The history of the camera technology is long; however, the world’s first photos were taken in the 19th century. Playing an import part in this history were two Frenchmen.
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce who took the oldest preserved photo, with hour-long exposure time, calling the result “Sun writing”, and Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre who discovered how to shorten the exposure time. Daguerre also protected his invention by patent and named it daguerreotype. The date of the patent was also turned into the official date for the world’s first photo being taken – August 19th, 1839.
Little by little the development of photos was simplified by enhanced technology and new chemical discoveries. Once the exposure time had been reduced to a mere few seconds it also became possible to take photos of moving objects. Eventually portray photography became a fad.
Photography arrives to Sweden and Norrbotten
In the 1840’s the photography phenomenon reached Sweden and initially Stockholm. Daguerre’s manual had been translated to Swedish in 1839 already and a few years later the very first Swedish photo studio was set up. During the following decades the photography trade spread throughout the country and consequently also the possibility to pay to have ones portray taken. The first photographers reaching Norrbotten were travelling “daguerreotypists” who in summertime, during the 1850’s and 60’s, undertook long journeys to the towns of Norrland. The photographers usually assembled their backcloth close to the local church on Sundays, offering people to have their picture taken, after mass, while already wearing their Sunday best.
Women took their chance!
Once technology enabled photocopying on paper – making portrays affordable to the public at large- the photography trade rapidly grew and it became possible to set up stationary photo studios even in smaller towns. Many women took the chance to have a try at the new profession. Looking at the very first established photographers in Boden, Luleå and Piteå it is clear to see that women were in a vast majority when it came to setting up photo studios.
Working as a photographer was a unique opportunity to become self-supporting for those women who had the interest, drive and the economy to set up a studio. Many crafts and trades were usually closed to women in 19th century Sweden, however, photography was new and thus not subject to any such rules. At the turn of the century around a third of all photographers in Sweden were women and the majority of these unmarried.
Maria Hällgren was the name of the photographer who set up Boden’s first photo studio. Aged 17 she had moved to Boden, merchant Johan Hällgren was her foster father. In her thirties she studied photography in Stockholm and later set up a studio in 1887 in Boden, in the Bränna area. Her name is renowned as Boden’s first established photographer yet only few pictures which, with certainty, have been taken by her can be found in the archives.
Boden municipality’s picture and film archives
Some of the pictures in this exhibition have been preserved thanks to the picture and film archives of Boden municipality. The idea to found a picture and film archive was introduced via a motion in 1963 by Bertil Strandberg. Eventually a decision was taken by the city council and the archives were set up in 1966. The already existing pictures were initially stored in ring binders at the city library. The first large acquisition – around 100 000 photos – were Harnesk’s old pictures which Bert Persson had sold to the municipality at the beginning of the 1970’s. Prior to this Carl Rudolf Frigghe’s collection had been purchased. Old negatives and things alike were stowed away in the basement of the town hall. It was only at the beginning of the 1980’s that Harnesk’s pictures were ranged.
The archives are growing bit by bit. Amongst other donations from the 21st century are those from Elsie Wikström – containing Vendla Hvitman’s photos – as well as Agnes Betzen’s collection – containing photos from Walfrid Bernhard Ahnkvist and Ragnar Hansson.
Ten years ago a digitalization project of the archives was initiated. So far a third of the old paper copies, negatives, diapositives and glass plates have been scanned, a good 31 000 pictures.
The exhibition Eight Boden photographers has been possible thanks to:
We, the staff at Havremagasinet, would like to thank the municipal archives of Boden for lending us the photographs of Jakob Elof Harnesk, Vendla Hvitman, Carl Rudolf Frigghe and Nils Oskar Fahlgren. Furthermore we owe many thanks to Rolf Ericsson and Bert Persson who have lent us their photos. We would also like to thank Svartlå Dialektgrupp via Magnus Bergdahl, both for the loan and the preserving of Ragnar Hansson’s photos a, to the world, unknown picture treasure! Thanks to Georg Palmgren in Luleå – who from his vast collection of his grandparents’ portray photos – kindly, lent us those taken by Ellen Ask. Many thanks also to Stig Ahlstrand for the scanning and the digital editing of many of the exhibition’s pictures.