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New exhibition: Across the west towards the north

Norsk Folkemuseum is pleased to present the traveling exhibition "Across the West and Toward the North: Norwegian and American Landscape Photography" The exhibition showcases a grand collection of original enlargements, albums, publications, and postcards from the late 19th century and early 20th century.

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    John K. Hillers/Ron Perisho Collection og Knud Knudsen/Billedsamlingen, Universitetsbiblioteket i Bergen

The exhibition is curated by the University of Bergen Library and the Schmucker Art Gallery at Gettysburg College, in collaboration with the Bergen City Museum and the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. 

The photographs provide insight into a historical period when landscapes on both sides of the Atlantic were first surveyed, photographed, and explored. The compilation of the works offers a fresh perspective on the similarities and differences between Norwegian and American landscape photography. The Norwegian Folk Museum is the final destination for this traveling exhibition, which has previously been showcased in the USA, including at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle, the Schmucker Art Gallery, and the Bryggen Museum in Bergen.

Ever since the camera was invented, photographers have strived to record and preserve landscapes as images. Technological advances towards the end of the 19th century allowed photographers to capture breathtaking views of nature in ways previously impossible.

Photographs of natural wonders have helped to shape broad ideas about national identity. The images seen in the exhibition also tell more specific stories: of technical inventions, industrial development, infrastructural changes, population growth and large-scale migration. 

In both Norway and the US, travelers and immigrants often considered themselves discoverers of new lands, though many seemingly untouched environments – Norwegian fjords and mountains, and American canyons and prairies – had been inhabited and utilized by Indigenous people for millennia.

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    Axel Lindahl / Norsk Folkemuseum.

While several early American landscape photographers were employed by private and governmental surveys, Norwegian photographers, largely, had independent commercial careers. Despite key differences in why and where the photographs were taken, a number of images from the two countries are nearly identical. These similarities suggest a global exchange of images and ideas. Both Norwegian and American photographers exhibited their work at World’s Fairs, and their images were enjoyed by armchair travelers, adventurous tourists, and homesick immigrants alike.

Today, the views are reminders of the precarious balance of nature and culture, inhabitation and exploitation, sustainability and destruction. Thus, 19th-century photographers’ approaches to their environment resonate with pivotal issues in our present day: increased global connectedness and shared concerns about climate change, loss of natural areas, resource scarcity, and mass migration. And yet, the photographs inspire wonder of the natural world — both then and now, “fra vest mot nord”.

The exhibition is co-curated by Shannon Egan and Marthe Tolnes Fjellestad, with support from GEO Focus Engineers, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, the United States Embassy in Oslo, the Wyeth Foundation of American Art, the Fritt-Ord Foundation, Gettysburg College, and the University of Bergen. The exhibition draws from the collections of Ron Perisho, the Picture Collection at the University of Bergen Library, and the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.

Museum24:Portal - 2024.04.15
Grunnstilsett-versjon: 1