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.