Her Father's Eyes
Alvarado's (B.A., Industrial Design,'99) father loved
to take pictures. "He told me that one day he'd build me a dark
room of my own and show me how to use a camera," she says.
Ricardo Alvarado died during Janet's junior year of high school, before
he could give those photography lessons, but he left his daughter another
Inside a box in the basement of the family home, Janet found 3,000 of
her father's carefully protected negatives -- a celluloid history
of Filipino American life in the early 20th century.
In 1928, at age 14, Ricardo came to California with the first wave of
Filipino immigrants. He worked as a houseboy, dishwasher and janitor
before serving in the U.S. Army's First Filipino Infantry Regiment during
World War II.
After the war he worked as a cook on San Francisco's Presidio Army Base,
but his true passion was photography. He spent the next 20 years using
his 4x5 speed Graphflex camera to record Filipino immigrants in San
Francisco and its neighboring rural communities. He captured weddings,
migrant farm workers in the fields, baptisms, and gatherings on city
Janet was determined to see her father's photos displayed in a museum,
but not just to honor her father's memory. "I think people have
a lot to learn about early Filipino immigrant history," she says.
In November 2002, "Through My Father's Eyes: The Filipino American
Photographs of Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado (1914–1976)," opened
at the National Museum of American History. The 50-photo exhibit, which
left Washington, D.C., in March, was the first at the Smithsonian Institution
to highlight the Filipino American community and the work of a Filipino
"I think my father would be floored," Janet says. Her efforts
to bring her father's photos to the public started when she was a student
at SFSU in 1998. With help and encouragement from her professors, she
established The Alvarado Project, a nonprofit volunteer group dedicated
to promoting awareness of Filipino American history.
Through the project she brought the photos to the attention of the San
Francisco Public Library, which put them on display in 1998. Encouraged
by the positive response, she contacted a representative at the Smithsonian's
Asian Pacific American Program. A week later she was notified that the
exhibit was a go.
The Smithsonian is now taking the exhibit to 15 cities over the next
three years. One of its first stops will be the Golden Gate Museum in
Sacramento, July 5–Aug. 31.
In March Alvarado was among the speakers on a Smithsonian panel, "Through
Filipino American Eyes: 100 Years of History -- and the Future -- in
America," held at the National Museum of American History.
For more information: www.thealvaradoproject.com