ELMER OGAWA

Elmer Ogawa E-Book

Between the late-1940s and the early-1960s, Seattle photographer Elmer Ogawa was rarely without his camera. When he wasn't working a day-job in the city's noisy and dirty industrial yards, Ogawa was on assignment as a freelance photographer for a variety of Asian American magazines (Pacific Citizen, SCENE magazine, and The Northwest Times, to name just a few) that reached readers in Seattle and beyond. After hours, Ogawa could be spotted at one of the city's blue-collar taverns (the Bamboo Inn Cafe in Chinatown; Tim's Tavern on Capitol Hill; Barney's Cafe downtown; or the Klondyke Cafe in Pioneer Square), where he would tip back frosty pints of beer, trade jokes with bartenders and tavern regulars, and photograph the city's rowdy and festive nightlife.

Elmer Ogawa captures the action as two men brawl in a 1950s-era Seattle tavern (Image Courtesy University of Washington Libraries Special Collections).
Elmer Ogawa captures the action as two men brawl in a 1950s-era Seattle tavern.
(Image Courtesy University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)

On October 16, 1957, Ogawa spotted a pristine, two-toned 1957 Chevrolet parked near the corner of Fifth Avenue South and South Jackson Street in downtown Seattle (Image Courtesy University of Washington Libraries Special Collections).
On October 16, 1957, Ogawa spotted a pristine, two-toned 1957 Chevrolet parked near the corner of Fifth Avenue South and South Jackson Street in downtown Seattle.
(Image Courtesy University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)

Ogawa passed away in 1970 a largely unknown photojournalist. However, he left behind a rich cache of local photographic history that is now part of the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections. The 14,000 black-and-white negatives and 7,000 black-and-white prints depict a range of significant people, events, and cultural organizations in Seattle at the middle of the Twentieth Century, as well as the dingy (yet charming) 1950s-era Seattle taverns that have disappeared.

Ogawa photographed Japanese American Seafair royalty as they crossed the street in downtown Seattle on November 18, 1961. Note the monorail and Space Needle were under construction for the 1962 World's Fair (Image Courtesy University of Washington Libraries Special Collections).
Ogawa photographed Japanese American Seafair royalty as they crossed the street in downtown Seattle on November 18, 1961. Note the monorail and Space Needle were under construction for the 1962 World's Fair.
(Image Courtesy University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)

Ogawa was at The Colony nightclub on December 6, 1957, to photograph one of Pat Suzuki's sold-out performances (Image Courtesy University of Washington Libraries Special Collections).
Ogawa was at The Colony nightclub on December 6, 1957, to photograph one of Pat Suzuki's sold-out performances.
(Image Courtesy University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)

Journalist Todd Matthews spent two years poring over the letters, photographs, and home movies Ogawa left behind. He also interviewed the retired Broadway performer Pat Suzuki, who Ogawa photographed while she performed at The Colony nightclub in downtown Seattle during the 1950s; Harry K. Honda, Ogawa's editor at Pacific Citizen, who provided insight into Ogawa's journalism career; and even Ogawa's daughter-in-law (and closest living relative), who offered a glimpse of Ogawa's complicated and estranged family background.

Elmer Ogawa developing photographs during the 1950s (Image Courtesy University of Washington Libraries Special Collections).
Elmer Ogawa developing photographs during the 1950s.
(Image Courtesy University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)

In the end, Matthews' e-book Elmer Ogawa: After hours with Seattle's forgotten photographer is more than a collection of the late photojournalist's work. It is the biography of a significant Seattle photographer.

Click here to purchase the e-book.

Press for Elmer Ogawa: After hours with Seattle's forgotten photographer:

Read These Blogs (Angry Asian Man, March 6, 2016)

Discovering a Forgotten Photographer Elmer Ogawa (Discover Nikkei, March 1, 2016)

Arts etc. (International Examiner, Feb. 3, 2016)

Discussing Forgotten Photographer Elmer Ogawa (The North American Post, Jan. 22, 2016)

Elmer Ogawa / Tacoma Daily Index.

Elmer Ogawa: After hours with Seattle's forgotten photographer - Excerpt #1 (Tacoma Daily Index, Dec. 7, 2015)

Elmer Ogawa: After hours with Seattle's forgotten photographer - Excerpt #2 (Tacoma Daily Index, Dec. 9, 2015)

Elmer Ogawa: After hours with Seattle's forgotten photographer - Excerpt #3 (Tacoma Daily Index, Dec. 11, 2015)

Elmer Ogawa / Todd Matthews / Nisei Veterans Committee.

NVCF Speaker Series: Todd Matthews on Photographer Elmer Ogawa (Nisei Veterans Committee Foundation Newsletter, March 2015)