A Scandinavian Celebration
Collectively, the Minneapolis-based photographers have illustrated Nordic life and culture in both Scandinavia and their native Minnesota for over three-quarters of a century. Prominent citizens within the Scandinavian-American community, they`ve also been Norway`s official U.S. photographers on numerous occasions. Bob was the official photographer for the late Norwegian King Olav V during his visits to the U.S. between 1968 and 1987, and the father-son team was selected for King Harald and Queen Sonja`s visit in 1995. Bob was in Norway for the 1000th anniversary celebration of Olav Tryggvassons`s founding of Trondheim.
As their special bond with Norway suggests, the family`s Scandinavian roots can be traced to a farm called Mitling, not far from Trondheim. But the Paulsons` well over 60 trips to Scandinavia have taken them to every corner of the Nordic world. Along the way, an appreciation for all things Nordic has developed, ingrained with more than a little humility and respect for their fellow man and the scenic beauty captured in their photographs.
"In my photographic work, I work at drawing out the relationships between strong shapes and contrasting areas of light and dark," said the older Paulson when we met at the Paulstad studio in Minneapolis. "I always wanted to express the beauty of nature - I probably should have become an artist."
In fact, Bob Paulson also took up painting in watercolor early on. But it is his exceptional photography that has been recognized with numerous awards and featured in a number of solo exhibitions.
Both Bob and Loren have strong backgrounds in general photography, advertising, art and design. But it is their travels and work in Scandinavia, on location, that sets them apart.
Loren began following in his father`s footsteps while still in college. For his senior project at the University of Minnesota, he created a culturally inspired photographic collector`s calendar that is now a classic - it is sold across the U.S. in Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish versions and has become a fixture in more than 700,000 Scandinavian-American homes. This year marks the calendar`s 20th anniversary.
Loren also photographed the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994 and was official photographer for Crown Prince Hakon Magnus`s official state visit to Minneapolis in 1999.
The jointly owned Paulstad Communications, in addition to publishing the Paulsons` own works in the form of books and film, produces calendars, pictorial books and videos, and imports and exports books and other heritage items.
These talented Minnesotans have published and exhibited far more than can be shared in the limited space of this photo feature. We hope, however, that you enjoy this small sample of the father-son team`s photography since the 1950s.
Seize the moment
One of the few times Bob`s wife, Ruth, accompanied her husband on a photo trip to Scandinavia was when this photo was taken, in 1987. Summer days are long in northern Norway, and while waiting for the just right light for this photo, Bob forgot the time and got locked out of the hotel. Ruth Paulson has a vivid memory of Bob trying to get in well after midnight, eventually waking her by throwing gravel at her bedroom window.
(This photo is one of a series taken that night and part of the Paulsons` photographs for the 128-page coffee table book Norway, produced in collaboration with Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, Portland, OR, 1988.)
An alumnus of Augsburg College, where his father was a professor, Bob Paulson also studied photography at Macalester College and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Bob Paulson started as an "itinerant photographer" fresh out of college in 1950, and went on to become in-house photographer at Minnesota Moline before joining with a commercial photographer in downtown Minneapolis. What`s an itinerant photographer, you might ask? Before cameras became household items, photographers frequently traveled around to ply their services, often photographing children at schools or in their homes. It was a profession that meant long days on the road visiting new places, long days working the districts to solicit and perform the actual work, then long hours into the night developing proofs in the bathroom of a local motel.
"I remember one time, it was 30-below in Minneapolis in the winter of 1951, and my car, a 1940 Chevy with an under-seat heater, started in the morning in spite of the cold. But with not enough antifreeze, the hose for the heater had frozen, and the car got very cold. At 5:30 a.m., no gas stations were open, and I saw no lights. Minnesota was different then. Had to go fairly slow because the windshield was freezing up on me - I finally got so desperate I drove into a farmyard, knocked on a door in the dark. He didn`t know me from Adam, and of course I couldn`t speak, that`s how deep frozen I was. He let me in, gave me breakfast and let me heat up. I could have died that day."
On individual photographs
Portraits of people, capturing personalities, expressions and even nationalities have long been a passion for both generations Paulsons.
Bob loves water, streams, rivers - the impasse of water and mountains that are the fjords. As well as the beautiful forests of Sweden and Finland.
"All the Scandinavian countries are so neat, clean and organized. Denmark is very clean and neat. But it doesn`t stand out because there isn`t that much of it... it`s a small country and it`s harder to find a pretty picture. Doesn`t have the obvious contrasting elements of the other countries but is equally interesting for other reasons."
"I`d love to spend a whole year in Norway or Sweden to take pictures; they are so photographic. So many unusual things, mountains, fjords and forests."
His camera broke only once. It happened in Göteborg on a visit during the 1980s. "What a stroke of luck - I went to Hasselblad, the camera maker, whose headquarters are in that west coast Swedish city, and got the camera fixed in a day."
Somewhere in the proximity of the Sognefjord, a farmer plows with a fjord horse. Why use a horse? "Because it`s so much easier than doing it by hand," according to Bob. One of many tiny farms of the area, some just covering a hillside.
"Nobody in America would have a boat around for this long. I even went back a second time a few years later and it was still there." Vestpollen, Lofoten.
"The light was right, the time was right, it was the right time of day..."
A retired barrelmaker in Dale, in central southern Norway, works at a craft long forgotten.
Text Ulf Martensson
Photography: Robert & Loren Paulson
Scandinavia at a glance
Useful and superfluous facts for the Nordic Traveler
Population: 5.4 million people
Capital: Copenhagen, pop. 1.8 million (including suburbs)
Average temperature in July: 15.6 C/60 F
Head of state: Queen Margrethe II
Head of government: Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Liberal Democratic Party)
Currency: 10 US dollars = 55 kroner (April, 2007)
Food fact : Pork is king in Denmark. The Danes eat 106 kilos (234 lb) of pork meat per person each year, compared to 73 kilos (161 lb) for the Swedes. They also have the cheapest beer in Scandinavia.
Geography fact: There is no hill higher than 200 meters (650 ft), so Denmark leads the way in Nordic flatness. Maybe that`s why there are so many bicycles everywhere.
Tivoli amusement park (www.tivoli.dk)
Legoland amusement park (lego.com/legoland/billund)
Louisiana Museum of modern art (www.louisiania.dk)
Tourism website: www.visitdenmark.com
Population: 5.2 million
Close to 5 percent of the population in Finland are occupied in agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing, second among the Nordic nations to only Iceland with 6.6 percent (pop. less than 300,000), compared to 2.1 percent for sweden.
Capital: Helsinki (pop. 976,000, including suburbs)
Average temperature in July: 16.4 C/62 F
Head of state: President Tarja Halonen
Head of government: Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Center Party)
Currency: 10 US dollars = 7.3 Euros (April, 2007)
Statistic: In general, Finland is the least expensive of the Nordic countries, with prices only about 15 percent higher than the EU as a whole...
Geography fact: Some 70 percent of the country is covered in trees. That`s fortunate, because the Finns buy and borrow books enthusiastically. On average, a Finn will borrow 20 volumes per year from public libraries.
Tourist attractions: Linnanmä©ki Amusement Park, Helsinki (www.linnanmaki.fi)
Kiasma, Helsinki, museum of contemporary art, (www.kiasma.com)
Bonk Centre, more wood, this time in buildings by the sea, in Uusikaupunki, a town known for the production of the Porsche Boxster, the Centre itself promises an incredible story of incredible machines, kids get to build their own baby bonk. Also an Automobile museum and a Museum of Cultural History all easily accessible (see: www.turkutouring.fi, search for the town Uusikaupunki)
Capital: Reykjavik (pop. 182,000 including suburbs)
Average temperature in July: 10.6 C/51 F
Head of state: Olafur Ragnar Grimsson
Head of government: Geir Haarde (Independence Party)
Currency: 10 US dollars = 642 kronur (April, 2007)
Geography: Has a lot of it. Here one finds active and inactive volcanoes, lava fields, geysers, waterfalls and mystical geothermal pools, but few people and few trees...
Food fact: This island has the most expensive food and drink in the region, but it probably also boasts the liveliest party-town, in its capital Reykjavik.
National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavik, (www.natmus.is/english)
National Gallery of Iceland, Reykjavik, (www.listasafn.is/english/first_page.htm)
Mother Nature: What can beat bathing in warm water of a volcano crater?
Tourism website: www.icelandtouristboard.com
Population: 4.6 million
Capital: Oslo (pop. 1 million including suburbs)
Average temperature in July: 16.4 C/62 F
Head of state: King Harald V
Head of government: Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (Norwegian Labor Party—in a Red-Green coalition)
Currency: 10 US dollars = 60 kroner (April, 2007)
Geography fact: Bergen, one of the most beautiful places on earth, is also one of the rainiest. Umbrellas can be purchased from coin-operated dispensing machines.
Food fact: Of all the Scandinavian peoples, the Norwegians eat the most fish and shellfish, on average 55 kilos (121 lb) per year.
Holmenkollen: skiing, ski jump, ski museum, and great view, www.holmenkollen.com
Tusenfryd amusement park: www.tusenfryd.no
Dyreparken: enlightened zoo and amusement park, www.dyreparken.com
Tourism website: www.visitnorway.com
Population: 9 million
Capital: Stockholm ( pop. 1.7 million, including suburbs)
Average temperature July: 17.6 C/64 F
Head of state: King Carl XVI Gustaf
Head of government: Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (Conservative "Moderaterna" party in a Center-Right coalition)
Currency: 10 US dollars = 67 kronor (April, 2007)
Geography fact: The northern city of Kiruna, at 7,700 square miles, is half as large as Switzerland. Here you can find Kebnekaise, Sweden's highest mountain at 2,117 meters (6,946 ft) above sea level. The municipality also has more than 6,000 lakes.
Food fact: Swedes eat an average of 84 kilos (185 lb) of tatters per year. The arrival each Spring/Summer of new potatoes, "färskpotatis" in grocery stores is a happy occasion.
Vasa Museum,Stockholm-warship from 1628 (www.vasamuseet.se)
Liseberg musement park, Gothenburg (www.liseberg.se)
Ice Hotel, Kiruna (www.icehotel.com)
Tourism website: www.visit-sweden.se
Attributions: Some of the facts above have been gleaned from the Nordic Statistical Yearbook and various tourist authorities. However, all errors are the sole property of Nordic Reach magazine. These errors may not be copied or reproduced in any manner without written permission of the publisher.
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From Saarinen to Lady Gaga
Norway in a Nutshell: A Brief Odyssey
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Next Stop: North Pole
In Cod we trust: A Lofoten Encounter
48 hours-schedule: Icelandic Interlude
Travel with children in the Nordic countries
Eco-tourism and Scandinavia
Kayaking on the Swedish west coast
Cruising the Baltic
Bornholm, Baltic Pearl
No room at the Inn
Ventures in Western Norway
Been there, done that, seen that…
In Denmark: Bathe like an emperor in the artists’ Land of light - Skagen
Scandinavia at a glance
Going to the moon! Or Iceland
Castle-hopping in Scandinavia
Travel in Norway: A lofoten Encounter
Travel in Denmark: No room at the Inn
Cruising in the Baltic