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Two very special photographers in the collection of Preus Museum


A box marked "private" and playing with gender roles and how one should look in front of a camera around the turn of the last century. Get to know the exciting story of Marie and Bolette!

  • A portrait of a person with a moustache, looking slightly to the left. The person has a suit, tie, water-combed hair and brat. The person appears as a man, but is the woman Marie Høeg. Black and white photograph.
    Berg & Høeg, [Marie with a moustache], 1895–1903. Digitized from glass negative. Preus Museum collection

De to fotografene Marie Høeg og Bolette Berg hadde studio i Horten fra 1895–1903, og fotografiene deres har de siste årene fått gjenklang over hele verden!

As newly qualified photographers, Marie Høeg and Bolette Berg started a photo studio in the town of Horten to photograph portraits of people who lived here. Quite uniquely, they also took portraits of each other, where they played with gender roles and how one could look in front of the camera. 

Marie and Bolette were active in the struggle for equality and for the right of women to vote, and they lived together as companions and lovers all their lives.

  • A woman with short hair and woolen underwear is sitting on a fur coat with a dog. The dog and the woman imitate each other's pose, with their paws and hands up in front of them. Black and white photograph.
    Berg & Høeg, [Marie and the dog Tuss], 1895–1903. Digitized from glass negative. Preus Museum collection.

After the years in Horten, they moved to Kristiania (today's Oslo) and started an art publishing house there. In the last years of their lives, they partly lived on a farm in Hadeland. Several boxes of negatives from their production were found there in the 1980s, including two boxes marked "private". The boxes came to the Preus museum, and they contained, among other things, the glass negatives showing the two playing different roles and playing in front of the camera. Although the photos are old, it is as if they could have been photographed today! 

Marie Høeg 

was born in 1866 and was between 29 and 37 years old when the pictures were taken. She died in 1949.

Bolette Berg

was born in 1872 and was between 23 and 31 years old when the pictures were taken. She died in 1944.

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More about the photographers

Marie Høeg (1866–1949) and Bolette Berg (1872–1944) took portraits and prospects (landscape pictures) of Horten and the surrounding area and lived off the sales. Horten was a naval base with the main shipyard for the Norwegian Navy and had a large influx of people who needed pictures for parties and remembrances. Perhaps it is that the two photographers understood precisely through the portrait photography how important it is to stage oneself and to what extent it contributes to how we are perceived? 

In the museum's collection, there were initially 440 glass negatives by Berg & Høeg (a further 330 were added in 2022). Among the boxes, in the 1980s, I found some that said "private" on them. It is not uncommon for photographers to also have private photographs in their archive. But these are no ordinary memories. These images tell us that the two photographers tested out different gender roles, often with Marie in front of the camera.

We know that Høeg was the extrovert and the one who started associations such as Den selskabelige Discussionsforening, Horten Ledd av Landskvinnestemmerettforeningen, Horten Kvinneråd associated with the Norwegian Women's National Council and Horten Tuberculosis Association. Bolette Berg was less visible in public. However, it must have been her who was behind the camera in many of these photographs, which have also received international attention.

We find several such boundary-breaking photographic projects in Europe and America around 1900. They correspond to women's struggle for full civil rights and for the right to define their own identity. Therefore, these photographs are part of an international story that has significance and recognition for all women – even today.

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  • Two people in a rowing boat, placed in studio. One is dressed in a suit and straw hat, the other in a dress and hat with fabric flowers. The person in a suit, sits by the oars. Black and white photograph
    Berg & Høeg, "Water scene". Marie Høeg and Bolette Berg in a rowing boat in the studio, 1894-1903. Collection of Preus Museum
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  • Portrait of a woman wearing a coat with a large fur collar, glasses, cap and detachable. Black and white photograph
    Berg & Høeg, Bolette Berg with a mustache, 1894-1903. Collection of Preus Museum

Who do you want to be?

Inside the Berg & Høeg room, you can dress up and photograph yourself!

  • Two girls in dress-up clothes, one in an orange, old-fashioned dress and lace parasol, the other in a navy jacket. Both smile at the camera.
    From the Berg & Høeg room . (Photo: Tinna Ludviksdottir/Preus Museum)

Inside the room is this message from Berg & Høeg:

Dear Customer! 

We are busy in the Discussion Association and unfortunately not present in our studio today. If that is your wish, the studio is respectfully at your disposal. We also have clothes they can borrow so that you can feel as fresh and as quickly as possible. 

We also hope you have brought your own camera and know how to handle it.

(PS – Don't keep the photos private, but share them with the world! If so, feel free to use @preusmuseum)

Museum24:Portal - 2024.04.15
Grunnstilsett-versjon: 2