Patrick Nagatani, Photographer Famous for Collages, Dies at 72

Reviewing an exhibition of Mr. Nagatani’s photographs in 2015 at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, Mass., Mark Feeney of The Boston Globe wrote: “To call them photographs seems reductive. They are variously large, small, in color, black and white, staged, straight, funny, heartbreaking. The one constant is unpredictability.”

Mr. Nagatani combined multiple printing and hand-coloring to push the contours of photography. In one construction, he compared Hopi dancers to a battery of missiles pointing skyward to contrast modern ideology and tribal myth.

Reviewing Mr. Nagatani’s book “Nuclear Enchantment” in 1991 in The New York Times, Peter B. Hales wrote that his photographic constructions “crackle with intelligence and rage.”

“They are glaringly colored absurdist constructions,” Mr. Hales wrote, “with all their cracks and props showing, and they seem appropriate to a subject inherently irrational: the history of atomic weapons, their production and misuse, and the vast environmental consequences of modern hubris in bringing the technology into being in the first place.”

Patrick Allen Ryiochi Nagatani was born on Aug. 19, 1945, in Chicago.


Patrick Nagatani in an undated photograph. Credit Patrick Nagatani

Before they married, Mr. Nagatani’s parents, John Nagatani and Diane Yoshimura, were separately held in detention camps in California and Arkansas after the United States declared war on Japan in December 1941. They met later in an early-release program in Chicago.

His father’s family had owned a farm in California. His mother had just graduated from high school when the internment order was issued early in 1942. His grandfather, who had fought in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 and immigrated to the United States, was also interned.

“It broke him, it just broke his physical psychological being,” Mr. Nagatani said of his grandfather in a 2007 video interview for the University of New Mexico. “My grandfather left the country and went back to Japan and died a drunk.”

With their young son, his parents moved back to California, where his father became an aerospace engineer in Los Angeles and his mother taught school.

Mr. Nagatani earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968 from California State University in Los Angeles and a master’s in fine arts from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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