Jan 25, 2006

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Girls get photographed atop Mt. Baldhead

Herman Simonson, Saugatuck's
professional photographer

Group gets a trip to the moon with a
studio photo by Herman Simonson

1909 formal portrait of
Mrs. Harriet Curtis

Pair on the porch enjoying
summer breezes


Family pictures are one of our most valuable possessions. People have been known to run into a burning home to save the family photo albums. Photos capture the memorable events in our lives—a wedding, graduation, or last summer’s vacation.

The one thing that triggers those memories better than anything are the pictures taken during the event. Photographs capture these moments and freeze them in time.

Before there were photographs, itinerant portrait artists roamed the countryside to paint portraits of the heads of houses. The price of a head portrait was reasonable—but if you added an arm or a leg, well it would “cost you an arm and a leg.” That’s how that common aphorism originated.

The popular hobby of photography came of age around 1900.Before the advent of the Kodak camera, invented by George Eastman, taking a simple picture was a difficult task at best. Eastman developed a camera that was light and easy to use. Kodak’s slogan was: “You press the button, we do the rest".

Still it wasn’t quite that easy. The customer could buy a Kodak camera complete with leather case and loaded with a one-hundred exposures roll of film for $25 (a pretty good sum in those days). Developing the film was not a cinch—customers had to ship the camera with film inside to Rochester where the factory, for $10, would develop the film and return the pictures along with a freshly loaded camera back to the sender.

And from that day forward, amateur and professional photography got easier, faster, and eventually colorful. Saugatuck’s professional photographer back then was Herman Simonson. This talented Saugatuck photographer would take your picture on the beach, on Mt. Baldhead, or in front of the new Big Pavilion.

Or just step into his studio and have your picture taken on the moon, or in a hot-air balloon; and you could have it printed on a photo postcard to send to the folks back home. And then they would wish they were here.                       by Rob Carey

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