RECUERDOS DE PONCE. VISTAS POR MOLINA, FOTOGRAFO. (Ponce, Puerto Rico, 1884).
This rare set of photographs by E. López Molina depicts a thriving and serene Ponce in 1884. Two detailed over-views of the city open the album. These are followed by public buildings such as the theatre, hospital, cemetery, and active street scenes around the Plaza, with numerous pedestrians and wagons. The final views show some of the residences and rural outlying areas.
On each mount Molina has stated that these views were taken with the new “Gelatino Bromide” process. Replacing the collodion emulsion, “Gelatino Bromide” allowed a significantly shorter exposure time. The photographer also indicated that these photos were taken “En una Fracción de un segundo,” in a fraction of a second.
During the 19th century, the village of Ponce expanded due to a large European immigration and Latin Americans fleeing wars in their native countries. By 1877 a city charter was drawn up, and at the time of these photographs, Ponce was a thriving city, boasting a large agricultural sector and Puerto Rico’s main financial center. In 1882 the city organized a successful “Ponce Fair,” modeled on the Paris Exposition of 1878 and erected an extensive urban electrical grid. This was to change with the Spanish-American War and the United States occupation of the island in 1898. The new American government centralized the island’s economy in San Juan, leaving the southern towns to stagnate. Ponce, previously a flourishing and dynamic city of 22,000, never recovered its former glory.
From our research, we haven’t been able to locate another copy of this uncommon album. It is not at the Met collection or the NYPL; nor at the Houston Museum or the Harry Ramsom Center, to name a few strong Latino collections. We have also looked into the Collección Puertorriqueña (University of Puerto Rico), Archivo de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico’s National Library archives, and contacted several museums in Ponce without much luck.
Here are the only other images attributed to E.L. Molina we’ve come across. The author speculates that Lopez de Molina bought the photography business of J.J. Henna in Ponce and imprinted the former’s photograph paper stock with his own rubber stamp. If this is the case, it is a mystery why it has been so difficult to find any information on him, his photography, or his studio. The mystery of the story deepens when Mr. Rodríguez gives us the idea that based on the stamps, Molina “could be a female photographer because of the use of Lopez de Molina or it could be a male photographer that had a compound last name.”
The album consists of 20 mounted albumen prints. Each photograph measures 19,1 x 24,1 cm., on printed mounts, 27,3 x 35,5 cm. Ink captions are added to each image.