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Victor Hasselblad

(Fritz) Victor Hasselblad was born in Goteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden on March 8, 1906. The son of prominent Swedish businessman Karl Erik Hasselblad, who was also Counsel General for Rumania, young Victor grew up in an affluent household with a great appreciation for art and photography. Victor was influenced by his grandfather who opened a photo department in the family business in 1887, named F.W. Hasselblad & Company. Two years after Victors birth in 1908, the photo department became Hasselblads Fotografiska AB and it became a distributor for Kodak products in Sweden. He combined his fascination for birds with his interest in photography, and soon established himself as a successful bird and nature photographer. In 1934, he married Erna Nathhorst, and she became his professional partner as well. She assisted him with his camera research, and later became his most trusted business partner.

Settling in Goteborg with his young wife, Mr. Hasselblad focused on his photographic career, exhibiting his photographs and writing technical articles for trade publications. He published his first book Flyttfagelstrak (Migratory Bird Passages) in 1935. After serving apprenticeships at France's Kodak Pathe, Germany's Zeiss Ikon, and the U. S. Eastman Kodak Company, Mr. Hasselblad returned to Sweden, feeling sufficiently qualified to open his own camera and laboratory processing company, Victor Foto. In the spring of 1940, when the threat of another world war was growing by the day, the Swedish government asked Mr. Hasselblad to reproduce a camera exactly like the German spy camera it had recently recovered. He constructed a small camera workshop, within which he studied the German camera and designed his own interpretation, known as the HK 7. The HK 7 was a handheld aerial camera measuring 7 x 9 cm, used 80 film and had two lenses that could be used interchangeably - a Zeiss Biotessar and either a Meyer Tele-Megor or Schneider Tele-Xenar.

Naturally, during the Second World War, most of Mr. Hasselblad's camera production was for military purposes, but the camera designer believed that military cameras would lead to the production of high quality portable cameras for consumer use. Various military prototypes - including one specially designed for the Swedish Air Force - were used in the production of the first Hasselblad civilian camera, which was formally introduced on October 6, 1948. The Hasselblad 1600F represented a professional and personal triumph. This 6 x 6 single-lens, mirror-reflex camera has Kodak lenses, viewer finders, and magazines that were interchangeable. It was the supreme technological accomplishment for its time, but also easily damaged. The newer and improved Hasselblad 1000F included a six-lens series, and scored impressively in a Modern Photography field test. Other Hasselblad cameras included the Hasselblad SWA (1954), the wide-angle Hasselblad SWC (1957), the ambitious Hasselblad 500C (1957), and the motor-operated Hasselblad 500 EL (1965). Hasselblad also became the official NASA camera, and images of moonwalking Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin were captured with a Hasselblad 500EL/70.

Upon his retirement, Victor Hasselblad sold his Hasselblad Fotografiska AB to Kodak. In 1976, Safvean AB, a Swedish investment firm, purchased Victor Hasselblad AB. Two years later, Victor Hasselblad died in Goteborg on August 5, 1978 at the age of 72.The following year, the Erna and Victor Hasseblad Foundation was created to promote photographic research and education. Goteborg remains the headquarters of Hasselblad cameras, whose quality and excellence have not diminished with the passage of time.


Ref.:
2007 Focal Encyclopedia of Photography (Burlington, MA: Focal Press/Elsevier), pp. 307-308.

2012 Hasselblad Foundation (URL: http://www.hasselbladfoundation.org).

1981 Popular Photography, Vol. LXXXVIII (New York: Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), p. 12.


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