Some of Norway’s oldest portrait photographs

Gruppebilde av forfatteren Kristofer Jansons bestefar med familie.

In 1839, French artist and chemist Louis Jacques Mandé (1787-1851) invented the daguerreotype, the forerunner of modern photography. In the time that followed, there became several portrait photographs that documented people who were born over 200 years ago. Some as early as in the 18th century!

Exposure time was considerably longer than that of today’s cameras. It was not uncommon that the photograph subject had to sit unmovable between 60 and 90 seconds. The slightest movement could lead to blurring of the image. That’s why group images where small children were included often show a blurred face. 60 to 90 seconds without moving became in many cases too challenging.

Below you will find a number of photographs of Norwegians of that time taken with the daguerreotype method. The pictures are from the period 1845-1865.

Portrait of two women from the 1840’s, one of them is Inger Margrethe Fickenhagen Juul (mother of Charlotte Amalie Juul who was married to the poet and newspaper editor Andreas Munch). Photographer: Unknown
Group picture of three women and three men at LadegÄrden in Oslo. The photograph was taken in 1843.
Photographer: Carl Ferdinand Steltzner
Portrait of protocol secretary Jonas Tinus Collett (1814-1858). Photographer: Unknown
Portrait of Oluf Petersen, naval captain, later postmaster. The photograph was taken sometime between 1845 and 1850. Photographer: Unknown
Portrait of an unknown middle-aged man, sitting with a stick. Chain fastened in the vest. The photograph was taken sometime between 1850 and 1865

Children were also immortalized on the earliest portrait photographs

Portrait photographs of children were probably not made as frequently as portrait photographs of adults, but they do exist.

Photograph of an unknown girl. This can be one of the oldest preserved photographs of a child. The photograph is taken between 1845 and 1855. Judging by the clothes this might be a sick child.
Photographer: Unknown
Two small unknown girls in dresses with their hair pulled firmly backwards, sitting together on a chair. The photograph was taken sometime between 1850 and 1865
Portrait of an unknown middle-aged man holding an arm around a boy, also unknown. The photograph was taken sometime between 1850 and 1865.

Daguerreotype was used by the press

The photo technique used to take the portraits above was an intermediate step between Camera Obscura and the lens of Josef Maximilian Petzval.

The news services were some of the first to use this new device that allowed coverage of the Crimean War and the American Civil War.

Photograph of survivors after a battle in the Crimean War.
The photograph was taken by Roger Fenton in October 1854.
Another press image of soldiers, this time from the American Civil War, ahead of a battle in May 1863. The photograph is also taken with the technique called daguerreotype.

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