The photography shows two women sitting in a rowing boat. The scene takes place in a photo studio in front of a painted background. GUIDED TOUR & DRINKS as part of the exhibition: LIKE A WHIRLWIND

LIKE A WHIRLWIND – The Gender Plays by Marie Høeg & Bolette Berg

14. June 2024 25. August 2024

The exhibition LIKE A WHIRLWIND – The Gender Plays by Marie Høeg & Bolette Berg presents unique cross-dressing photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The photographers Bolette Berg and Marie Høeg founded the Berg & Høeg photo studio in the southern Norwegian town of Horten in 1894. The couple spent their entire adult lives working and living together. They published their fairly conventional portrait and landscape photographs as postcards. The Norwegians achieved international fame posthumously through their early photographic experiments with gender roles, which are probably rightly regarded as the first such complex photographic examination of the subject of cross-dressing.

When their estate was auctioned off in the 1970s, the Norwegian collector Leif Preus acquired the glass negatives of the two photographers. In addition to photographs of landscapes and reproductions of artworks, there were two boxes labeled “private” showing Marie Høeg, Bolette Berg and their siblings and friends posing in front of the camera. These shots had nothing in common with conventional portrait photography. Playful, humorous and full of joie de vivre, the photographs radically and cheekily question the ideals of femininity of the 19th and early 20th centuries as well as the gender roles of the time. The topicality of the imagery and the visual exploration of the theme, which is comparable to contemporary artistic practice, is astonishing. The two photographers take up stereotypes in a witty and fresh way and transform them into frivolous photographs with the help of props and costumes.

The modern approach of the photographers testifies to their self-confidence and a playful examination of social norms; at the same time, the estate makes it clear that the photographs were only intended for private use during their lifetime, not for the public. The photographic studio was the safe space, where the protagonists of the pictures could present themselves in a self-determined manner.

The Preus Museum, the Norwegian National Museum of Photography, manages the estate of Marie Høeg and Bolette Berg and owns the original glass negatives in its collection. The exhibition LIKE A WHIRLWIND at f³ – freiraum für fotografie shows digital reproductions of this unique material, which will be on display in Germany for the first time.

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All accompanying events can be found here.

Image: Berg & Høeg, »Water Scene«. Marie Høeg and Bolette Berg in a rowing boat in the studio, 1895–1903 © Collection of Preus Museum