By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo
Archie Miyatake, who for nearly seven decades provided a vivid chronicle of Japanese American life through his photographs, passed away Dec. 20 at the age of 92.
Eldest of four children of pioneering Issei photographer Toyo Miyatake, Archie became the family’s patriarch and proprietor of the family business, Toyo Miyatake Studio, after his father’s passing in 1979.\
Archie Miyatake, through his decades of photography and community service, captured the history of Japanese Americans in Southern California. He is shown standing in front of a portrait of his father, Toyo. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)
In 1946, as former incarcerees were resettling in Southern California after years of wartime confinement, The Rafu Shimpo resumed publication. Miyatake Studio became the newspaper’s official photographers.
“I had to take picture at different events. I think I made a lot of friends that way,” Miyatake said in a 2005 interview. “I was able to help Rafu Shimpo, but at the same time, Rafu Shimpo was helping us by exposing (our photography) to the public. It was a very mutual relationship between Rafu Shimpo and our studio, so I’m very thankful for that.”
Soon, Archie was covering community events large and small on behalf of The Rafu, ranging from Nisei Week Festival highlights to the arrival of Japan’s Crown Prince Akihito. He also became widely known for family portraiture and special occasion photography.
Nisei Week honored Miyatake as grand marshal in 1993 and in 2005 as one of its pioneers.
Miyatake did more than take photos. He volunteered on the Nisei Week board and served one year as its chairman. For decades, the photographer was a welcome presence at many community events, always with a large camera dangling around his neck and a wide smile.
Born in Los Angeles on Nov. 6, 1924, he was raised in Boyle Heights, spending his childhood at his father’s photo studio in Little Tokyo. At the outbreak of World War II, the Miyatakes closed the studio and rented their home to family friend, Dr. Karl Lansing.
Archie Miyatake and his wife Take at the Nisei Week Closing Ceremony in August 2004. (JUN NAGATA/Rafu Shimpo)
Archie was 17 when the family was forced to relocate to Manzanar. He graduated from Manzanar High School and became an apprentice to his father, who was given special permission to open a camp photography studio.
After the war, the Miyatakes returned to their original home in East Los Angeles and generously housed other Japanese American families in need of a temporary place to stay. They also reopened the studio in Little Tokyo.
Archie and his wife, Take, became active supporters of efforts to commemorate Manzanar as a national historic site and build the interpretive center.
For past several years as his father’s health waned, son Alan Miyatake has been running the family business in San Gabriel. Another son, Gary, also became a professional photographer, operating Toyo Photography in Gardena.
The Rafu Shimpo will be dedicating its Saturday, Dec. 24 edition in memory of Archie Miyatake.
Funeral arrangements are pending.