The Mary Koga Photograph Collection consist of pictures taken at the Japanese American Service Committee (JASC) and Heiwa Terrace, a Japanese American senior residence, both located in Chicago, Illinois. The photos taken at the JASC are from the Adult Day Care and the Senior Citizens Work Center. The Senior Citizens Work Center had approximately 100 participants whose average age was 76 years old. The sole purpose of the work center was to provide a productive, useful work environment and a social outlet for those over the age of 60. It was the only center of its kind in the United States.
Mary Koga, photographer, was born on August 10, 1920 in Sacramento, California. She received her first camera, a Baby Brownie, as a child and was fascinated by photography for the rest of her life. Koga graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in May 1942. She received a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago in June 1947. Koga worked at various social service facilities in Chicago, Illinois, from 1947-1969. She was a caseworker at the Family Service Bureau, United Charities from 1947-1952; from 1952-1957, she was a Chief Psychiatric Social Worker at the Northwestern University Medical School; from 1958-1959, she was the Assistant Chief Social Worker at the Institute for Juvenile Research in 1958-1959; and from 1960-1969, she was an Assistant Professor for Field Work at the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration. During Koga’s social service work, she still found time to continue her passion in photography. In 1963, she was diagnosed with cancer, but she still pursued her dream. Between 1960 and 1970, Koga showed her work through the Photographic Society of America. In January of 1968, she mounted her first one-woman show at the Chicago Public Library in the Rogers Park Branch in Chicago, Illinois. From 1971 to 1998, Koga, mounted individual shows and participated in group shows in various locations in the United States. In May 1973, Koga received a Master of the Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She began teaching in the Photography Department of Columbia College in the fall of that same year and continued teaching there for seven years. Koga won numerous awards and was recognized at the Field Museum, Columbia College, and American Museum of Natural History for her photography work. Mary Koga passed away in 2001.