The people of rural Norway through the photographs of Nils Olsson Reppen, 1900s


Photographer Nils Olsson Repen was born in 1856 on Repen's farm in Sogndal, western Norway. In 1882, he moved to America and worked as a photographer in Browns Valley and Morris in Minnesota.

He returned to Norway in the late 1890s and continued to work as a photographer in Sogndal, where he was born. Sogndal is a village beautifully situated by the Sognefjord, the longest and deepest fjord in Norway. This area is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Instead of taking simple pictures in a studio like a typical photographer, Nils Olsson Reppen used a large-format stereoscopic camera to photograph his countrymen among the region's idyllic fjords, glaciers and towering mountains.

His shoots were unusual, in that he saw packed subjects at the bottom of the frame or at a distance, and then the landscape above them.

In 1965, part of his photo collection was burnt to ashes and most of his glass plate negatives were lost. There are 424 negatives left from Repen that document a unique blend of provincial pride and delicacy before a breathtaking landscape.

The pictures presented here show nature, farms, mountain fields, fjords and villages in the Sognefjord region around 1900.

The center of Sogndal, Sogndalsfjøra has a long and remarkable history as a seaside settlement. It probably served as the center of the parish for centuries, with general shops and bakeries testifying to its early importance as a center of commerce and trade.

It was a community characterized by vigorous activity. There were boat landings for farmers living along the fjord, military functions were established here, and later, the homeowners would rent rooms to the first students of the newly established folk high school. Legal assemblies were held in Hofslund, Wicker lived nearby, and the church was located within sight at Stadtje.

Sogndalsfjora was inhabited in the early 17th century. By 1701, the number of permanent residents had reached 60–70, mainly those who did not own property but made their living as daily wage labourers. A century later, the population increased to 222, and by 1900, 422 residents were registered.

By the end of the 19th century, the industrial base had expanded and consolidated. In 1881, there were house painters, a goldsmith, saddler, carpenter, shoemaker, watchman, a tinkerer and a butcher.

Ten years later, Sogndalsfjra had its own insurance agent, a telephone operator, an "automobile driver", a photographer and a printer.

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