Southern Appalachian Digital Collections

Western Carolina University (21) View all

Western Carolina University

George Masa Collection

George Masa was a Japanese American immigrant whose photography of Western North Carolina in the early 1900s stands among some of the best. Born in Japan around 1889, Masahara Iizka immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s and went by the name George Masa. In 1915, Masa moved to Western North Carolina and worked at the Grove Park Inn. There he became well known for his photography skills and made photos of many prominent visitors to the area, as well as of the natural beauty. Masa, along with his friend Horace Kephart, was a fierce advocate for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. His photographs were widely used in promotional materials for the park. Masa also worked at and later owned a photography studio in Asheville, NC which he named Plateau Studios.

A highway marker commemorating George Masa was installed in downtown Asheville in 2022. You can read more about Masa’s life on the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources website.