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Jan 24, 2012

Ways Done in the Past - Photo Development

"Double image" photo development in the 1900s.

There were not many professional photographers in the 1900s in Singapore. They have to invest business capital and shops, professional cameras, studio lighting and expensive photography equipments for development of the photos which were commonly in black and white.

Only wealthy people and businessmen can afford to visit a photo studio for special occasions for remembrance, for wedding, graduation and other formal celebrations with the family.

The ways done in the 19th century with scientific technology for photo studio business would need professional cameras, photographic paper, ink and negative films, the latest models and material manufactured and supplied as at that time. The backdated advertisements, magazines, posters and announcements of these old products as reference resources.

In the past, camera owners and amateurs enrolled as members of photography clubs and schools to attend courses for learning latest skills and techniques. While using the camera on theory in class, practical lessons are conducted outdoors, including special arrangement for female models at attractive tourist spots such as gardens, parks or the seaside. The century-old Botanic Gardens and Tiger Balm Garden (Haw Par Villa) were popular.

As developing of negative films in the photo studios and shops were costly, photography enthusiasts also learn 'darkroom techniques' to deveop their own photos. A room exclusively designed to process the negative films for printing on specially used paper. It was quite a bit of investments on the equipments, chemical, paper, lightings and other specially manufactured devices. Once a roll of negative film was completed, the camera would then open its film door in the dark for the exposures to develop the film negatives.

It was a skilful and tedious process which was not easy to use. Using the camera and developing the photos was indeed an art in the early days of black and white photos.

The commercial photo studio as a business in Singapore in the past wasn't common.

The professional photographers were just as few.

Before the days of instant, digital cameras, the photo studios would take almost three weeks or longer for the collection of the developed photos. That was also the days before instant mik powder and MacDonald fast food era.

Apparently, the entire collection of photos by Mr Lee, a professional photographer and owner of the photo studio in the 1900s was donated to the National Archives of Singapore (NAS)for which we have to acknowledge their photo credit and thanks.

In those early days, the photo studio owner was the custodians to the original film negative with each serial number in a photo studio library.

I remembered that when my late mother passed away about 40 years ago, my sister had to go to the photo studio where my mother had taken her last photo there. The serial number written on the back of her postcard sized photo for reference and it was enlarged to be used on the front of the funeral hearse. As an urgent development of this photo, additional fee was charged.

The customer could then make a repeat order with the photo studio owner, place the additional copies required and later collection of the photos upon payment of the required charges. The photo studio owners are the custodians of these personal photos.

Thanks to the foresight and vision of Mr Lee to contribute his studio's business for over many decades to NAS in the public domain to share our nation's heritage record for research and resources. Old photo records are stored over the decades to pass on to every of his customers to their descendants through NAS.

Without the donation of his privately owned photo collections to compile a photographic history and heritage of Singapore, the "memory aids" as photos would have been fed to termites or destroyed.

The Chinese proverb "達萬言,畫意能" ('One picture is worth a ten thousand words') is a case in point, how inter-generation link is helpful for the younger generation could trace their family roots and the changes in Singapore memory to understand how their ways were done in the past...and the next generation will remember and understand the present generation could store photo archives of our lives for posterity.

On this blog to emphasise on "double images", it was a special technique of two separate photos taken and developed in one exposure. "Photoshop" image software application for computers, with its versatility and features, was undreamt of before.

It was a new way a century ago. At that time, words like 'creative, innovative, mind-mapping, "out-of-the-box thinking", brainstorming' words and other fanciful and colorful languages coined in the 21st century was not yet heard of.

Since the days of homo sapien who walked on this earth with four limbs instead of two, our ancestors have developed their minds for new ways to be done.

We are waiting for new scientific technology to be released in the not too future.

New ideas and inventions, new ways are found every day.

In the meantime, view the century-old photos to spot the difference of details and ways done in the past which were captued in the photos.

Our Singapore memories! Our Singapore heritage!



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