Stories from the Golden Years

I am reading this book by photo critic Kurt Bergengren, "Tänka med ögonen" (= Thinking with your Eyes), a collection of articles and columns published between 1950 and 1984. His text are wonderfully entertaining as well as informative, you can really tell that he enjoyed the art, knew the photographers, and had a real gift for telling stories. Not long before he passed away, in 1985, he said this*: "I have had one innermost wish - to write about difficult matters as if I was standing by a gate on a country road, just talking to someone I happened to meet."

Let me give you the story of Kalle Ransell, photographer at Svenska Dagbladet (Swedish Daily):
"In 1913, Dagbladet arranged its first relay race. In one of the teams, the victorious one, was a certain Kalle Ransell. He was interested in amateur photography and after the race he took a few photos of his mates. He asked one of the newspaper´s staffmembers, the draughtsman Eneroth, if he could get his film developed at the newspaper´s lab. So he could. The next day he saw his pictures published in the paper. Flattered, he asked how much he owed. 
"Owe?" said Eneroth. "Write us a bill for 60 crowns."
The same day Kalle Ransell joined the staff at the newspaper, as a photographer. His first assignment was to take photos of some older gentlemen, dining at the Hasselbacken restaurant. They were not any old men, but the remaining few from the court of old King Karl XV. They absolutely refused to be part of some plebeian newpaper photograph and resolutely closed the door in front of Kalle´s face. He put up his tripod outside the closed door, prepared his camera, and - kicked the door open. The courtiers of Karl XV just stared at the intrepid young man. While they were still too astonished to react, the camera got the work done. This was a meeting of two worlds, and the courtiers, who didn´t have much time left, were surely pleased not to have to live through the new golden age, with it´s American go-ahead spirit. The photo was not published, as far as I know. But Kalle had proved himself. 
Photo by Wilhelm Lamm, from the sidelines, moments before the Mucky incident.
Velvety-eyed dachshund, unrelated to Mucky.
One part of the Kalle Ransell method was the dachshund Mucky. When Poincaré in July 1914 came ashore on the Logården stairs, the photographers had, per usual, been assigned to stand in the crowd along the red carpet, and policemen with sabres and helmets made sure the representatives of the press kept their distance. But when the King and the President started walking up the carpet, their route was suddenly blocked by Kalle and Mucky. The dog looked up at all the astonished faces with his innocent velvety-brown eyes, and that´s all Kalle needed to get the picture he wanted. 
His reckless charm, cheek, energy and straigh-forwardness set the fashion in photo journalism during the war years and the interwar period. It happened that young journalists were given the advice: just tag along with Ransell, and you´ll be all right."

* And the translation is all my own, as usual. Quick and dirty.


  1. He ... kicked the door open! I love that and it should be in a movie.
    Are the books that you acquire written in Swedish? I suddenly want to go to Strand in New York and look for old books like these.


    1. Yes, sorry, Bergengren does not seem to be translated. I´m sure there must be hundreds of similar books on the history of photography in English, though. Many may be out of print, so a public library might also be a good place to search. Almost everything I read is borrowed, actually - or I´d drown in books...

      I promise to continue to share the best stories I find, though, for you, and others, to enjoy.

  2. as they say: "where there's a will, there's a way." sounds like he was just the man to find an effective way! lol