The Untold Ghanaian Story
The Deo Gratias Photo Studio was established in 1922 and signified the height of founder J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije and sons Isaac Hudson and Ernest John’s aspirations and dreams of what they can achieve with photography and eventually their place in Gold Coast history. To the present day, it can arguably be said to be one of the oldest Photography studios in Africa and by 2022 it would be a centennial celebration - a hundred years of operation. Photography at the time was a big deal than it is today-it indicated one's importance in society. Mrs. Kate Tamakloe, Neé Kate Aku Bruce-Vanderpuije, Isaac Hudson's daughter is the latest custodian of this long-held family dream; their shutter speed is still in use.
Meet The Man Behind the Camera
J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije was born on 7th March, 1899 to the late Mr. Emmanuel Vanderpuije and the late Madam Eleanor Afua Bruce of Otublohum Royal family, James Town, British Accra. His mother was the sister of the late Mathew and Tommy Bruce of James Town, and his father was an influential Agent of Messrs. J. J. Fisher & Co. Limited, during the 1880's to the 1900's and was popularly known to be one of the "Merchant Princes of the Gold Coast".
J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije was educated at the Accra Royal School, the first formal educational institution in the Gold Coast (1672) at James Town and his education and up-bringing was jointly undertaken by his late Uncles Messrs. J. W. Blankson Mills and J. Kitson Mills founders of Accra Royal School, with whom he stayed at “Zion House” James Town, Accra.
While attending school, J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije, took up photography as his hobby and after leaving school, he trained under J.A.C Holmes for a few years. He was employed at the Accra Town Council now Accra Metropolitan Authority, for a brief period. He was one of the few photographers in the pre-independence period, who excelled in the photographic profession. So attractive and popular were his photographs that most Government functions were assigned to him, as well as designing campaigns for international companies. He was the man who captured Major Imray’s shooting of the late Sgt. Adjetey Sowah and others at the Christianborg crossroads on 28th February 1948, which was later tended in evidence for the crime committed. That single act became the seed that was sown in Ghana's independence and the eventual decolonisation of the entire Africa.
The Success and Succession
of Deo Gratias
'Alongside divine favour, J.K’s diligence and precision in the operations of the Deo Gratias Studio elevated its status and it became a first in buzzling James Town. He popularized his services by cheering loudly with the words “CHE-E-S-E, CHE-E-S-E, CHE-E-S-E” simultaneously with the salutary voice of some kids who bellowed out, “Sir, only cheese but no butter’’ during his shoots. Many Ghanaian photographers trained under his able leadership and one of his major preoccupations was the training of those who should succeed him. Both his sons Isaac Hudson Bruce-Vanderpuije and Ernest John Bruce-Vanderpuije went abroad to study photography. Isaac Hudson received a scholarship to train at the High School for Film in Barbesberg, Germany, and then at the Technical University for Graphic and Book Art, in Leipzig Germany, where he studied photography for five years and obtained a Master’s degree in photo-journalism. Ernest John studied photography in the Ealing School of Photography in London. He however returned in ill health. His son Isaac Hudson Bruce-Vanderpuije, was therefore considered for the inheritance of the studio.
Today, Deo Gratias and the dream of the Bruce- Vanderpuijes is succeeded by Mrs. Kate Tamakloe nee Aku Bruce-Vanderpuije, grand daughter of J.K Bruce- Vanderpuije and daughter of Isaac Hudson Bruce-Vanderpuije. Kate is still running the studio, discovering unprinted pictures on films and glass plates, scanning and digitizing them, as well as feverishly preparing ahead of 2022 when she intends inviting a large crowd, especially, photographers, artists, art lovers, the elderly in our society into the Deo Gratias Studio, not only to celebrate a centenary of photography but also to allow relations of the pictured, discover and help in identifying photos of their loved ones. The Ghanaian story will to be told...