A very long time ago @theprettiestboy suggested we do an episode on Norwegian photographers Marie
Høeg and Bollette Berg. Today would be Marie’s birthday, so we are finally delivering on that promise. After doing some research, however, we’ve decided that a blog post rather than a podcast is the way to do this, since there is limited information in English, and also it wouldn’t be right to tell you about these wonderful women without showing you their photos.
Marie was born on this very day in Langesund, near Oslo, Norway, in 1866. Bolette was born six years later, in 1872.
When they was growing up, photography was just becoming the big thing in Norway, as more and more people could afford to have their portraits taken. Around age 24, Marie completed her apprenticeship as a photographer, and then moved to work in Finland.
In Finland, Marie opened her own photography studio, but more importantly, she discovered the Finnish Women’s Rights movement, and met Bolette.
In 1896, Marie and Bolette moved back to Norway together, and set up a joint photography studio, Berg and
Høeg. Berg and
Høeg wasn’t just a place you could get your portrait taken – it also became a meeting place for the feminist and suffrage groups of Horten. Marie and Bolette were involved in the founding of the Horten branch of the National Association for Women’s Right to Vote, and the Horten Discussion Association – which later changed its name to the Horten Social Discussion Association to sound less threatening, and less like women having opinions.
In 1899, 12,000 Norwegians put their names on a Parliamentary petition demanding suffrage for women. It was 14 years later that they had their success, and becoming one of the first countries in the world to grant universal suffrage to all its adult citizens.
Marie and Bolette moved to Oslo in 1903, and continued to live together for many years. Their photography studio was expanded into a publishing house, which focussed on books about women in Norway. They eventually bought and retired to a farm together. Bolette died in 1944, and Marie five years later, in 1949.
That was the end of Marie and Bolette’s story, until in the 1980s, a box was found in a barn on their farm. The box was labelled “private”, and contained 440 glass negatives. While their professional photographic work had focussed on very traditional portraits and landscapes, the pictures in this box showed Marie, Bolette and their friends playing with gender roles, with men in dresses and women undertaking traditionally masculine activities like drinking, and playing cards.
It seems like Bolette was often the one behind the camera, so Marie is the subject of most of the photos – sometimes alongside the pair’s dog, Tuss. In the final photo here, though, you can see both Marie (left) and Bolette, posing as suitors in a rowboat together.
All these photos are now in the Preus Museum, in Norway, and you can check out a bunch of them online. Enjoy!