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How the photographic processes have changed

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.

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Published March 02, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated March 02, 2011 at 8:28 am)

How the photographic processes have changed

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