( Photo courtesy of The Picture Collection, University of Bergen Library)
Why do people leave their homes in search of a better life? Join us as we look for answers to that question in a dramatic new exhibit at Livsreise that explores emigration through first person accounts, family histories, and the stunning black and white photography of Knud Knudsen.
Considered one of Norway’s most important photographers, Knudsen (1832-1915) was born in Odda, Hardanger, and he established one of the first photography businesses in Bergen in 1864. In addition to his passion for photography, he also had a special interest in horticulture and the fruit trees grown in his home community. He would often return to the southern branch of the Hardanger Fjord to capture scenes of everyday life on farms and on the fjord. Despite the idyllic landscape, Knudsen’s work vividly shows why life on the fjord led to some of the highest rates of emigration per-capita in Norway with the ever present threat of rockslides and avalanches, lack of arable land, and lack of economic opportunity. Knud Knudsen left a collection of 13.500 wet and dry plate negatives, and about 20.000 of albumin silver prints. The negative and print collection are at The Picture Collection, University of Bergen Library.
Rocks and Hard Places: Emigration through the Lens of Knud Knudsen is presented by Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, and features 26 large-format photographs enlarged from Knudsen’s original negatives.
Heavy trunks were a necessity for an immigrant family making the long journey across the ocean to the new world because they served as a secure vessel for transporting valued family possessions. If an immigrant traveled alone, the trunk was smaller and often made simply of pine boards. Some times the shipping line glued a large label onto the trunk as a record of the travel across the Atlantic. Hand luggage was also brought along. Bentwood boxes called “tine” are one example. Some were unadorned and others had the owner ‘s name or initials on them, They held clothing and such things as a small bible or catechism which was read daily. The story of each trunk is told in this exhibit