Female photographers in Sweden: Mimmi Gustafsson and Mathilda Janson

It was relatively rare for women in Britain and North America to set up their own commercial studios in the nineteenth century.  In Scandinavia, in contrast, women seem to have embraced the business of photography from the earliest days and to have enjoyed commercial success on a par with their male counterparts.  This topic has undoubtedly been covered in articles and books, but I have yet to find much about it online.  I found two very brief comments about photography in Sweden in the 1894 digest of The Deseret Weekly (Vol. 48), published in Salt Lake City.  A column on “The Scandinavian Fatherland” contained the following:

It is estimated that nearly 2,500 people are engaged exclusively in the photograph trade in Sweden. [p. 126]

In Sweden a large number of women have devoted themselves to photography and with great success.  About 45 per cent of photographers are women. [p. 798]

No source is provided for those figures.

The carte-de-visite at the top of this page was in the same box of miscellaneous family photographs as a portrait in an earlier post: Couple with their grandson in Gnesen, Prussia (Gniezno, Poland).  The box came from Ohio, and I don’t know if all the photos originally belonged to one family, but it’s certainly possible they did.  The CDV above and just below was made by Mimmi Gustafsson in Stockholm.  Unusually, the year 1914 has been stamped in the lower right corner of the image, just above the name Margit:

Sisters by Mimmi Gustaffson 2

Sisters by Mimmi Gustaffson 3c

The inscription appears to say “Remember these girls.”

The austere but elegant cabinet card below was made by Mathilda Janson in Åmål.  I bought it from a dealer in western Wisconsin, not far from Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Woman in black by Mathilde Janson 1

Woman in black by Mathilde Janson 2



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