2008-08-09 / Top News

Book Depicts Old Times of Mackinac

By Ryan Schlehuber

Robert Benjamin Robert Benjamin With his new book of more than 100 photographs, called "Mackinac Album," Mackinac Island photographer and businessman Robert E. Benjamin weaves a history of life on Mackinac.

"I have a lot of family history I'd like to share with this book," he said, "but also, people will be able to see how things were back then."

Mr. Benjamin's family has been part of the Island community since 1846, when his grandfather, Robert H. Benjamin, established a blacksmith shop on Hoban Street and his father, Herbert, continued in the business.

Mr. Benjamin hopes readers of his new book will see the contrast between Mackinac then and Mackinac now.

"I wanted to show and tell why Mackinac Island is such a beautiful spot for tourists," he said, "and show them just how much Mackinac has changed over the years.

"There's one photograph in the book of my father sliding down Fort Hill, back in the '50s, when you could slide all the way across to the frozen ice," he said.

The many photographs in "Mackinac Album" range from the beginning of the 1900s to the present, some from the family album and some that Mr. Benjamin, a professional photographer, took.

Bob Benjamin, photographer and businessman on Mackinac Island, released his new book of photographs depicting life on Mackinac Island, called "Mackinac Album," last week. The 160- page book contains more than 100 photographs from the family album, and some he took himself. Bob Benjamin, photographer and businessman on Mackinac Island, released his new book of photographs depicting life on Mackinac Island, called "Mackinac Album," last week. The 160- page book contains more than 100 photographs from the family album, and some he took himself. His favorite subjects are sunsets.

"The best time for sunset photographs are during the fall, when the sun sets between the two towers of the Mackinac Bridge," said Mr. Benjamin, who owns a home on the Island's west side, in view of Round Island, Mackinaw City, St. Ignace, and the bridge.

Mr. Benjamin works mainly with a digital camera these days, as he likes how modern technology has made cameras lighter, easier to handle and operate, and provide more features than a regular film camera can. But there are some features of his old 35- millimeter and 3.25-inch by 4.25-inch cameras he misses.

"I liked the long lenses I had for those cameras, because I was able to get a photograph that any tourist would not be able to," Mr. Benjamin said. "Lenses like those today can be rather expensive for digital cameras."

Mr. Benjamin has also published a couple of history books on Mackinac Island and a couple of books depicting his collection of postcards.

Now that "Mackinac Album" is finished, Mr. Benjamin said he will work on updating his published history books this winter at his Hilton Head, South Carolina, home.

Mr. Benjamin, a retired Farmington school teacher, owns Benjamin's of Mackinac gift shop on Mackinac Island. He and his wife of 53 years, Beverly, have three grown children, Tom of Dearborn, Mike of Boston, and Jane Young of Petoskey.

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