Masumi Hayashi

Name Masumi Hayashi
Born September 3 1945
Died August 17 2006
Birth Location Rivers, Arizona
Generational Identifier


Fine art photographer Masumi Hayashi (1945–2006) was best known for her series of panoramic photo-collages taken at ten of the former sites of World War II American concentration camps. Other series of work include post industrial sites in the Midwest (1986-1991), E.P.A. Superfund Sites (1989–93), Abandoned Prisons (1987–96), War and Military Sites (1990–94), and "CityWorks" (1987–94).

Hayashi was born on September 3, 1945, at the Gila River concentration camp located in Arizona, roughly one month after World War II ended, one of six children of Issei parents Tomio and Sakae Hayashi. After they left Arizona, the family relocated to Watts, a neighborhood located in South Los Angeles, where she worked at her parents' store, Village Market, on Compton Avenue. She attended and graduated from Jordan High School. She married Charles Keesey in September 1964 and eventually had two children, although the marriage ended in divorce. Hayashi briefly attended the University of California, Los Angeles, before joining her husband, who was in Florida in the navy at that time. She subsequently enrolled at Florida State University in Tallahassee, earning her Bachelor's degree in 1975 and Master of Fine Arts degree in 1977. She joined the Cleveland State faculty in 1982. In addition to photography, Hayashi was also a printmaker and worked with photo-transfer quilting. [1] . She did not return to Gila River, her birthsite, until 1990, and then made a second trip in 1995 during a Gila River reunion of former detainees. She recalls, "That reunion...became a very special experience. I had phoned my mom and uncle and talked to them while I was there.... It was a surprisingly inclusive feeling to be back at the site a second time. This time with a community of Japanese Americans trying to help me identify the sites, sharing their memories both good and bad, and to share a memory with my mother and my uncle of their past." [2] This second visit to Gila River was the impetus for her beginning a photo project exclusively on the former incarceration sites.

Masumi Hayashi is perhaps best known for creating striking panoramic photo collages assembled from a series of smaller individual images (typically 4-by-6-inch prints) like tiles in a mosaic, that were taken by a camera mounted on a tripod from a single vantage point. Many of these large panoramic pieces consisted of more than a hundred smaller photographic prints and encompass more than 360 degrees of a particular view. Much of her work explored historically and environmentally significant spaces that have been abandoned and left to decay, such as places of confinement and environmental pollution. Later in her career, her artwork reflected a deep interest in sacred sites, and with funding from a Fulbright fellowship, she completed a series on temples and ritual sites in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, India and Nepal.

Hayashi joined the faculty of Cleveland State University as assistant professor of photography in 1982, and became a full professor in 1996. During her tenure at Cleveland State University, she received numerous awards including an Arts Midwest, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1987, a Civil Liberties Educational Fund research fellowship in 1997, a Fulbright Grant in 2003, and Individual Artist Fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council on three different occasions. She was awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize for Visual Arts in 1994. Her photographs have been acquired for numerous public and private collections, including the International Center of Photography (NYC), Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Ludwig Forum for International Art in Koblenz, Germany. In 2003, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles hosted a retrospective of her photography titled "Sights Unseen: The Photographic Constructions of Masumi Hayashi."

On August 17, 2006, Hayashi and her neighbor, artist and sculptor John Jackson (who also worked as a maintenance man at the apartment complex) were tragically shot and killed in their apartment building in Cleveland, Ohio, in a dispute with a third neighbor. She was sixty years old when she died.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Alinder, Jasmine. Moving Images: Photography and the Japanese American Incarceration . Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009.

Cheng, Scarlet. "Functional Dysfunction." Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2003.

Hansen, Arthur. "Gila River Relocation Center" in Rick Noguchi, ed., Transforming Barbed Wire: The incarceration of Japanese Americans in Arizona during World War II. Phoenix, AZ: Arizona Humanities Council, 1997. 7-9.

"Sights Unseen: The Photographic Constructions of Masumi Hayashi May 31 - September 14, 2003." Japanese American National Museum exhibition website.

Masumi Hayashi website.

Masumi Hayashi Museum website.

Muchnic, Suzanne. "Art Reviews: Panoramas and Pointed Social Commentary From Hayashi." Los Angeles Times, June 22, 1990.

Thurber, Jon. "Masumi Hayashi, 60; Photographer Was Known for Profound Panoramic Collages." Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2006.


  1. Jon Thurber, "Masumi Hayashi, 60; Photographer Was Known for Profound Panoramic Collages," Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2006, accessed on September 24, 2014 at .
  2. Jasmine Alinder, Moving Images: Photography and the Japanese American Incarceration (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 146.

Last updated Feb. 12, 2024, 10:37 p.m..