Owain Johnston-Barnes of the Royal Gazette in Bermuda reports on a cache of photographs of Bermuda made into hand-coloured glass lanterns by famed Japanese colorist Tamotsu Enami.
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 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.”
For more on Enami’s work go to www.t-enami.org.
For the original report go to http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20110302/ISLAND/703029999/-1/Island