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Restored photos preserve Canton’s history

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CANTON — Dennis C. Barr is preserving Canton’s history one image at a time.

The lifelong resident has spent hours creating high-quality, detailed photographs from hundreds of glass plates that were taken a century ago.

“The glass plates were just sitting in file cabinet drawers,” Canton Historian Linda A. Casserly said. “Why should we have glass plates in drawers? My purpose is to let people know what an active, industrious place Canton was.”

Taken between 1880 and 1930, the photographs depict houses, businesses, government buildings and other images that reflect daily life in the village and surrounding communities.

The glass plates were the precursor to plastic film negatives and show intricate detail. It’s believed they were taken in the late 1800s and early 1900s by Benjamin M. Kip, a well-known Canton photographer.

“The detail that’s stored on there is awesome,” Mr. Barr said. “Restoring these old photos has really become my passion.” He also has processed dozens of old negatives taken by Canton photographer Dwight P. Church in the 1950s.

A project that was funded jointly by the village and town boards has allowed Mrs. Casserly to enlarge, mat and frame the images. A dozen of them now hang in the boardroom at the municipal building. They will be rotated 12 photographs at a time about every two months. The collection is open for viewing during business hours and Tuesdays and Thursdays until 5:30 p.m.

Besides black and white, Mr. Barr, 57, has used Photoshop to add color to some of the old photographs, including the historic Canton town hall that burned in 1962. He also has improved old photos by covering up white spots and other markings.

The process involves placing the glass plates on top of a light board and photographing them with a digital camera. Next, he uses Photoshop to invert the image.

Hoping to create the best photograph possible, Mr. Barr said he may spend eight or more hours working on enhancements.

Mr. Barr is trying to expand his part-time business, Two Guys and a Camera, which he operates from his Pierrepont home. He works full time in the refrigeration and heating repair business but spends many hours with his photography equipment.

Mrs. Casserly said she would like to make other historians and municipalities aware of Mr. Barr’s work so they will consider restoring old images of their communities.

Mr. Barr’s work includes weddings, athletic teams, family portraits, natural landscapes, aerial views and interesting scenes from around the country.

Photographs, even old ones, can be reprinted in color, sepia or black and white. His website is http://twoguysandacamera.photoreflect.com.

Mrs. Casserly can be reached at historian@cantonnewyork.us or by calling 386-1633.

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