Victor Hasselblad Bird Photo Series 1977
By Rick Nordin
As a photographer, Victor Hasselblad had a strong interest in the natural history of birds. He had been a
devoted birdwatcher since his teens and used a variety of cameras in the twenties and thirties to capture
images of birds. One of the goals in manufacturing his own camera was to have a camera that he felt would be
ideal for bird photography. He felt that the small 35 mm negative would not provide sufficient detail. The
existence of Hasselblad cameras has been attributed to his personal desire to have a better camera with which
to take photographs of birds.
Only a few examples of his photography are generally available. He published some articles in natural
history journals and small circulation periodicals in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In 1935 he published a book
“Flyttfågelstråk” (“The flight of migratory birds”) (Albert Bonniers Publishers) illustrated by his own photos,
but noting he was not happy with the photographic quality. He notes in the foreword that more than 90% of the
photos in the book were taken using a Leica – the best equipment that was available to him for bird
photography at the time. The cover was an artist interpretation of one of his photos!
His interest in bird photography continued after he developed his own camera, but the pressures of running
his camera businesses meant that he had less time for bird photography. He did continue to photograph, but
few of his photos were seen by the public.
He made several photo expeditions with his friend Crawford Greenewalt (president of Dupont) who was the world
expert on hummingbirds and who spent much of his time photographing this fascinating family of birds. Sven
Gillsäter was a friend and renowned wildlife photographer who accompanied Victor on many of his photography
trips. Victor Hasselblad’s last photographic vacation was a memorable trip with Gillsäter to the Galapagos in
1978. Victor’s collection of bird photos were donated to the VIREO library (Visual Resources for Ornithology)
at the Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia which holds the largest collection of bird photos in the world.
In 1975 he was asked to put on an exhibition of his bird photos in Oslo. The exhibition was called “Några
Nordiska Fåglar” (“Some nordic birds”) and ran from 4-19 October 1975. The poster from that exhibition with
a copy of “Flyttfågelstråk” over top of it are shown to the right (from Forum magazine 1991-1 and an article
by Evald Karsten). There were 64 12 by 12 cm prints displayed at this exhibition Oslo.
In response to the positive feedback about the exhibition in Oslo, in 1977 twenty five sets of twelve of
the photos were made up and sold as fund raiser for the World Wildlife Fund or given to friends or clients (a
total of 300 prints). The prints are mounted on matt board and covered with a beveled matt. The overall size
is 21 by 23.5 cm with a stamped identification on the back. They were titled “the First Series” but there was
no subsequent series. One of the attractions of these prints is that they all have a handwritten identification
of the bird in the photos with date and location and signed by Victor Hasselblad. He obviously spent many hours
doing the descriptions and signatures for these mounted prints. Some of the photos in the exhibition and in the
sets of 12 were taken by Victor Hasselblad in May and June 1975 in the Nidigen Islands while using one of the
preproduction 2000FC cameras – his personal testing this new model camera.
The photos are very nice pieces of photographic art. Photographing birds is an admirable skill and with the
advent of film and then digital auto focus SLR’s, few photographers now use Hasselblad cameras and it seems
ironic that one of the original purposes envisioned for the camera has now been largely superceded.
|Photographer: Victor Hasselblad|
Male Bluethroat - Luscinia svecica svecica L.
Laisaliden, Västerbotten, Swedish Lapland
Photo no. 1/12 from Series no. 3/25
Below is a list of the photos from the 25 signed 12 print sets that were made. A thumbnail index is also
included. Many of the photos have been published elsewhere (see the references below).
|Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica svecica), male
Laisaliden (Västerbotten), Lapland
Svartå, Juni 1967
|Young of Boreal, or Tengmalm's owl (Aegolius funereus)
Svartå (Västerbotten), June 1967
|3||Sparvuggla med byte|
eve. ung talgoxe
|Pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum) with prey,
possibly young Great tit (Parus major)
|4||Större hackspett ♂|
Jonsbol, Maj 1970
|Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), male
Jonsbol (Värmland), May 1970
Råö, Februari 1972
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), male
Råö (Halland), February 1972
Råö, Maj 1972
|Northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Råö (Halland), May 1972
|7||Knölsvan med ungar|
Nära Råö, 29 Maj 1973
|Mute swan (Cygnus olor) with cygnets
Near Råö (Halland), May 29, 1973
|8||Fiskmås, nära Råö|
|Common gull (Larus canus), near Råö (Halland),
Jonsbol, 15 juni 1973
|Greenish warbler (Phyloscopus tricholoides)
Jonsbol (Värmland), June 15, 1973
Though the caption "Lundsångare" suggests that the bird shown is a Greenish warbler (Phyloscopus tricholoides), the picture actually shows a Willow warbler, or "Lövsångare" (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Nidigen, 29 Maj 1975
|Black guillemots (Cepphus grylle)
Nidingen (Halland), May 29, 1975
Nidingen, Maj 1975
|Sandwich terns (Sterna sandvicensis)
Nidingen (Halland), May 1975
Nidingen, 19 Juni 1975
|Sandwich terns (Sterna sandvicensis)
Nidingen (Halland), June 19, 1975
- Hasselblad ("I am the Camera"), Evald Karsten, Gullers International, Stockholm, 1981
- Forum magazine, 1998, issue 3-4
- Forum, 1991, issue 1
Copyright 2006 - Rick Nordin. All rights reserved.
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