Thanks to a recent post on 100 Hundred Mountains I discovered Okinawa Soba aka Rob Oechsle, a collector of Meiji and Taisho Japanese photography. Along with an amazing flickr collection, he also has a labyrinthine website devoted to T. Enami a turn of the century photographer based in Yokohama. There are about 3,000 images on his flickr profile, many with including Fuji as the central subject or used as a back drop. I spent several hours this afternoon trawling through his collections loosing myself in beauty and wonder. Although this is not an image by T. Enami, I have decided to post the following salt print with Okinawa Soba commentary in full. It gives a feel for his writing style and for the seriousness of his collecting and generosity with sharing his research. It's a fascinating project by an unusual man.
-- or, How Light Areas of a Salt Print Tend to Fade Away First ("Salt Print" # 11)
No Photoshop or Paint Eraser here. Posting un-retouched AS IS !!! This ca.1890s photograph was printed as a postcard size image around 1905 by a commercial photographer using the "Salted Paper Print" process. No standard albumen, collodian, or gelatin emulsion coatings for this guy. He was going to do it the "Classic" way like the old "Salt Print" and "Calotype" days of yore....and color it when he was done.
I will be the first to admit that the commercial revival of the classic salt print is pretty cool...and pretty rare for the late Meiji era. But, depending on how they were processed, these rare and often beautiful "revival salt prints" sometimes had a strange side effect: Very light areas, such as the face, or light clothing, had a tendency to lose the details -- and sometimes disappear altogether.
On some of these pictures (not all), the dreaded "fade-out" syndrome would hit those extremely light portions within a relatively short time, but leave the darker areas untouched. Even the once delineated summit-line of Mt. Fuji has reached a touch-and-go point in this image.
And our poor fellow on the horse, whose head was wrapped in a white winter "turban towel", just happened to line himself (and his neck) directly with the slope of the hill behind him. It was only a matter of time before he.....well, before he LOST HIS HEAD !.