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The story of the museum


It takes an exceptional eye to understand the laws behind Baumeister's magnificent play of forms, and Leif Preus possesses just this. It is fully justified to refer to him as the "Godfather of Norwegian Photography"...

*Rudolf Kicken, A Moment for the Eternity

Photo: Leif Preus, Preus Fotomuseum in Langgata 82 in Horten

The museum was opened in 1976 on Langgaten in Horten. At first it was envisioned as a small, private exhibition space for employees of Preus Foto A/S and others with a special interest in photography. The museum's collection slowly became larger in the 1970s and 80s via auctions and dealers in major cities such as Hamburg, Berlin, London, Paris, Washington, New York and Los Angeles.

Gradually the museum also sought to show the work of active photographers, and photographs were bought directly from such artists. When the government bought the private museum, it had without question already taken an important position in the Norwegian photographic milieu.

Preus Foto A/S

The firm was started as a photography shop by Leif Preus in 1956. It sold camera equipment and offered professional photography and developing. With support from the municipality of Horten Preus set up a photo laboratory for development of color photography. In the 1980s it became one of Norway's largest photographic firms, with shops across the entire country. In 2007 Preus Foto was bought out by Telebutikken—the process serving as an image of how the digital world, with mobile telephones leading the way, had taken over the market from analog photography.   

The museum's collections

The collections have three components: images, technical equipment, and books. Therefore one may receive many wide-ranging impressions of the meaning and development of photography in most fields. The library gives an interested person a sense of the knowledge possessed by the inventors of the medium, since there are books in most areas (chemistry, vision, light, etc.) from the 1500s on. One also discovers books on innumerable photographers, areas of photography, and the development of photography generally and as a discipline since its beginning in 1839. The collections of images are large and comprehensive. The histories of photography by Beaumont Newhall (1949; 5th edition, 1982) and Helmut Gernsheim (1955) have unquestionably been definitive guides to the acquisitions. Thus one finds the entire history of photography represented in terms of the development of processes, technical equipment, and important photographers. Earlier photographers such as the British William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) and Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), the American Edward Steichen (1879-1973), the Austrian Heinrich Kühn (1866-1944), and the Norwegians Anders Beer Wilse (1865-1949) and Elisabeth Meyer (1899-1968) are found, along with hundreds of other photographers from nearly all areas of the world.    

Leif Preus (1920-2013)

Norwegian photographer, founder of Preus Foto A/S, and collector. After years in the Navy he established himself as a photographer on Storgaten in Horten in 1956. Then in 196? with the help of the municipality of Horten he expanded to include a photo laboratory which at its height had over 200 employees and more than 40 photo shops across the entire country. Preus also founded the international portrait chain Color Art Photo. In 1976 he opened his Preus Museum of Photography which exhibited parts of what had gradually become his sizable collection of photographs, cameras, and books. Thus he became instrumental in directing attention to the history of photography in Norway. In 1992 he was named an honorary member of Norges Fotografforbund (Norwegian Association of Professional Photographers). In 1994 the Norwegian government bought Preus Fotomuseum as the basis for the future national museum of photography. Leif Preus was the museum's first director from 1995 through February 1998. In 2003 he was named Knight, First Class, of the Order of St. Olav for his work.

1992 - Leif Preus was elected honorable member of Norges Fotografforbund.

1994 - The Norwegian State bought Preus Fotomuseum which founded the ground of the future National Photomuseum.

1995 - Leif Preus was the museums first director, 1. januar 1995 - ? februar 1997.

2003 - Leif Preus was appointed Knight by 1st Class by St. Olavs Orden for his work.

Plakat fra Preus Fotomuseum

Interiør fra Preus Fotomuseum (foto: antatt Leif Preus)

Interiør fra Preus Fotomuseum (foto: antatt Leif Preus)

Interiør fra Preus Fotomuseum (Helle K. Hagen/Preus museum)