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Through My Father's Eyes: The Filipino American Photographs of Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado (1914-1976)

January 5 - January 29, 2006


While Janet Alvarado was growing up, her father, Ricardo, told her stories about life in America before she was born. "They were colorful stories filled with vivid images of a vibrant community and a multicultural past," Alvarado remembers. A new exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution offers an opportunity to see this rich community through the eyes of Filipino American photographer Ricardo Alvarado. (right: A Veteran and His Bride, Salinas, California, 1940s. Severino and Annie Sison stand on the steps of a church following their wedding, which took place after World War II. Many Filipino American veterans married during or after the war)

Through My Father's Eyes: The Filipino American Photographs of Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado (1914-1976), a collection of 50 rare photographs, opened at the Academy Art Center on January 5, 2006 and will remain on view until January 29, 2006.

Ricardo Alvarado immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 1928 as part of the early 20th-century wave of immigrants from that country known as the Manong generation. Alvarado thought America would bring new opportunities, but he was given menial jobs. During World War II, he served in the Pacific with the U.S. Army's First Filipino Regiment. When the war came to an end, Alvarado supported his passion for photography by working as a civilian cook for the Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco.

Alvarado began documenting postwar Filipino American life in San Francisco and surrounding communities. For almost 20 years following the war, Alvarado witnessed a transformation among Filipino Americans -- from a close-knit group of bachelors to a society that was defined by family life. Alvarado's photographs capture day-to-day activities as well as the special moments of celebrations. Together, the photographs offer a poignant portrayal of the Filipino American community in San Francisco from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.

Following Alvarado's death in 1976, his daughter, Janet, discovered his photographs. Janet Alvarado currently serves as the executive director of The Alvarado Project, which documents and preserves more than 3,000 of his images of post-World War II Filipino American communities.



Janet Alvarado presented a free slide lecture on January 7 in Doris Duke Theatre. The lecture was titled, Life in the Early Community: Alvarado's Camera.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program seeks to integrate Asian Pacific American contributions to history, culture, art and society through Smithsonian collections, research, exhibitions and programs. (right: The Harvest, California, 1950s. Filipino migrant workers harvested bell peppers, lettuce, celery, artichoke, and asparagus crops. In earlier times, Chinese and Japanese had worked the same fields. In the 1930s, Mexican and European American migrant workers from the South and Midwest worked alongside the Filipino pickers)

Through My Father's Eyes, created by The Alvarado Project, is an exhibition developed by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program in collaboration with the National Museum of American History, Behring Center, and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Additional support has been provided by FedEx and a circle of friends.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science, and history, which are shown wherever people live, work, and play, including museums, libraries, science centers, historical societies, community centers, botanical gardens, schools, and shopping malls. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at www.sites.si.edu.

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