Old photos re­veal clues to his­tory of Payson

Serve Daily - - LIFE EVENTS - By Steve Par­sons

The best trea­sure hunts have in­ter­est­ing clues, and a hunt to learn more about Payson’s his­tory is no ex­cep­tion. Through re­search­ing cen­turies-old pho­to­graphic tech­niques, we can learn how Payson be­came what it is to­day.

Photo A is a tin­type, a photography tech­nique that was very pop­u­lar in the late 1800s. The Po­laroid of its day, tin­types pro­duced an ac­tual im­age in­stead of a neg­a­tive that then had to be printed out to be dis­played. The pho­tog­ra­pher was able to send an im­age home with his client right when it was taken that was “printed” on tin in­stead of paper. This was a rel­a­tively af­ford­able process, so many peo­ple of the day were able to memo­ri­al­ize things that were im­por­tant to them.

Tin­types, how­ever, are re­verse im­ages, which meant that peo­ple ap­peared on the print as their mir­rored re­flec­tion. Since to­day we’re used to see­ing life­like rep­re­sen­ta­tions, these mir­ror im­ages feel very off, but back then peo­ple re­ally only saw their re­flected vis­ages. Of course, text in these im­ages is also re­versed.

Ken Schuwer of Provo, who deals in rare pi­o­neer-era photos, ac­quired Photo A, which is be­lieved to be the ear­li­est photo of Payson’s Main Street.

When Ken posted an im­age of the tin­type on Face­book (the mir­a­cle of tech­nol­ogy re­veal­ing the se­crets of the past), I was thrilled. I shoot mod­ern-day tin­types and re­store old pho­to­graphs, so see­ing this im­age re­ally got my blood pump­ing! I begged him to bring the im­age in to be re­stored, which started me on this trea­sure hunt of early Payson his­tory.

My new shop (The Photo Shop) is on his­toric Main Street in the old Sk­aggs Gen­eral Store (also known as the old liquor store) and I’ve learned that the more time one spends in this his­toric area, the more im­por­tant the town’s his­tory and build­ings be­come. So when this re­mark­able tin­type de­pict­ing sev­eral early Payson build­ings crossed our path, we knew the trea­sure hunt was re­ally un­der­way.

The im­age had to be en­hanced, en­larged and then re­versed so we weren’t look­ing at a “back­wards” pic­ture. Once that was done, the words “La Belle Wagon De­pot” could be dis­cerned. A quick read of Payson his­tory (I rec­om­mend “Pe­teet­neet Town” by Mado­line Dixon) re­veals an­other in­ter­est­ing im­age with the same sign, as seen in Photo B.

With this clue, we earn the first prize in our trea­sure hunt. The build­ing pic­tured here is the Wil­liam Dou­glass store, which be­came the Payson Co­op­er­a­tive. Next to it is the post of­fice and to the left of that is the tin shop, likely the source for the very tin this im­age was made on.

Come back next week to see how the trea­sure re­vealed in this clue be­gan to re­write Payson his­tory. master’s of arts de­gree in photography in 2016. He owns and op­er­ates The Photo Shop, lo­cated on Main Street in his­toric Payson, which of­fers qual­ity fine art, photography lessons, cus­tom photography ses­sions (spe­cial­iz­ing in land­scape, aerial im­ages and pet por­trai­ture), pho­to­booth rental and pho­to­graphic edit­ing/restora­tion and print­ing on a va­ri­ety of sur­faces. The Photo Shop also of­fers stu­dio space for pho­tog­ra­phers to use. Par­sons can be reached at 801-609-8039.

Lou Bal­lamis, owner of Payson’s Lou’s Bar­ber Shop, was hon­ored in April by Cen­tral Bank for his ser­vice to the community.

Photo A - cour­tesy of Steve Par­sons

Photo B - cour­tesy of Steve Par­sons

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