Luleå - then and now

Peo Rask, Hans Granqvist, and Peter Sundström are local cultural workers who have assembled a very nice book: "Systrarna Tegströms Luleå - Luleå sett genom kameraögat åren 1890 - 1928" (= The Tegström Sisters - Luleå through the lens, from 1890 - 1928). As you know, I love looking at pictures of what it was like in the old days, and I have had this project in mind for a while now, to try to replicate the photographs, for comparison.

There were three Tegström sisters: Henny, Alma, and Agda. Their father had been a shipowner and restaurateur at the town hotel. They all lived together and never married. Henny, the youngest, went to Stockholm to learn photography and started the studio in 1890, with the help of her sisters, when she was just 18 years old. Some 500 photographic glass plates remain in the Luleå town archive, mostly views of the town and it´s architecture, as this was a period of great expansion. Henny did most of the photography, Alma most of the retouching and other studio work, and Agda took care of the household.

They had their photostudio in the center of town, and as far as I can figure, the adress doesn´t really exist anymore. There is part park, part road there now. And that is the case with many of the places I wanted to photograph, they simply do not exist anymore. There has been much landfill over the years, mostly to make room for roads and to join parts of town that used to be separated by water. Some photographing spots I can´t reach, in other cases big trees obscure the view. So much of the town structure has changed since the big fire in 1887, which wiped out most of the town, and much changed in the 60´s when many beautiful old buildnings were torn down and replaced with box-like structures.

The northern harbour.

The norther harbour this summer.
The Eriksson stonehouse (named after the architect) in 1905.
Same house today.

I have also found this one from the Helmer Widlund collection:
From the crossing Storgatan - Nygatan, in the 1930´s.
Same view today.

And, I found this fun site, with lots of old photos of Luleå and other places in northern Sweden. Like these postcards:

The northern harbour again, from the other direction.
How it looks today.
And here, the same view from before the big fire. As you can see, the churchtower looks completely different.
Storgatan (main street) with the National Bank house on the right. Probably around 1920.
And today.

It´s been fun project. And a bit frustrating, to try to disregard the aesthetic impulse and just try to make the photo as alike another one as possible. In some instances, it just seemed impossible that it could be the same view, but I´m pretty sure I got it fairly right.

I have been considering the idea of trying to make a portrait of my town, a series of photographs that show it as I see it, as I live here. I realize that would take some work and some reflection. What is my relationship with this town? I take it for granted, and I can´t answer that question. I may return to this.


  1. this is a fascinating project. i know when i see photos of local places and then see the same location myself it's interesting. sometimes it's very similar, and other times you can't tell it's the same at all.

    your project to make a town portrait showing how you see it and feel about it sounds like it would be fun.

    1. You know, one of my favourite fantasies is about going back in time, to just before and perhaps ten-twenty years after the great fire. Not just what it looked like, but what it smelled like and what it sounded like.