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Cover of the spring 2003 SFSU magazine. Geography Professor Max Kirkeberg and students tour of San Francisco's Western Addition.

 

SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer 2003, Volume 3, Number 2.
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Alumni and FriendsSFSU alumna Janet Alvarado in a white dress at opening night for her father's photo exhibit at National Museum of American History. She is smiling proudly in front of a black and white self portrait of her father which is on display on the wall behind her.

 

Through Her Father's Eyes

Janet 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 gift.

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 streets.

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 American photographer.

"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

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