (still) looking for assistance in preserving this material for the future.

As I see more and more of these images, the skill and artistry that existed at the Ninomiya Studios is apparent.

Not only in the family portraits and weddings, but in the preservation of community events and occasions.

If you haven't been to Little Tokyo lately, go down town and walk thru the area.  You can stand in front of the former Ninomiya Studios where many of these images were taken.

There is history in those streets, and there is history in the boxes in my living room.

If this material means anything to you, I would welcome your support in the preservation process.  You can click the DONATION button to the right here, or send any donations via US Mail to:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91221

Thanks for visiting my site!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recent and Upcoming Events

I have had the pleasure of attending and speaking at several important community groups of late.  Sharing the wealth of this archive is something that I am very happy and eager to do.

I recently attended a gathering of eager tour goers for a trip through Boyle Heights and a history of the area.  In Los Angeles, Boyle Heights was always a very diverse neighborhood with all ethnic groups in the area represented.

I got to show off parts of this archive to the group before we boarded the bus for an afternoon long tour through Boyle Heights.

Thanks much to Meeno for these photos. Please visit his site for more about the tour and Meeno's great photography.

Thats Bruce Kaji  (center) looking over some of the photos I brought with me.  Mr Kaji was born and raised in Boyle Heights, spent most of his high school years in Manzanar, and has written a great book about his experiences called Jive Bomber (available at the Book Shop at JANM).

One of the many deteriorating 8 x 10 negatives in my possession.

I also have briefly spoken at The Boyle Heights Historical Society meeting recently.  I was honored to be asked to attend and spread the word about this archive and my projects.  Again the featured speaker was Bruce Kaji and it was a treat to hear more of his life stories.

Upcoming Events

I am next scheduled to talk at The Little Tokyo Historical Society, where I hope to be able to speak more at length about the tens of thousands of images that I am now caretaker of.

If you wish to attend, that meeting will take place on May 7th, 2011 at The Little Tokyo Service Center.  The address for the LTSC is:

Little Tokyo Service Center

231 E. Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

The meeting starts at 9am and I would be pleased to see you there and meet you.

Also, I was mentioned by George Johnston of the Rafu Shimpo / Nikkei Nation in his blog about saving family photographic treasures.  Its a great and timely piece and you can read it here:

Into The Next Stage: Opening a Personal Time Capsule

As always, I am continually in need of support for this project.  If you wish to donate directly to the cause, you can either click the button to the right and donate through a secure PayPal page, or directly through the mail.  My mailing address is:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91221

I need funding for computers and scanners, archiving materials, office supplies, legal services and funding to support volunteers that wish to come help archive.  Your help, in any amount, will see this project to completion.

Thanks for visiting my page!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Devastating News from Japan..

The words and stories and loss coming out of Japan from the earthquake and tsunami are overhwhelming.

Instead of thinking about my efforts to save this life's work, lets turn our thoughts and prayers and hearts towards those trying to save lives in Japan.  This can wait, they cannot.

The destruction and loss of life is staggering and the crisis isn't over yet.

I know that there will be ways to help the cause there and I urge you to send help, money, supplies, whatever you can.



Monday, February 14, 2011

The Archiving Begins...

Greetings everyone!

It has been a while since I have posted an update. I hope everyone is enjoying a great start to their year. 

Through some generosity, we have acquired a scanner designed for the kind of archiving needed for this project.

This is a great scanner and can handle all the negative sizes in the archive.  Its a long process but we are off and running now!

As I go through the images one by one, I am finding more amazing treasures amongst them.

A tour of the White King Soap company ends with this portrtait, from 1958

This one is one of my favorites.  This is a Judo tournament or exhibition.  Having studied Judo for many years and reached the rank of Black Belt (Shodan) myself, I love seeing others enjoy this sport, even from 50 years ago!

A commercial shot done by the Ninomiya Studios.  This one was for an Insurance office.  The price on the gas pump reads ¢33 9/10.   Outrageous prices!

There are many more and I will preview a few as I go along in the archiving and scanning process.  I am working on photos from the 20th Annual Nisei Week festivities now and will post those in the coming days.

As always, I need your support!  We have acquired some of our equipment needs but the list is still long and pricey.

If you would like to help you can donate directly to the cause by clicking the DONATE button to the right here. Its a secure link thru PayPal and you can use your credit card or ATM card to contribute to the cause.

If you would like to contact me directly via mail, you may use this address:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91221

or email at

Thanks for your support and look for more updates soon!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Wishes

Thank you, readers, for traveling with me down this road.  It's already been an interesting trip and there is so much more to do.

I hope the holiday season is treating everyone well. 

The first of the year will bring new energy and purpose to this project and I hope to have many new developments to report.

For now, I wish you all tidings of the season.

As always, you may contact me via email at:

And via US Mail:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91221

I look forward to your correspondence!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Happy Holidays

This blog is dedicated to the preservation and sharing of the archive of Elwin Ichiro Ninomiya, a local Japanese American photographer. 

Please scroll down to the beginning posts if you would like to catch up!

It has been a bit since my last update.   Since then a few things have progressed.

I spoke at the Los Angeles Visionaries Association luncheon meeting at the end of November.  The crowd was receptive and interested in the materials I brought to show and tell, and the goals I have for this archive.

I have received many encouraging emails from those in attendance at the meeting and some leads for more support and possible funding for the project.

I have put up a page on, as I have mentioned before.  This page hopefully will support the project going forward.  If you would like to visit the microgiving page here is the link:

Saving Ninomiya on Microgiving

You can always use the DONATE button to the right here to accomplish the same thing.  Microgiving does charge a percentage to collect funds but the DONATE button here does not.

Upcoming events.

With the holidays approaching, not too many events are planned.  I have been discussing doing a repeat visit to the Los Angeles Visionaries Association meeting at the end of the month. 

I have also managed to recover all the files out of the trashbags and now they are a mountain of boxes.  Safer for the time being, but still needing a place to be securely kept.

I would be honored if your spirit of giving included this project this year.  We need a lot but even a little donation can move us forward. 

I have said it many times, but no donation is too small.  I recently received an envelope in the mail with four one-dollar bills in it.  That generous donation went towards postage that I needed to correspond with sources of funding.

I appreciate also the letters of support and encouragement I have been getting.  There has also been lots of anecdotes included of experiences and rememberances that this project has been stirring.

There is more to come as the new year approaches.  I am confident that with the new year, we will move forward in leaps and bounds and bring this project to its first milestone.

I would love to hear from you all.  Write me, email me, happy to discuss my plans and this project.

Write to me at:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91221

Email me at:

Click the DONATE button to the right here and help us out.  Every donor can find their name on the SPECIAL THANKS section of the site. 

And every donor has my personal thanks for helping to move this forward.

Happy holidays to you all and I look forward to hearing from you!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Upcoming Events...

Hello and welcome to my blog about the ongoing effort to save the archives of a Japanese American photographer from LA's Little Tokyo District.

If this is your first time joining my blog, as always please scroll to the bottom and read some of the earlier posts to catch up!

This coming Sunday I am scheduled to speak at The Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) and show off some of this archive. 

Its an arts based group that meets the last Sunday of each month to discuss events and projects that are important to the cultural and art history and life of Los Angeles.

The meeting is at noon until around 2pm at Clifton's Cafeteria in LA.  The link to the LAVA site is here along with directions, if you want to come join and see some of these images.

LAVA's Sunday Salon

I met recently with a representative from a local foundation.  The meeting was very productive and helpful and the leads she gave me will eventually be fruitful. 

Most of the grants that would be available for this project are only offered to non-profit organizations, not individuals.  So, I have been searching for a suitable non-profit to umbrella me while I raise funds to create my own.

The problem so far is finding an organization that will take a small administrative fee of any incoming grant (typically 5% - 15% from the grant money stays with an adopting organization) and will exert no creative or copyright control over whatever the outcome of my work will be.   It is admittedly a restrictive set of requirements, but I keep looking.

I have also started a page on a site called  The link for my page there is:

My Photographic Rescue Mission

Stop by and check it out.  

You can donate to the cause there, or here with the DONATE button to the right.  If you use this page, 100% of the funds donated will go towards the project at hand.   The Microgiving page, while helpful and beneficial, will also take a percentage of the funds raised.

If you have any questions or comments, as always, email me at  or you can send regular mail to:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91201

I have been a little under the weather lately which is why there has been so little updating.  But, I will try and post more often, as I am on the mend.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and thank you for your support!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Planning Another Field Trip...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to saving the work of Japanese American photographer, Elwin Ichiro Ninomiya. If you are just joining the blog for the first time,  you might want to scroll all the way to the bottom to catch up on what we are all about!

I am going to be heading back down to Little Tokyo again in the next week or so.  I want to spend some time looking at the area on foot.  The area of Little Tokyo continues to shrink but there are many worthy sites to visit there.

I have been in discussions with an archival and research facility (which shall remain nameless for the time being) and they have a lot to offer this archive.  I can envision all this material going to a facility like that one (or indeed that very one) after I have done my own research with it.  Its a state of the art facility and this archive would live a long and happy life there.

I also wanted to thank those of you who have been writing to me either via email or US Mail.  I have gotten leads on information, possible funding sources, philanthropic organizations and just encouragement to continue on with the goals that I have laid out.

I am scheduled to speak at The Los Angeles Visionaries Association luncheon at the end of November.  If you would like to attend you can write to me for more information or visit LAVA's website at:

LAVA's Sunday Salon

I hope to see you there!

If you have questions or comments or want to discuss my projects and needs, please contact me here:

Via email -  Email Me at

or Via USMail:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91221

And as always, until we hear about the grants we have applied for, your donations keep this project moving forward.  Any amount from one dollar to ten thousand or more will be put to direct use in preserving this archive.  You can click the DONATE button to the right here on this page, or use the POBox address if you wish to send something via regular mail.

And I look forward to reading your thoughts, comments and recollections as well.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Search of What Remains...

Welcome, as always, to my blog about saving the archived work of Little Tokyo Photographer Elwin Ichiro Ninomiya.

If you are just joining us for the first time on this blog, please scroll to the bottom and read some of the earlier posts to catch up on what we are up to!

Since I acquired this massive collection of work in the summertime, I have been focused on trying to save it from deteriorating and being lost forever.

I have recently learned that as many as 40 more bags of photos may have been pulled out and distributed, that I did not get.

I have been running an ad online where I found this material in the first place to try and see if anyone still has other portions of this that I can recover.  So far no answers.

Well, I actually talked to a gentleman who searches out negatives at garage sales and any mass-dump of negatives from the studios or other entities.  He melts the negative plastic down to recover the miniscule amount of silver contained in them. I think I read that contained in one square YARD of negative surface is about 1 gram of silver.  When you think about how much surface a square yard is, thats not very much silver.  But this gentleman was in the process of melting studio backlot negatives even as we spoke.  

Its heartbreaking to think that so much of this material may have already been lost in a similar fashion. But, I keep recycling the ad in hopes that someone still has a bag or two that they dont know what to do with.

I have applied for grants to assist my efforts and I believe I have found an eventual home for the material once I have done my work with it. All still in negotiation so I cannot say much more about it, just that I am looking out for the long term life of this archive.

Now the waiting portion of the exercise begins.  I wait to see what inquires come to me. I wait to see the outcome of the grant applications. I wait to see what opportunities/challenges each day brings with the care and feeding of this archive. 

I have been getting letters of support and newspaper clippings and links to information on line from all manner of people from here in Los Angeles to the midwest and east coast.  I am heartened by the support and interest and people just wanting to talk about what I have and what it means.  Most have personal memories of having photos taken at the Ninomiya Studios.  I love hearing about those stories.

I have been keeping a list of surnames of people who contact me.  The list is dozens of names long now and I will be on the lookout for those names as I sort and catalog these files.

As one of my friends pointed out, when she was a little girl growing up in the Little Tokyo community, if you wanted photos taken, you either went to Toyo Miyatake or The Ninomiya Studios. It's very likely that if you are Japanese-American and grew up here, I have photos of someone you are related to, or someone you know, or indeed you.

I cannot wait to study these images more and share more with you.  

I will update more as more things happen, as always.

If you wish to contact me you can do so here by US Mail:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91221

Or by email:

And I always am appreciative of any donations towards this archive.  The history and culture that's here stacked in my living room deserves all the help that I and we as a community  can offer it.

If you feel the desire to support this effort, click the DONATE button to the right here and it will take you to a secure PayPal page where you can donate any amount from a dollar to ten thousand.  Every penny helps this project move forward.

Thanks for reading the update and I hope to hear from many of you soon!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Looking for a Home...

Welcome to my blog about saving the life's work of Ichiro Ninomiya. If you are just joining us for the first time, please scroll to the bottom and catch up with the older posts.

We are on the hunt for a safe and secure place to hold this archive.  My living room is just not the best place for it anymore, even though the cat likes sitting on the bags..

This photo appeared in the Rafu Shimpo this past week.  The cat has fans now.    But, regardless of what the cat likes, this material desperately needs a safe place to live while things are sorted out.

If any of you kind readers know anyone with warehouse or office space in the valley who would not mind donating the use of it for a short term, please contact me. 

I have meetings this week with several more museums and university groups and hopefully some support will come from those meetings.

Short update today as I am gathering resources and materials for tomorrows meetings.

As always, your support and donations are always appreciated.  Please click the button to the right and it will take you to a secure PayPal page where you can donate a dollar, or ten, or a hundred, or more.  Any amount helps this archive live a long and fruitful life.

I also love hearing from you, the readers and followers of the blog.  If you wish to discuss this project or any aspect of it, or if you wish to discuss supporting the archival process directly, you can reach me:

Via Email:

or by US Mail to:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91221

I am looking forward to hearing from you all!  

Thanks for reading today's short update!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Got A Letter Today....

Welcome to my blog about saving the life's work of Ichiro Ninomiya. If you are just joining us for the first time, please scroll to the bottom and catch up with the older posts.

As the title says, I got a letter in the mail today.   A real, hand-written piece of mail.  I wanted to share it with you readers.

The letter says:


Dear Mr. Risner,

I'd like to thank you for your efforts in this project. These pictures are great. I probably have some family pictures in that collection! 
If my dad was still with us, he could have helped in your efforts. He would have known where, who, and around when the picture was taken!  His office was down the street from Mr. Ninomiya's office.  We passed it many times growing up.
Here is a donation. sorry it iis not too much. And apologies about my penmanship. Handwriting is a lost art!

Best Regards,
Lisa Yamamoto

P.S. If you need any volunteers, I would like to help.


I wanted to share this note with you all. And I wanted to thank Ms Yamamoto for her kind words and generous donation to the project.  I disagree that the donation was "not too much."  There is no amount too small (or too large) for this project and people like you and the other people on the SPECIAL THANKS page are the ones who are driving this project forward, inch by inch.

I cannot do this alone and it will take the help of interested and concerned people like Ms Yamamoto for me to see this through.

And, Ms Yamamoto, your penmanship is excellent. Far better than mine!  

Also, if you check the media links section to the right, there is a very excellent story in the Rafu Shimpo this week about the project.  Writer George Johnston did a great job and people are contacting me because of that article.

Do you have a story to tell?  Perhaps there is someone in your family who grew up here and patronized the Ninomiya Studios?  Perhaps you did?  I would love to hear from you all.  Please write to me either by email at:

or by US Mail to:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91221

I look forward to reading and sharing more of your comments!

Thanks for reading and supporting this project!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Work Contiues...

Welcome to my blog about saving the life's work of Ichiro Ninomiya. If you are just joining us for the first time, please scroll to the bottom and catch up with the older posts.

I have added a few things to the blog layout that some may have noticed. To the right here, there is a new box with links in it.

First the Media Links. We have been getting more and more press lately about the project from newspapers, blogs and TV stations. As I get each link, I will post it there so you can see what others are saying about this project in the news.

The next link is for Special Thanks. This is where I list out individuals who have donated either money or services or other things towards this effort. I would love to post YOUR name there too!

This week, we have been talking to more reporters and other organizations about supporting and funding this project. Possibly some exciting news coming up so check with us and see what we update (as we know things we post them!)

This past week, on our FaceBook Page, I posted a status that I wanted to post here, once more, before we move forward.

Our page is located at:

Saving Ninomiya on Facebook

Please add us to your Facebook page too!

The status message said this:

"On this, the anniversary of the death of Mr Ninomiya, pause and look around at your own life. What legacy will you leave behind? Perhaps helping to preserve this man's life work, commemorating and celebrating his life, will be your legacy too. Visit our page and help if you can."

I think thats an important thought to consider. There is a tangible legacy sitting in my living room that needs to be preserved and displayed and celebrated by everyone in our community. No matter which cultural or ethnic group you identify with, so much of our cultural heritage gets overlooked, forgotten or ignored. I hope that this archive does not fall into any of those categories.

If you can help, please either click the DONATE button to the right here, or you can even remain anonymous through the US Mail by using the mailing address below:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91221

Thanks for reading the new update. I will post more often as interesting things happen!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Pause, but the Work Continues...

Thank you for visiting my blog about my efforts to preserve the work of a great local Japanese American photographer.   If you are just joining us for the first time, please scroll to the bottom and catch up on the progress!

I will be pausing updates for a few weeks.  I am doing this for a couple different reasons.   First and foremost of those reasons, is the upcoming anniversary of Mr Ninomiya's death.  Out of respect to his memory and the family, I will continue the work I am doing, but not post any updates for a couple weeks.

If you visit my page and wonder what is happening with this collection and my progress, I would request that you offer thoughts and prayers for the Ninomiya family instead.

My work continues and there is still much to do.   If you wish to discuss any aspect of this project with me, please contact me directly at:

You can also send a real letter or even anonymous donations to:

Michael Risner
PO Box 5781
Glendale, CA 91221

I will again be updating the blog in a few weeks. 

Thanks for checking in!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's Been a Productive Day...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to saving the work of the Ninomiya Studios. 

One of the things that has, I admit, been missing from my information so far, is a clearer idea of family history for Ichiro Ninomiya.  Some of the things I thought I knew, were incorrect. And some things I just didn't know at all!

The Ninomiya Studios was in existence before WWII at a different address.  The business was run by Kinso Ninomiya, Ichiro's father.

When the family was sent to the internment camp, they lost everything, as did everyone else in the community. When they returned to LA after the war, Kinso re-established his business with the intent that his son, Ichiro, would be joining him.  

This is Ichiro, date uncertain:

Ichiro served in the military and saw duty in Korea. 

And I know now who some of the people in these photos are for certain.

This is Kinso Ninomiya.  And, judging from the hairstyles in the portraits in the window, this is likely early to mid 60's.

There is more to learn.  And there is more to acquire.  I have discovered that practically all the studio equipment is still in boxes and in storage and I am hoping to have access to all that to add to the wealth of knowledge out there.

As always, I am ever grateful for those of you who have been able to donate towards this project. Every penny that you send goes to this effort.  I will be happy to discuss specific details of my needs with anyone who is interested to help.  My email address is to the right, and I will happily discuss the project with you.

Won't you help a little?  Save the work of the Ninomiya Studios.

Thanks for reading this update!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Life in Storage...

I was given the opportunity to look through the storage from Mr. Ninomiya's studio recently.  It was an amazing 2 hours of looking through dust covered boxes that have been unmoved for maybe 20 years or more.

I saw more photos and negatives, correspondence, cameras, studio equipment, marketing materials like printed bags, frames, and correspondence.  Just so much stuff there and I am hoping to have access to it all.  Its my new goal to acquire.

We are getting more notice from local media here in Los Angeles for the project.  As soon as I know when things will appear, I will post the locations and dates here.

We are mentioned rather nicely on this week's podcast from and we are very thankful for that mention!

You can see the video podcast here:

And download their podcast off of iTunes as well!

Short update today as I am working pretty diligently on research and learning new things about Mr Ninomiya that I did not know before. 

As always, any assistance you wish to give would be greatly appreciated!  Please click the DONATE button to the right here and give a few dollars to help the cause!

Thanks for checking out my update!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Short Update...

Welcome to my blog about saving the life's work of a Japanese American photographer living and working in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles in the post-WWII era.  If you are just joining us for the first time, please scroll to the bottom post and catch up with what we are about here!

I have been talking with other filmmakers and community leaders for days now about this project.  The more I learn, the more interesting and enticing this story is.

And there is media notice for the project now as well.   Several news organizations are picking up the story and if/when I know where the stories are posted, I will put an update here.

This is a very important project for every Angeleno, not just the Japanese-Americans.   The cultural history stacked in my living room right now is almost overwhelming, but I am hopeful that some philanthropy soon will help get the preservation and cataloging process going.

A few posts down, near the beginning, I showed some photos of the giant stack of bags, and my desk and workspace.  Thought I would share a new look at how things are going here...

There are boxes and bags that wouldnt fit into the shot, but thats about 85% of my cache.

I am drowning in files.  

As always, any donations you want to give would be greatly appreciated.  This is a worthy and important project and any support I can get will be fantastic!



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Your Turn...

Welcome to my blog about saving the life's work of a Japanese American photographer here in Los Angeles.  If this is your first time visiting the blog, please scroll down and read the older posts, especially the first one, to catch up!

I have gotten a fair number of visitors here reading my thoughts and my pleas for funds.  I am interested in any of your thoughts at this point.

What I would like to do is this:  

Please email me at with your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, comments and encouragements!

I would like to post your thoughts (anonymously if you wish) to the blog here.  Yes, there is a "Comments" section below each post and you can certainly post there, but I would love to hear from anyone who is tagging along on this adventure with me.

Send me your words and I will share them with our small (and growing) community of followers here!

And as always, your donation is greatly appreciated and helpful in saving this work.  No amount is too small and no amount is too large. 

I am writing up grant proposals for the archiving portion of the project only and I keep coming up with numbers around $16,000 for the materials, equipment and other things needed for that effort.   Every $10 donation gets me closer to the goal.

We spend $10 on far less worthy things each and every day.   Perhaps this might be a bit more satisfying in the long run?

And, if you are of a mind to fund the entire archive and restoration project, please email me directly and we can discuss ways to make your donation beneficial for both of us!

I will be scanning more interesting images in the next day or so, and will be showing more of Mr. Ninomiya's work. 

Thanks for checking in with my  update!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hat in Hand...

Welcome to my blog!  If this is your first time visiting, please scroll down to the first entry and catch up!  This blog is dedicated to preserving and showing the life's work of a Japanese-American photographer.

I spent most of last week and today on the phone looking for resources.  There are several options out there, none of which are speedy, but most of which are worth the effort.   Looks like I will be grant-writing this week for sure!

I appreciate all the input I have been getting from you, the readers and supporters.   Your input and leads are making this project move forward.  And spreading the word to your circle of friends and colleagues helps too!

And, as much as no one likes hearing it, a donation will help get these files out of bags and boxes and stacked in my living room and into better archiving materials.

The blog, as of today, has had about 200 visitors.  If those 200 visitors could be persuaded to donate a mere $5.00 to the cause, that would purchase a good portion of the archiving materials and supplies I need.

Five dollars! That's not much!  Think how you would waste five dollars on any given day...  coffee? Snacks? Lotto Tickets?  Why not take that five dollars and put it towards something that will benefit not only you personally for the joy of helping, but the community as well.

I have great leads for research and other information, I just need to get the materials ready to be cataloged and saved. 

Five dollars!    Click that button?



Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Trailer...

I have gotten such a good response from the short trailer I made, I thought I would post it directly here...

I am still working towards getting these files into a more secure location other than my living room.  The process to catalog and view all these images will take a couple months, and your support during that time will make the task possible!

If you can, please click on the DONATE button to the right here and help out with your donation to the cause.  All these images are just waiting to be seen again by the world and you can help make that happen.

Thank you!


Friday, September 3, 2010

Starting the Project...

A quick update for today.

I have submitted a proposal for the community funding site for the arts called Kickstarter

The project was approved and is live at this URL:

Saving Ninomiya: A Photographic Life in Little Tokyo

And, if you just want to see the video I created as a sort of trailer, its available on YouTube (unless you are in Germany, for copyright reasons).

Saving Ninomiya, on YouTube

And, as always, you can click the DONATE button to the right here and donate directly without the middleman involved.  All donations are greatly appreciated and put to almost immediate use!

Thanks for reading today's short update!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Field Trip...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to saving the life's work of Ichiro Ninomiya.  If this is your first time joining the blog, please scroll down and catch up on my adventures!

Having never been there before, in all the time I have lived in LA, I decided to take a trip down to Little Tokyo this morning.

Its a small area and just getting smaller due to development in the area.   I was pleased to see that a lot of the places I have been looking at in decades old photographs, are still there.

A few entries back, I posted this photo of Mr Ninomiya in front of his shop:

Happily, the space is still there and from the outside anyway, looks very much the same:

It now houses the DISKovery Program.  A great technology access and learning resource for the community.  Check them out at

Other things are not there any longer.   Here is a great shot from atop the building where the New Japanese American News paper worked.

I am not certain, but I believe that building is now gone and is being developed for another project here:

Some things are still there, but just change names.  The Sumitomo Bank Building...

Is now the California Bank & Trust...

But other things are the same..  like The Far East Cafe with its very distinctive CHOP SUEY sign that your parents, or grandparents saw...

Little Tokyo is also home to many community groups and facilities. One of them is The Japanese American National Museum. I recommend a visit.

Another distinctive landmark is the Fire Tower at the Japanese Village shopping area.  I have seen this tower in many of Mr Ninomiya's photographs.  It is literally across the street from where his studio is.  I suspect that, like a lot of photographers do, when there are no paying customers, you go outside and shoot whatever is handy.  Many of the street scenes he shot are, I have discovered, shot right in front of his shop.

There is still more to see in Little Tokyo and more I will show you in later entries.  

As always, this is also a plea for help in saving this work.  I estimate that I have between 13,000 and 15,000 files stacked in my living room.   Most of that is still in the plastic bags in which it was delivered. Right now, my most immediate need is funding, and a space to work on these photographs to sort them.  

Won't you help?  Even a little will go towards the greater goal of getting these photographs restored, saved, and ready to display and be seen again.   Many of them have been sitting in file envelopes for over 60 years.

Click the DONATE button to the right and offer your hand in saving this work.   Any amount is appreciated and will be put to immediate use!

Until the next update,


Monday, August 30, 2010

Life in Little Tokyo....

If this is your first time joining my blog, please scroll down to the first post to catch up with what we are all about here.  And, welcome to the adventure!

After the exclusion order was lifted and Japanese-American families were allowed to return home from the internment camps, most families tried to pick up where their lives were interrupted. 

So they returned to their shops....

They returned to their lives...

They went out to dinner...

And even took in a few shows now and then too...

The neighborhood opened back up..  businesses started again in earnest. 

And life went on. Including the occasional traffic accident.

Even odd accidents like this one involving a Red Car train.

Thats gonna raise someone's insurance...

Good thing we got the accident info too...

Life tried to pick up and go on in Little Tokyo.  But I wonder, as I look at these photographs, how DOES one recover from years of imprisonment, guilty only of being of Japanese heritage?

As always, I am in real need of assistance both financial and other things.  If you can donate, please click the button to the right here and give any amount.  Every penny donated directly benefits this project.

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Add us on Facebook....

Just a quick update today...

I have some meetings with other filmmakers here in town later. Hopefully we will find ways to move the project forward!

Also, I have a page on Facebook too.  If you are on FB, please add us there and you can keep up on updates and other announcements as well.

Thanks for reading, and I will post more photos and other goodies later!


Friday, August 27, 2010

Negative Art

Welcome to my blog dedicated to saving the work of Ichiro Ninomiya.  If this is your first time joining the blog, please scroll down to the first entry to see what we are all about!

A lot of these files I have contain proof prints.  Unfinished images used to select the best of the lot.  Those are great because I can see the image and scan the ones I like most to share with you.  A lot of the files contain only a negative or a stack of them.  

They come in several sizes.  The black and white images are either on an 8 x 10 negative or a 5 x 7 negative. Sometimes there are 5 x 7 negs with two images on the negative and he would simply cut them in half making two  3.5 x 5 negatives.

The negative images are hard to scan but I figured out a way to shoot them.

Like the image of my sailor here.  I dont have a light table, or I would just use that to illuminate the negative from behind.  So I put a white screen up on my monitor, put the negative in front of that and photograph it with my camera.  Then,  I use photo editing software to flip the negative into a positive image like this:

 Its the same sailor, just flipped it to face the correct way.

Interesting thought about this young sailor.  I am finding lots of men in uniforms from all branches so far; army, navy, air force, marines.  This particular sailor was photographed in 1951.  Its a reasonable certainty that he and his family spent time in Interment Camps during World War II.  And yet, here he is, serving his country and ready to lay down his life to defend it.   Says a lot I think.

Because of the way I have to shoot these negatives, there is sometimes some pixelation or visual feedback in the images. This is NOT in the orignals just these poor-man's scans of them.

More finds...

These two shots are from the Eagle Cafe Chop Suey Restaurant.  Again, pardon the bad scanning of the negatives but its the best I can do at the moment.   Taken also in 1951.

Mr Ninomiya did a lot of weddings in his time and its fun seeing the party as if we are there..

 Looked like a fun party. They served Schlitz Beer and 7up and Nehi softdrinks.  This was 1951 as well. I wonder what became of this couple.....

I also love these portraits of couples.

Mr. Ninomiya did really great studio work in a time where there wasn't the fast and cheap (but not good) mall places or the department store studios that resemble more a fast-food operation rather than someone creating a lasting memory.

I am also finding a lot of group portraits like this one taken at the Pasadena Japanese Community Center.

Again, ignore the bad quality of the scan. 

And there are just a variety of portraits and other interesting images as I go through the bags of files.

This image, by the way, is one of those 5 x 7 negatives that was not cut apart into two seperate negatives yet. 

As always, I am doing my best to sound like a PBS Pledge Break Marathon host.  I need your help.  Previous blog entries have detailed some of the needs I have and I cannot emphasize enough how urgent some of the needs are.

At the moment, I cannot open and sort any more files because I just dont have the space available to me.  I can barely move about my living room as it is, so I will have to wait to find new treasures until I can get these files into a space thats better for the sorting.

Take a minute and click the DONATE button there to the right.   Any amount will be MORE than welcome.  A dollar or ten.  A hundred or a thousand.  I have a list ready to go of things I can go buy to start saving the lives of these images, and sharing them with you, the families in them, and the rest of the world.

Thanks for helping out and thanks for reading today's entry!


Orphaned Negatives...

If you are joining my blog for the first time, please find the first entry below so you can catch up on what we are all about here.

Mr. Ninomiya kept pretty good records for all his files.  I usually am finding a name, a date the photos were shot and a description of what they are. Like this one:

This is the envelope that contains the portrait of the Governor of Hiroshima, Hiroo Ohara.  I managed to figure out how to shoot the negative.  Looks like he is in charge..

I am working steadily thru the pile of bags.  This is my desk area and work space...

I am rapidly running out of floor space to work here.  Ideally, what I would love to have is the use of a small office for a few weeks to sort, stack and classify these photos.  I am not sure how much longer my living room will last.  

This is the pile of bags I still  have left to go thru. As you can see, there is still a lot.   Cat not included in archive materials....

While looking thru the envelope of orphaned negatives I have, I found these two images.   This is, I believe, Mr Ninomiya in a posed portrait...

And another I found of him standing in front of his shop.  This shop is no longer there, if I am reading Google Earth, correctly. I believe this weekend will be good for a field trip to the area.

The scan of this negative was less than desired but that's also another of my challenges.  I am limited in my ability to scan and record these negatives as I dont have the proper equipment.

I do like seeing this image though. I think it says a lot about Mr Ninomiya.

I shot this photo trying to illustrate how much I have sorted so far.. the many stacks that are two and a half feet high...

At first I thought I would not use it because I forgot to move the can of Febreeze sitting back there.  But I thought I should tell you all that its there for  reason.  These files are old.  Some over 50 years old.  They all are deteriorating.  Some quite fast and some rather slowly.  And they all have some version of rot going on in these envelopes. 

The smell from that mixed with aging chemicals on the film and papers make a rather overwhelming smell in my living room.  So it gets a regular shot of Febreeze to help control it.

I have had some people ask me what I need.  Right now I need to buy archving materials to get these negatives and prints out of these old paper envelopes and into something a little more photo-friendly. 

I need a space to work on these that is not my house and is climate controlled.  An office that I can work in would be a grand donation.

I need a high end scanner. I need a fast computer with a significant storage capacity so I can digitize and store all these images.  I need either a RAID hard drive set up or many good external hard drives.

There is so much more but that seems to be my immediate need.

I met with a really great group of photographers tonight.  And I showed them some of the works I have both good and bad and there seemed to be agreement that this work is very important and the find is too good to pass up. 

I hope you will feel this way as you read my blog and see my progress.   I hope that you will consider clicking the donation button to the right here and helping me get there. 

Ten dollars, five, a hundred, a thousand.   Every penny you donate goes directly to saving this work from just turning to dust.  No amount is too small, and no amount is too large. 

Your support, financial and otherwise, greatly helps to achieve what has now become my passion; showing more of this work to the world.

As always, questions, comments, offers of help are always welcome at my email:

Thanks for reading todays update!