This past summer I spent my time shooting photographs for the Rafu Shimpo, a daily (Tuesday-Saturday) paper printed in both Japanese and English and with a long history in the Little Tokyo community of downtown Los Angeles. While it may not have been some of the other well-known internships that I hear returning students talking about, it was definitely one of the most rewarding experience I’ve had. Shooting photographs for the Rafu, you are not shooting merely to expand your portfolio, rather, you are shooting for an entire community. In meeting the staff of the Rafu Shimpo and getting to know them over the summer, it was clear that they felt an obligation to the community and the preservation of the newspaper which has been a community symbol since 1903. Perhaps the best example of this is Mario G. Reyes, staff photographer/photo editor for the past 16 years.
Though obviously not Japanese or Japanese American himself, Mario has dedicated himself to the important task of recording the history of a community. During his 16 years at the paper, he has seen editors and writers come and go, has passed up more lucrative opportunities financially, and has also built a strong bond with the members of not only the Little Tokyo community, but the Japanese American community in Southern California as a whole. The one question that was asked more than “Oh, who are you?” while out shooting for the Rafu was “Where is Mario?”
With employees such as Mario Reyes, Gwen Murunaka, et al., the Rafu Shimpo is sure to remain a community touchstone, keeping together a community that is continually spreading and growing apart.