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  Knud Knudsen, Photographer

Knud Knudsen was born in Odda, Norway on January 3, 1832. The son of Knud Knudsen and Anna Nilsdtr Bustetun, he was initially trained to join his father as a pomologist (fruit botanist). Following a brief period in Bergen as a store clerk, Mr. Knudsen enrolled in Germany's Reutlingen University to study pomology, which is where he first became acquainted with photography. After completing his studies, Mr. Knudsen entered the employ of Marcus Selmer, a Danish-born photographer operating a studio in Bergen, for whom he worked as an assistant for the next seven years.

In 1864, Mr. Knudsen opened his own studio in Bergen. Specializing in portraiture and landscapes, his images were popular with Norwegians and tourists alike. Soon, the former photography student was selling as many prints as his teacher, Mr. Selmer. But Mr. Knudsen was interested in more than merely the financial potential of photography; he was one of the first to realize its historical potential. He saw his beloved Bergen transitioning from an agricultural to urban culture, and documented a way of life that was rapidly disappearing from view. His expansive images of Norway captured its rural majesty and rugged contours, with the unique fjord scenery of Western Norway a particularly fertile source of creative inspiration. Operating from a darkroom tent, Mr. Knudsen learned to work quickly to capture his landscapes. He applied the wet-collodion process to his landscape plates until 1882, when he reluctantly joined his colleagues in utilizing dry-plate techniques. Mr. Knudsen labored judiciously to increase the elements of contrast in his works, and discovered that he could circumvent the problem of insufficient exposure times by making dual exposures.

Mr. Knudsen, who was apparently was so committed to his landscape photography that he never married, continued working well into his 60s. His sepia-toned stereographs of nineteenth-century Norway remain some of the most captivating images of the region. His artistic eye, combined with his knowledge of ever-evolving scientific applications, resulted in award-winning photographs that successfully straddled the fine line between aesthetics and stark realism. In 1898, Mr. Knudsen retired, leaving his business to a family member; but the studio subsequently floundered without his leadership and deft touch in the darkroom.

Eighty-three-year-old Knud Knudsen died in Bergen, Norway on May 21, 1915, leaving behind approximately 20,000 albumen silver prints and more than 13,000 wet- and dry-plate negatives. Several of Mr. Knudsen's landscapes were seen for the first time in the United States in an American-Scandinavian Foundation exhibition entitled, The Frozen Image, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1982. The majority of his photographic collection is housed in the University of Bergen, but several images also reside in the Bergen Archives, Bergen Public Library, and in Oslo's Norsk Folkemuseum. The Knudsen collection has also been digitized and can be accessed on the europeana website here.

1993 Documentation of Nordic Art (Munich, Germany: IFLA Publications), p. 196.

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 801-802.

1989 Johan Schrøder's Travels in Canada, 1863 by Johan Schrøder (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press), p. xxi.

2017 Knud Knudsen (Photographer) (URL:

2001 The Memory of the Photograph (Copenhagen, Denmark: Nordic Council of Ministers), pp. 79-80.

2017 Norway (URL:

2017 Stereoskopi. Parti fra Maråk, Geiranger, Møre og Romsdal. Utsyn over Fjord, Bebyggelse og Kirke (URL:

2015 Views of Norway (URL:

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