JENSEN: Imagine this: The first century of photography in Mason County – shorelinemedia.net | Episode Movies

The first photograph taken in Mason County in 1871 was probably the work of Frederick C. Silver (1848-1913). Many significant developments in photography would take place over the next several decades.

These included:

• 1900 – The Brownie camera is introduced by Kodak

• 1907 – The first commercially successful color photograph is introduced

• 1909 – Kodak develops 35mm motion picture film on acetate

• 1925 – 35mm film used in still cameras

• 1948 – The first instant camera, the Polaroid, is introduced

• 1959 — The Nikon F camera is introduced

These photographic milestones and others would eventually propel the development of photography in Mason County as well.

Harold Holmes

Thomas Harold Holmes (1907-1991), a self-taught and respected professional photographer, played a significant role in this development of local photography and the rapidly growing home photography business in our community.

In the June 26, 1974 edition of the Ludington Daily News, Holmes describes the beginning of his career as a photographer in 1928:

“I got into photography by responding to an ad in a Detroit newspaper … I didn’t know anything about it, but the ad said you could learn on the job, so I went to Detroit and … into that Left the Consolidated Advertising Co. office… When I came in for the interview the guy asked me what my experience was and I told him the ad said I could learn on the job. He hired me.”

In 1935, after working for others in the photography industry (including a 364-day stint at the Walt Disney Co. in California), Holmes opened his own studio on W. Ludington Ave. 114, and this building has housed a camera shop ever since. Describing his early career, Holmes said, “Those were the days…I’d rather take a picture than eat, I really loved it. I had an 11×14 studio camera – a great big thing with an 18-inch focal length lens.”

In addition to being a highly respected photographer, Holmes was also an entrepreneur. He expanded his business to include selling home cameras and film. He also hired his brother-in-law Harry Frederick Snow (1923-2005) to develop films for retail clients while Snow was still in high school. Snow became a highly respected photographic technician.

In 1960, Holmes retired from photography and focused his energies on building a house on Iris Road, south of Ludington. This house and the vast landscape that surrounded it would become the center of his life for his remaining years.

Ludington Photographic Center

A few years before his retirement, Harold Holmes hired Donald Edwin Newberg (1928–2017) as his assistant. After retiring in 1960, Holmes sold his studio and camera business to Newberg and James Leo Goulet (1924-2005). Goulet had operated a photography studio on S. James Street. He and Newberg renamed the business the Ludington Photographic Center, which operated in the same building that Holmes had occupied for a quarter of a century.

A few years later Newberg left the company and Goulet continued the business with the competent support of engineer Harry Snow. The Ludington Photographic Center eventually evolved into Todd & Brad Reed Photography, current residents of 114 W. Ludington Ave.

The Holmes Legacy

Harold Holmes played a pivotal role in the development of photography in Mason County. Award-winning local photographer Russ Miller, who may have shot more photos in Mason County than anyone in his 60-plus-year career, describes Holmes as his mentor, noting, “I used to hang out at his shop the whole time I was in the high school was . He encouraged me to stay in photography.” Miller bought his first professional camera from Holmes.

There are many photographs in the Mason County Historical Society archives; Many of these photos were taken by Harold Holmes. One of the most iconic of these photos shows a scene on Ludington Avenue taken on Christmas Eve 1941. Noted local photographer Todd Reed recalls first seeing this photo in the early 1970s. He cites this photo as one of the reasons he pursued a career in photography.

Reed recently described this Holmes photo as “a wonderful, storytelling photo of its time and for its time,” noting that the photo was taken less than three weeks after the start of World War II.

The historical society’s archive collection contains a limited number of historical cameras that are regularly displayed. A much larger and more extensive collection of vintage cameras is housed at the Todd & Brad Reed Photography Studio at 114 W. Ludington Ave. Harold Holmes is no longer there, but his spirit is reflected in the words and works of the Reeds.

this article, like the others provided biweekly by the Mason County Historical Society, is based on materials donated to the Society’s archives. Since the Society is an organization controlled by numerous members of the community since 1937, these materials will not disappear but will be available for future generations to enjoy these interesting stories. If you would like to help with this community effort, please contact us at 231-843-4808 or rebecca@mchshistory.org.

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