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HAND COLORING PHOTOGRAPHS --  The Best Meiji-Era "PHOTOGRAPHICA" Shot of Old Japan -- A Look Inside T. ENAMI'S Studio in Yokohama | by Okinawa Soba (Rob)
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HAND COLORING PHOTOGRAPHS -- The Best Meiji-Era "PHOTOGRAPHICA" Shot of Old Japan -- A Look Inside T. ENAMI'S Studio in Yokohama

The above view is a close crop from a larger T. ENAMI half-tone image published in a British magazine in 1904. They reproduced it from an original ca.1895-97 large albumen print. I apologize for giving you the half-tone version, but I don't know anyone (including me) who has a copy of the original albumen print.


Due to the variety of sizes and formats on display, I consider it one of the finest Japanese "Photo Production" studio scenes ever captured during either the Edo-Bakumatsu or Meiji era --- that is, from the beginning of Japanese Photographic History until 1912 --- or even after that.


You may see two more shots of a similar theme HERE (click on the "Related Images" button to see the second view as well) :


Those two images, along with the above Enami view, form part of very valuable but small group of Japanese "studio photographica" related images.




In the Enami view, not only do we see old photos being hand tinted by expert men and women colorists, but the variety of "print-stages" and formats is almost too good to be true.


On the floor (left-center) is a stack of Enami's earliest STEREOVIEWS. The man seated to the left is working on rough, BOUND ALBUM PRINTS. On the floor and table, both mounted and unmounted (untrimmed) albumen prints are in various stages of finish, including the visibly CURLED ALBUMEN PRINTS prior to mounting on heavy board. The standing man holds what appears to be an 11" x 17" FOLIO SIZE image, and in the background on both sides may be seen IMPERIAL, MAMMOTH(18" x 22") or LARGER SIZE prints -- some loose, and some matted and ready to go.


It is probably important to note what is MISSING as well. (Enami had so much going on, he didn't have room for it all in one shot!). Enami's other COMMERCIAL items not seen here are CABINET SIZE ALBUM VIEWS for the smaller book and accordion style souvenir albums. Further, Enami's rather large output of LANTERN-SLIDES during this time are not represented. NON-COMMERCIAL (PRIVATE) studio work is also not seen here. That would include portrait work appearing on any number of his IMPRINTED CABINET MOUNTS, or the "wallet size" portraits found on CARTE DE VISITE (CDV) studio mounts.


In effect, although the above image is probably the "best and busiest" such production shot you will ever see, it still only begins to scratch the surface of the larger output of his Meiji-era studio.




Notice the array of flat saucers to hold the various water-color /aniline dyes. It is said that each person was responsible for a certain range of colors, passing the picture "down the line" until complete -- no one person completing a photograph alone.


It's nice to see the photo representing Enami's photo-finishing team being made up of equal parts men and women. I have no idea about the whole extent of his studio staff at this early time. (Later, after Enami's death in 1929, and the whole world was in a financial Depression, the darkroom/colorist staff was down to about 4 people working under Enami's son, Tamotsu).


On the other hand, during the years 1896-97, while he was busy helping his friend KOZABURO TAMAMURA fill an order for over 1,000,000 hand-colored albumen prints in 1896-97, the colorists probably far exceeded the 'token few" pictured here.


The picture was taken under a glass skylight in his No.9 Benten Street studio, seen at the link just below. Although unassuming from the outside, it was a very busy place for most of its long existence. Added links will show you what this stretch of road looks like in the 21st Century.






Here's another shot of the street with Enami's studio in the distance :


And here is the photographer himself, T. ENAMI !




To read about the Life and Times of Enami, see












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Taken on May 27, 2008