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July 30, 2017

Amazing Photos Document Everyday Life of Norway From Between the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

In 1886 20-year-old Ellisif R. Müller (1866-1949) married her cousin, regional doctor Andreas Wessel. The marriage led her to Kirkenes, where they lived out their lives. It was there, in her new home, that she made her debut as a photographer.

In Finnmark Wessel encountered a reality which stood in stark contrast to that of her protected bourgeois youth. She photographed what she saw: people, the buildings they lived in, and the landscape around them. Like well known documentary photographers such as Jacob A. Riis (1849-1914) and Lewis Hine (1874-1940) she uses photography to document social injustice. The motifs lead us toward what would become her life's most important concern: the battle for human worth and dignity among workers and minorities.

The first photographs signed Ellisif Wessel are dated 1890, but she seems most active between 1895 and 1918. Most motifs are taken with a Hasselblad box camera, the Svensk Express 4B [Swedish Express 4B]. Wessel used dry plates, and we know from her personal letters that she herself developed the glass plates and copied her photographs.

These photographs from the Preus Museum collection are contact copies of the glass plates, with the sun as a light source in the copying process.

A group of children and adults in front of school in rural areas in Russia

A group of schoolchildren

Adults and children photographed in front of a house

Adults and children photographed in front of a large house, Boris Gleb

Alta farm

Church and several houses by a fjord, Kirkenes

Flower in Kirkenes

Four men at Treriksrøysa-the border between Norway, Finland and Russia

From Bjørnevann, near Grupe

From the bridge in the fishing village of Kiberg. Samer puts bait on liner

Group portrait of five workers, Kirkenes

Group portrait of men on the beach

Group portrait of school family in open air

Life at Kirkenes

Man in front of two rolled boats (Russian side of the river)

Man photographed in front of a house, Grense Jakobselv

Man with reindeer in front of house at Solheim

Midnight sun of Bøkfjorden

Old mountain fountain above Grense Jakobselv village

Pechenga monastery church in winter landscape, priests on their way home

People on a boat at the shore of Kirkenes

Ponds in the forest with reindeer in the foreground

Portrait of man with ski boot

Portrait of Marit Banne with her daughter Inga

Reindeer with sledding in winter

Reindeer with sledge

River in the background, in front of pine forest with rolled trees, Grensefoss, Pasvik

Road through deciduous forest, Prestegårdsallee Kirkenes

Samer with dogs outside the tent, Sør-Varanger

Settlement in Boris Gleb. In the background Pechenga monastery church

Ship in a fjord

Telegraph workers in Grense Jakobselv

The altar, Church of Boris Gleb

The harbor in Vardø

Three people and three reindeer with sledge in mountain scenery, Neiden, Sør-Varanger

Three people in a boat

Three people in the pine forest, Skogfoss in Passvikdalen

Two men in front of a skigard, Skoltefossen, Sor-Varanger

Two people in a boat at 1st K.water, Sennegras harvested

Two women and one man photographed in front of a common square, Vestre Jakobeselv

View of lake Vaggetem Javrre. In the background the mountain Galgo-oalvve (Kjærringhodet)

View of the Kirkenes water network

View of the sea. Beach by a wooden boat

View of the water from Salmijersei

View of the water, mountains in the background

View of the water

Wedding in Boris Gleb

Wessel, Ellisif Rannveig

Woman cooks in Skoltegamme



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