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!


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