RICK ROCAMORA has won awards for his images and picture stories from Asian American Journalist Association, SF Bay Area Press Photographers Association, New California Media, Media Alliance; he was awarded a California Arts Council Art Fellowship and a Local Bay Area Heroes Award from KQED and Union Bank of California for his work about Filipino WW II Veterans. His work is widely exhibited in national and international museums and galleries. His work is part of a collection of American arts most recently exhibited at the Court of Saint James in the United Kingdom and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. His work is included in the traveling exhibition “Points of Entry-A Nation of Strangers,” which was exhibited at the Smithsonian, Center for Photographic Arts, Museum of Photographic Arts, and other venues. His images are part of “Pork and Perks - Corruption and Governance in the Philippines” a National Book Award winner in the Philippines in 1994. “Second-Class Veterans” a film produced by Don Young that profiled Rocamora’s undying efforts to document the day-to-day lives of Filipino veterans was broadcast on PBS stations in 2003 and 2004. His book about Filipino WWII veterans, "America's Second-Class Veterans" is scheduled for publication before the end of 2008. He is also working on a project about Muslim-Americans after 9/11.
Smithsonian, Museum of Photographic Arts, Center for Photographic Arts, Jewish Museum, Gorman Museum, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, San Francisco Airport Commission Gallery, Oakland Museum, University of California Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Santa Barbara, SF State University, Manila Town Heritage Gallery, US Embassy - London and Tokyo etc.
Filipino WWII Soldiers AMERICA'S SECOND-CLASS VETERANS Photographs by Rick Rocamora Foreword by Congressman Bob Filner and Kim Komenich Essay by Rene Ciria-Cruz
In their youth, Filipino soldiers fought alongside American GIs in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, defending the Philippines from the Japanese military and enduring the Bataan Death March. Their legendary courage was decisive in the U.S. victory in the war in the Pacific. For their bravery, they were promised a soldier’s due: veterans’ benefits and a pension in thanks from a grateful nation.
But today, these valiant veterans live in poverty and obscurity in tenement hotels, eating at soup kitchens, and waiting – still waiting – for their military pensions. Now in their 80s and 90s, they are fighting again, this time in Congress for the Filipino Veterans Equity Act. Many of their comrades have already died, hoping to see the day the U.S. government would make good on its promise.
Photographer Rick Rocamora has documented the lives of the Filipino veterans, still clinging to hard-won medals, military commendations and scraps of uniforms as they make their way in San Francisco’s toughest neighborhoods. Rocamora’s deep connection to the veterans allows a rare view into their difficult but always dignified lives, and creates a poignant story of pain, persistence and hope.
What they say about America's Second-Class Veterans
Rick Rocamora’s work belongs to the honorable tradition of documentary photography. In the 1930s, during the Depression, this photographic approach was used to change the ways we think about the world. Sponsored by the American government, such photographers as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange worked with the Farm Security Administration photographing the rural communities in both the South and the West hit by drought and in poverty. Lange’s wonderful pictures of the brave people who sat in the sun waiting to pick peas in the Central Valley when there was no work where they came from helped Americans understand some of the problems of those times.
Like Lange, Rocamora focuses his attention on the people he wants us to look at and think about. These are ordinary people. They fought alongside American soldiers in World War II in the Pacific, often at great personal cost. They are Filipinos, living here in the United States, promised benefits by the United States government that many still expect. Most of these men are also very poor, though it is not their poverty that we remember most, but their gentleness and bravery. Rocamora reminds us, in these quiet and dignified pictures, of the value and integrity of these people, and of their strong sense of community-which sustains them, even as they suffer from careless neglect.
Sandra Phillips, Senior Curator of Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Rick Rocamora has produced an important book of photographic images that addresses what can be called an inconvenient lapse of memory in the history of the United States of America. This book is about the group of men who were left behind after risking everything in defense of their country and ours. These men are the Filipino veterans who fought during World War II for the United States and were promised concrete enticements which in the end were as flimsy as sheets of paper left on the crest of a hill to the tender mercies of a fully developed March wind.
The book should be viewed as an important element in the failed promise of delivering the promise of America. Rocamora admirably performs this difficult task by photographing the lives of these men in a sensitive, straightorward, and respectable manner. He doesn’t add unnecessary flourishes that might take you away from their story. He leaves you to understand that these images are about these men and not about him. When you look into the eyes of these men, you will truly feel their pain. You will also feel the shame of knowing how they were left to drift by our country after helping us in our time of need. They went through hell and were then abandoned. Rick Rocamora has not abandoned these men and through his photographs of their lives, he insures that we will not forget them either.
Eli Reed, Magnum Photos University of Texas in Austin
The pictures—and the stories—in this book will break your heart. Rick Rocamora photographs Filipino soldiers who fought bravely during World War II and have come to America to demand the recognition due them. Rocamora portrays these men with tenderness and respect. In his pictures, their dignity is undiminished. They seem unbowed by the humiliations they had suffered in America, hopeful, despite all that they had been through here, that they will get the justice they deserve.
Sheila S. Coronel, Director Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University
All of these aging and precious veterans have to live for is hope, pride, and dignity—priceless in every sense. They have endured the many years of waiting for the US Government to compensate them for answering the Call to Duty. Some have even discounted their selfless sacrifices, questioned their integrity and dismissed their citizenship. Yet, they remained loyal and devoted to this Nation. This is an incredible study in courage and inspiration.