Over the summer, while exploring the Chaminade University of Honolulu campus, I stumbled upon a tucked away gallery of photos. The gallery was titled Photographic Images of the Kingdom of Hawaii on the Threshold of Annexation and features the photography of Brother Bertram Bellinghausen. Brother Bertram was born in Bonn, Germany, and first stepped foot on Hawaii soil on September 3, 1883. Brother Bertram was a part of the first group of Marianists who came to Hawaii in 1883 to staff and administer St. Louis College founded by the Sacred Heart Fathers in 1846. In 1957, the college was renamed Chaminade College and then again in 1977 when it became Chaminade University of Honolulu. Brother Bertram would take the seat as the first director of the then new Saint Louis College.
During his time here, Brother Betram is known to have taken hundreds of photographs. Unfortunately, soon after Brother Bertrams death in 1933, his photos were forgotten and lost to time. In 1964, these photographs were discovered in a trash can by Brother James Roberts. The trash can was located in Kalaepohaku, the hill on which the campuses of St. Louis School and Chaminade University sit. He later shared his discovery with Dr. Albert Lum, an English professor at Chaminade University. The photographic glass plates were fortunately salvaged. The plates were thankfully stored, but forgotten, until 1975. Since then, they have been archived and exhibited as part of various galleries.
Brother Bertram’s work differed from his contemporaries. As a Marianist, his work was very spiritual as it was educational. Brother Bertram took photos that focused on commoners and emphasized the land using a large and bulky camera and heavy glass photographic plates (the equivalent of film negatives back then). I have been particularly drawn to Brother Bertram’s work. The photos provide insight into what the Kingdom of Hawaii was like, prior to industrialization and urbanization and post the overthrow of the Kingdom. It is so fascinating to see familiar places, but from such a different perspective.
Below is a small selection of photos from Brother Bertram’s collection. In the future, I’d like to feature Brother Bertram’s work even more by highlighting specific locations. Brother Bertram’s work deserves to be shared, admired, and studied.