Images of Bermuda shot in 1930s found in US

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  • Front Street then

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  • The Cabinet building then...

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  • ...and now

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  • <B>The Aquarium</B> in the 1930s<B><I></B></I>

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How photography has changes

Modern computers can add or remove colour from an image in a matter of minutes.
In the 1930s, colourisation was a delicate art.
Collector Rob Oechsle said the process through which T Enami studios created colour slides from black and white images was a process that could take hours as details were painted on glass by tiny brushes sometimes as thin as a single strand of hair.
The process involved the original image being held flat to a fibreboard with pins before being copied onto a negative the same size as the glass slide.
The negative was then held on top of the exposed glass plate and subjected to either an electric light or subdued sunlight before being developed in a darkroom like a paper print.
The finished dried slides were then hand-coloured by trained colourists working through magnifying glasses.
“Because the Japanese colourists had no doubt never been to Bermuda, it is possible that directions were given on the spot by the intrepid Bermuda tourist himself, or instructions were given with the prints,” Mr Oechsle explained.
“It is also possible that Tamotsu Enami was working with prints that were already subtly coloured by colourists in the USA or Bermuda, and the Japanese colourists simply did their best to match what was on the slide.”
The act of painting each slide could take hours or even a full day, depending on the complexity of the image.
“In the early days when Japanese colourists had to work on slides containing complicated clothing designs like a Geisha's kimono and other intricate objects in a scene, it was said a colourist could do one to three of these in a day,” Mr Oechsle said.
“I suppose the Bermuda slides were a bit easier for the colourists, and that they let out a collective sigh of relief when they found out that the good people of Bermuda did not wear fancy kimonos.”
The slides were then mounted with a die-cut paper mask marked with the studio's label to hide holes from the pins and messy brushwork, providing a clean window to frame the print. Another piece of glass was then placed on top of the image to protect it from moisture or dust.
“Occasionally, the black mask covered important details,” Mr Oechsle said. “Back then, perhaps nobody cared, but today it is important to see under the matte to possibly see things that might have been lost to time and ‘progress'.”
In one image the matte was removed, revealing the full sign of the Bermuda Cigar Store, once located on Front Street at the intersection with Queen Street where Gosling's Liquor Store now resides.

A collection of images by an unknown photographer depicting life in Bermuda in the early 1930s has been found, and is viewable online.

Rob Oechsle, of Bear Creek, Pennsylvania, purchased a collection of glass lantern slides under the impression that they showed scenes from all over the world. He later learned that all but one of the slides were of Bermuda.

The images show long-lost Bermuda landmarks: the Bermuda Railway in action, the Frascati Hotel and Golf Course in Flatts, The Somers Inn Restaurant in St George's and the Bermudiana Hotel.

Other images show Flatts Inlet, Ordnance Island and the Monarch of Bermuda in Hamilton Harbour.

In one picture, hundreds of broken rye crates are seen piled on a beach.

Persons who posted comments on the online site suggest the scene may have been the result of Bermuda's role in rum-running or the side effect of good sales at a nearby bar.

While images of Government House and the Cabinet Building are easily identifiable, others, such as a series of beach scenes, are more difficult.

“Some old Bermudian hands are still fighting, in a most dignified manner, over the current locations of a few of the photos,” Mr Oechsle said.

Each of the images was originally taken as black and white negatives or prints and made into hand-coloured glass lantern slides by Tamotsu Enami in Yokohama, Japan.

One of the images, depicting workers at a stone quarry, has been identified as a post card; the others are believed to have been taken by an amateur photographer.

Mr Oechsle has spent years collecting the art and photography of celebrated Japanese photographer T Enami. He noticed several glass lantern slides listed for auction online marked with the T. Enami label in 2007.

The auction closed without anyone reaching the reserve price for the slides. Mr Oechsle contacted the seller, but was unable to make a deal.

Two years later he was contacted through his website by another person who had obtained the collection of 73 slides.

“Knowing that hundreds of worldwide images were processed by Enami's studio over the years, I assumed that the slides would show scenes from all over the world,” Mr Oechsle said.

“As it turned out, all but one of “As it turns out all but one of the lantern slides were Bermuda-related.

“The owner of the Bermuda slides was obviously a well-to-do person and either had his collection of Bermuda photographs sent to Japan for conversion, or took them on another cruise to Japan where he could have taken them directly to Enami's studio.”

Mr Oechsle has since found another nine slides from the same collection. They had been owned by an unrelated seller in Florida.

He said the slides were made after T Enami died and left the studio to his son, Tamotsu, who he trained in photo processing. He felt the images were likely created under his management.

Mr Oechsle said that the numbering on the images suggests that there could still be many more to be found.

“The slides are usually numbered with little labels applied by the original owner,” he said. “The numbers I have found go up to double the 80-some lantern slides.

“With these gaps, it appears that there are a lot more of these Bermuda images out there waiting to be found.

“Only time will tell. As for me, I still keep a lookout for these long-lost images of old Bermuda.”

Useful websites: www.t-enami.org, http://www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/sets/72157615645491751/

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Published Mar 2, 2011 at 8:24 am (Updated Mar 2, 2011 at 8:22 am)

Images of Bermuda shot in 1930s found in US

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