One of the museums in Casco Viejo that is more difficult to see is the Carlos Endara Museum located on Calle 12. This five-story building was restored in 2006 by the architectural firm called Hacheuve.
An interesting fact about this building is that it is the location of the first elevator in Panama, since it was the first tall building. This Otis brand elevator was rehabilitated and put into operation. Its restoration was a meticulous and almost scientific work. The idea was to keep all the original attributes and characteristics of the building.
The Panamanian philanthropist Mario Lewis Morgan restored this photographic studio that since 2009 is the home of the Carlos Endara Museum. There is no other similar photo studio in America. Inside the house there were various objects of the Ecuadorian that they would use for the Carlos Endara Museum. Among them was a trunk with photographs and a tape filmed in 1929 from Ecuador. This tape was given by Lewis to Mirko Rodic for restoration. It shows images of Guayaquil, Quito and Ibarra. In addition, a book entitled “The photographer and artist Carlos Endara Andrade (1865-1954)” was published, edited by Alfonso Ortiz Crespo.
The Carlos Endara Museum is a private museum and you can enter with permission from the owner. It has more than 100 photographs that show republican life, especially after the separation of Colombia and the creation of the Republic of Panama. His camera captured over half a century of history as this photographer lived until 1954. He also painted excellent portraits and landscapes. He promoted copper and zinc photoengraving, as well as the illustration of books and magazines.
Who was Carlos Endara?
The Carlos Endara Museum is a tribute to Carlos Endara Andrade who was born in Ibarra, Ecuador on April 13, 1865. In 1886 he moved to Panama looking for his father who was working on the French construction of the Panama Canal. As Carlos had drawing studies, he managed to get a job at the Universal Company of the Interoceanic Canal of Panama. He met the French photographer Luis Blanc who opened the doors to the world of photography.
Carlos associated with Epifanio Garay to open the “Garay-Endara” photographic studio in 1888. He decided to go to the School of Fine Arts in Paris to study photographic techniques between 1899 and 1904. In 1910 he began to occupy the building where the Carlos Endara Museum is currently located. This building was a photographic studio that he opened with his brother Victoriano.
The work that can be seen in the Carlos Endara Museum gives us many details of the daily life of the time. You can see the development of Panama City. Besides, he document many public acts. Carlos collaborated with different Panamanian newspapers and magazines including Estampas, Panama Mirror and Épocas. This photographer was so famous that he was even the official photographer of several presidents. The upper class of Panamanian society sought him out for his portraits.
In the 1980s and 1990s, La Prensa Newspaper of Panama published photos of the Mario Lewis Morgan collection in its magazine Épocas. Since then, more than 600 photographs have been published on the Raíces Sunday page belonging to Ricardo Lopez Arias, which has the largest collection of negatives by the photographer.
In 2011, a photographic exhibition was held in Madrid called “A happy world. Panama in the eyes of Carlos Endara”. The curator of the exhibition said that “Endara had a leveling will: whites, blacks, yellows or mestizos, men and women , they appear portrayed in an egalitarian climate (…) The very broad spectrum of his human and environmental record distinguishes Carlos Endara from most of the most important photographers of the time.”
Carlos Endara’s photographs have also been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Panama and at the Casa del Soldado in Casco Viejo.
Some of the photographs in this article are by the artist esdrasjaimes.com.
Photographs by Carlos Endara: