The picture was taken at the studio of royal photographer Ludwig Szacinski in, or shortly after, 1880. What made some of Norway’s wealthiest citizens bring guns, dogs, dead birds and reindeer antlers into a photographer’s studio? One possible reason is they wanted to demonstrate that their interests were the most fashionable among the Christiania merchant citizens in the second half of the 19th century. This period saw an awakening of interest in nature and outdoor pursuits, and the group in the photograph was definitely among the trendsetters.
Hunting and outdoor pursuits became important leisure activities in the 19th century, with a small trendsetting urban elite leading the way into the untamed - and until then, hardly mapped -wilderness. This is why two married couples of the Andresen family, Nicolai and Marie Andresen, and Thomas and Elisabeth Fearnley, along with their friend, Consul Axel Heiberg, brought guns and dogs to the Christiania photographer Ludwig Szacinski, himself a keen outdoor recreation enthusiast.
In his studio, Szacinski arranged a backdrop of a mountainous landscape. The inspiration for this mountain fantasy may have been Aasmund Olavsson Vinje’s cabin by Eidsbugarden, with Bygdin and Galdeberget in the background. The Jotunheimen landscape played a central part in the new interest in outdoor recreation. Another inspiration may have been Luster in the county of Sogn, which had become known through artists like J.C. Dahl, Fearnley, Tiedemand and others over several decades. The very fact that a photographer like Szacinski had such a backdrop does in any case emphasise just how popular hunting, outdoor recreation and mountain adventures had become.
Vinje’s cabin was built in 1868, the same year as the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) was established. One of DNT’s first members was Nicolai Andresen’s father, who was a friend of its founder, Thomas Heftye. This in turn means that the hunting party in our picture belonged to the second generation of Christiania citizens contributing to the further development of Norwegian outdoor recreational pursuits towards the end of the 19th century. During this period, Nicolai Andresen and Thomas Fearnley rented the cabin Russboden on the Russvannet lake, a little further to the north-east of Jotunheimen. Invited by Fearnley, the Swedish royal family came there to hunt. It was also where the three anonymous Englishmen who wrote about their meeting with “Mr Tomas” in their book “Three in Norway by two of them”, spent some time. Nicolai Andresen, Thomas Fearnley and Axel Heiberg were not only among the founding member of Christiania Hunting Club in 1878, they also contributed in various ways to the organisation of other sports in Norway, not least skiing.