T. ENAMI'S TAISHO-ERA STOCK PHOTO FILE
This Flickr set contains a sampling of photos from a commercial series of over 700 pre-1920 Taisho-era images. They are generally characterized as a fine series of semi-formal “Street Photography” images, occasionally with soft-focus foregrounds, and with most of the subjects induced to smile for the camera.

ARE THEY REALLY BY T. ENAMI ?
MAYBE YES....AND MAYBE NO !


Their placement here in a T. ENAMI Flickr Collection Set calls for an explanation not needed for other ENAMI Sets. Please read on if you like mysteries and enigmas :

WHO WAS THE PHOTOGRAPHER ?

Depending on where you find them, these images are variously attributed to one of three photographers : The well-known T. ENAMI, a mysterious H. SUITO....or the world-traveling ELSTNER HILTON. They are also credited to one or two Japanese Photo Services in places where they have been used.

Let’s look at the three named photographers we have so far :

(1) T. ENAMI

For several reasons, over the years I have attributed these images to the always-on-the-move Japanese photographer T. ENAMI (1859-1929).

The word "attributed" was used carefully.

These photos can still be found published as original lantern-slides with T. ENAMI labels on the sealed mattes.

Interestingly, several books about Japan (all printed during the Taisho and early-Showa eras) utilize only combinations of images from these two specific image groups --- those from the series you see here, and those listed by T. Enami in his Print and Stereoview catalogs.

Further, British writer Walter Weston --- a good friend of T. Enami, and one who who widely used Enami's photos --- credits images from this Taisho series to T. ENAMI, himself.

Weston was always careful to credit his sources, but an H. SUITO or ELSTNER HILTON was never among them.

(2) H. SUITO

Some of the same images appear in a few other periodicals of the time, credited to an H. SUITO of Tokyo. However, I have found no period “Photographer Listing” that mentions him --- either as a photographer, a dealer in photographs, or one owning or operating any studio.

In spite of that, H.SUITO issued a catalog titled "H. SUITO'S 733 PHOTOGRAPHS IN DIFFERENT SUBJECTS...." (Although he is found with photographer credits as early as 1920, the only existing catalog copy known today appeared after the 1923 earthquake). The page-one heading states, "A LIST OF PHOTOGRAPHS OF JAPANESE LIFE BY H. SUITO...."

Normal English usage would indicate that SUITO is the photographer of the listed images. However, some of the catalog's internal descriptions are in stilted English, with odd typos and several mistakes.

Did Suito (or his Japanese translator) mean that the list (or Catalog) was a commercial stock selection compiled and sold by SUITO on behalf of another photographer (Enami) ? Was he a stock photo service ? Was Suito a true photographer whose images were published by Enami --- a strict reversal of Enami's later practice of not publishing the photos of others ?

Should the Catalog really say, "A LIST OF PHOTOGRAPHS OF JAPANESE LIFE COMPLIED BY H.SUITO...." ?

OR..

"A LIST OF PHOTOGRAPHS OF JAPANESE LIFE EDITED AND SOLD BY H.SUITO...." ?

If Suito did not take them, did he commission T. ENAMI for the job? Or, did he get them from one ELSTNER HILTON ?

(3) ELSTNER HILTON

The only other photographer name I have seen attached to these images is one ELSTNER HILTON, and --- amazingly --- you will find him right here on Flickr !

www.flickr.com/photos/adavey/sets/72157604419475847/with/...

Flickr member A. Davy describes Hilton (who is also his relative) as, “…..a salesman for Atkins Saw Company [who] traveled to the Far East to sell commercial sawmills in the early years of the 20th century….[and] ….an adventurer….an avid photographer, a bon vivant, and a dandy. …..an intriguing combination of traits for an expatriate in any era, doubly so for someone living in Asia during the first decades of the last century….”

Davy’s JAPAN 1914 – 1918 Set linked to above also contains the largest sampling of these images appearing anywhere on the Internet.

Although I have only posted 80 examples in my own Set, Davy gives you a far better overview of the potential 733 cataloged images with his massive group of nearly 260 images. I say nearly, because a few of the 260 images in the set seem to be interspersed, personal snapshots taken by (and of) Elstner Hilton, and are of a different format than the “H. Suito” cataloged images.

Davy’s excellent set is also the first to provide an ostensibly accurate “no-later-than” date for the series --- 1918.

Did Hilton actually take these photos, and provide copies for SUITO and ENAMI to use?

While it is possible to question Davy’s photographer-attribution statement that, “….My spouse's uncle Elstner Hilton took [these photos] in Japan between 1914 and 1918….”, it has yet to be disproven, and Hilton is still in the running !

WHERE (AND IN WHAT FORM) ARE THESE ORIGINAL IMAGES FOUND ?

That these images were (eventually) commercially published is beyond dispute, as the original gelatin-silver-prints have appeared in collections in multiple countries, all prints being the same size, on the same paper, and having the same identical catalog numbers hand-written on the back --- numbers which are unfortunately inaccessible when the images have been solidly glued to album pages or heavy mounts.

They also appear in Lantern-Slide format --- usually on T. ENAMI mounts, but also recently discovered on non-Enami mounts.

Outside of the two formats listed above, the images are reproduced as halftone images in numerous books and periodicals from about 1915 through the 1930s.

THE OKINAWA SOBA FLICKr SET

* * * NONE OF THE PHOTOS POSTED HERE ARE COPIED OR RE-WORKED FROM MR. DAVY’S FLICKr PHOTOSTREAM * * *

The pictures here were scanned directly from the ORIGINALS IN MY POSSESSION --- all of them numbered-on-the back, stock photo proofs from the Taisho era.

Over-lap with images appearing in the A. DAVY'S Flickr set is by coincidence, as we both share original Taisho-era prints pulled from the same Taisho-era negatives.

THE DAVY SET : www.flickr.com/photos/adavey/sets/72157604419475847/with/...

The photos carry neither ENAMI nor SUITO nor HILTON imprints. The series ID has been achieved by matching with photos credited to both ENAMI and SUITO, and confirmed by (1) the numbers in the post-1923 edition of the H. SUITO CATALOG, and (2) their credited appearance in books and periodicals.

The 80 images posted here are only a representative selection chosen from the 250 or so photographs I’ve managed to collect from the series of 733 known titles.

All of them came from numerous scattered dealers and collectors in North America and Europe.

Again, if you find these images useful or interesting, please visit A. DAVY'S Set, where you can see many MANY more of them !

DATING THE IMAGES

Before seeing Davy’s ELSTNER HILTON Set linked to above (or finding the H. Suito Catalog), I had dated the images to about 1915 to 1923 --- all prior to the great earthquake, and based on their appearance in dated books and periodicals. However, The Davy’s Set, with the date provenance of his Uncle's travels, brings all of the images to 1918 or earlier.

WHAT CAMERA WAS USED ?

The uniform nature of the old "contact print" numbered proof images make me think these were taken using a hand-held, No. 4A Folding KODAK Camera, Model B using No.126 roll film.

The camera was popularly sold in Japan as well, so it's use would not indicate any specific nationality of photographer.

No.126 roll film would give six, 4 1/4" x 6 1/2" negatives. The film was manufactured from 1906 until 1949.

No matter what the camera, the photographer was walking the streets, by-ways, forests and coastlines of Japan, searching for people and scenes to fill out a portfolio that would eventually be utilized by named photographers, and several STOCK PHOTO SERVICES in Japan, North America, and Europe.

In contrast to Meiji-era images made largely on glass negatives, These photos used a less formal approach (minus the tripod and other encumbering camera gear) allowing for more spontaneity.

In the end, if further research proves the images to be the work of H. SUITO or ELSTNER HILTON, I will immediately make the attribution clear, and remove this SET from the "Enami Collection". Until then, based on the other circumstances mentioned above, I will let the ENAMI attribution stand for now.

For more on T. ENAMI see : www.t-enami.org/

For the MOTHERLODE of T. Enami photographs here on the Web --- all CC rated for your creative use --- see this Flickr collection : www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/collections/7215761388...

[NOTE: The above Set Caption was revised on 31 January 2012 to include references to the ELSTNER HILTON attribution Flickr Set and links]
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