The photographer Yukio Morinaga was a trusted friend and colleague of artist Virna Haffer and a fellow member of the Seattle Camera Club even though they both lived in Tacoma. Morinaga’s dreamy world view was in sharp contrast to his experiences as a Japanese American artist who was unrecognized for his work, interned during the war and then lost to poor health and solitude. Working most of his life around chemicals as a film developer, Morinaga starved himself to death in his small Tacoma home surrounded by his cameras, photographs and a constellation of images in soft focus. His portrait was taken by Haffer in 1945.
Along with other Northwest preservationists, I’ve been involved in a very serious, even existential debate over the future of our state’s first designated historic district, Pioneer Square in Seattle. Spending time there has reminded me of Morinaga’s work, maybe because like him and historian Murray Morgan we are from Tacoma but care deeply about our region and the city to the north. I’ll do a longer piece on Yukio Morinaga but for now here are some of his images including three from Pioneer Square.
This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character.
For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.