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Wall of Fame/March: Marcus Selmer

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From 24.02.15
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Marcus Selmer (1819-1900) was a central figure in Norwegian photography from the 1850s until his death in 1900. With his urban- and landscape-prospect photography, together with his series presenting Norwegian national costumes, he came to have great influence in shaping the concept of the Norwegian.

Selmer was originally from Randers, Denmark, where he was educated as a pharmacist. He also taught himself photography. In 1852 he moved to Norway to be a full-time photographer and became Bergen's first resident daguerreotypist. Selmer established a studio in the city but also traveled widely around Norway to photograph the landscape. 

In spite of increasing competition in the profession Selmer did well. He quickly became Bergen's favorite photographer: he was adaptable and kept up with developments in technology. His international orientation and contacts made him an important conduit of international trends for the Norwegian photographic community. He was quick to adopt the new photographic negative-positive technology—the wet plate. With this technology images could be reproduced in several copies and sold more inexpensively, in contrast to the daguerreotype, which is a one-of-a-kind process (only one photograph per shot).


Marcus Selmer, A man from Gloppen in Nordfjord, old costume ca. 1857-1870. Hand coloured salt paper print. Property of Preus museum collections.

Selmer was a popular landscape and cultural photographer but also an accomplished portraitist. A year after he came to Norway he began to take pictures of national costumes, an already established genre. While others collected traditional music, dance, and folk tales and painted what was typical of recently liberated Norway, Selmer created these studies of national costumes, pictures bought by Norwegians and tourists alike. At the beginning of the 1860s the painter Adolph Tidemand made use of some of these national-costume photographs in several of his larger compositions. Selmer's costume pictures were published in 1872 in «Catalog of Photographs of Norwegian National Costumes, Landscapes, and Stereoscope Pictures. From Nature taken by M. Selmer in Bergen». Those costume photographs unquestionably became an influence on our view of Norwegian nature and folk life.

As a portraitist Selmer was always concerned with the interplay between the photographer and what or whom would be photographed. He translated and published W. M. Majorkiewicz' «The Public in the Photographer's Studio. Instructions on how to select Clothing and conduct oneself to obtain a good and handsome Portrait», a book about personal conduct in the studio of the portrait photographer.

In 1880 Selmer was named royal court photographer. He also received many honors and awards during his life and was an honorary member of the Dansk Fotografisk Forening (Danish Photographers Association) and Societé Francaise de Photographie. Selmer died in his new home city of Bergen in 1900.

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Wall of Fame/March: Marcus Selmer

Marcus Selmer, En Kone i Sommerdragt fra Hallberghuus i Hemsedal. Property of Preus museum collections.