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BURTON HOLMES | by Okinawa Soba (Rob)
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Burton Holmes, who was never known to take a 3-D picture during his entire life, is pictured here in real 3-D --- in my opinion, one of the best, most detailed images of him ever captured. It was taken ca.1927 by an unknown stereo photographer for the KEYSTONE VIEW COMPANY of Meadville, Pa.


Although not a "3-D Guy" [he was a glass lantern-slide and motion picture man], as editor-in-chief of Keystone's 400, 600, and 1,200-view TOUR OF THE WORLD stereoview sets, he was --- more than any other person alive --- responsible for what stereoviews most Americans looked at from 1926 on. Those were the days when sets of 3-D Photographs were still a part of the visual entertainment and instruction in American schools, and private homes.


The Movies had pretty much taken over, but TV had yet to appear on the horizon at the time Holmes got involved in what would be the last 20 years of meaningful sales volume for commercially sold black & white standard-print stereoviews. [Note: Keystone did continue to sell sets of 3-D images into the 1970s for those that wanted them. But, this post-WW2 production-on-demand was only a mere trickle compared to the pre-WW2 sales.]


Here's the main link where you can go to get grip on his photographic career, including at least TEN trips to JAPAN. He was also the first man in history to capture Japan with a motion picture camera --- pioneering films that were shown to crowds all over North America and Europe !


K A B O O M ! ! !


Now, for you flickr photographers and photo buffs who sometimes screw up your shots (or have accidentally busted your equipment) here's something "equipment related" that happened to Holmes --- and you won't find it quoted at the above link. It happened to Holmes in JAPAN while out in the country on one of his remote photo missions. He had set up a flash shot of a little "Geisha Party" he and some other travelers were having. In those days (the Meiji-era) taking a "flash picture" involved exploding either a (1) pile of magnesium powder in an open trough, or (2) in Holmes case, a paper-wrapped explosive magnesium "charge".


Here's what happened in Holmes own words :


"........One [Geisha] on the left was fearful of the flashlight, by means of which the evening scene was to be photographed. Would that I, too, had been fearful of it !


The charge exploded, almost in my right hand, and a few seconds later, this little group of new acquaintances was turned into a helpful band of sympathetic friends. It was almost worthwhile to have one's hand all but withered by that incandescent magnesium powder, for the accident brought out so much unsuspected kindness and solicitude.


Everybody in the house sat up with me for three long painful hours, until a doctor could be brought from Tokyo. He declares that my right hand will be useless for a month. And to think that I have just learned to eat with chop-sticks, and must now begin to learn all over, and educate the fingers of the other hand ! But hunger is a splendid teacher ; the awkward fingers soon pick up the knack ; in fact, for a one-handed man, Japanese table customs are easily adapted.


There are no knives and forks demanding two trained hands, and sometimes superhuman strength ; the carving --- even the cutting up, is done before the food is served


My friends left on the following day, and my first thought was that although I was to stay in Tokyo I should have to move to the Imperial Hotel, in other words, return to modern civilization.


But how, on second thought, could a disabled traveler be more advantageously situated than here in the little inn, which grows prettier every time it is looked at from a different point of view ?


Here are servants ever ready to put on your shoes, button your coat, insert your cuff-links ; here is a skillful bathing-man, to put you through a rousing red-hot bath, and carefully keep your bandaged arm from getting wet ; here are the smiling waiting-maids to serve you with things to eat, strange dishes, pretty to look at, curious to taste, food which seems to satisfy but never banishes the appetite for more than a few moments.


Yes, I decided to make the Yao Matsu [name of the Inn] my hospital and my headquarters and engage a room amid the 'Eight Hundred Pines' for the remainder of my stay....."


--- From Burton Holmes TRAVELOGUES, vol 10, copyright 1901 and 1908.


Besides using his own photographs to illustrate this story (including the shot that resulted in his severe hand injury), he also used images from other photographers he liked --- including photos by TAMAMURA, and over 20 images by T. ENAMI.


Holmes was so taken with the skillful tinting work done by the studios of these two men, he employed them to color many of the slides that were used on Holmes lecture tours. And Holmes would later pick an Enami stereoview or two for the Japan selection of Keystone's stereoview Travel Tours.


For more on Holmes' friend T. ENAMI, see


Both Holmes and Tamamura are mentioned in the Enami story that starts about 1/3 of the way down the page.


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Taken on August 7, 2008