Julia Margaret Cameron , The Angel at the Tomb, 1870

Written in Light

Early Photography

26.5 2018 – 13.1 2019


The exhibition Written in Light – Early Photography explores Moderna Museet’s collection of photography from the second half of the 19th century. Here you can see works by a few of history’s most prominent and fascinating photographers: Julia Margaret Cameron, Nils Strindberg, Carleton E. Watkins and many more.

Photography means “written in light”. Ever since it was first invented, photography has continued to develop and is constantly finding new applications and purposes. With the breakthrough of digital images, and their omnipresence in social media, photography is once again in a period of change. This gives all the more reason to reflect on how the history of photography impacts on contemporary photographic culture.

Thanks to two significant acquisitions in the mid-1960s, the Helmut Gernsheim Duplicate Collection, and the Helmer Bäckström Photohistorical Collection, some of the most prominent and admired photographers in history are represented at Moderna Museet, including portrait photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, Hill & Adamson, and landscape photographer Carleton E. Watkins.

Other fascinating photographic portfolios in the Moderna Museet collection are Nils Strindberg’s documentation of Salomon August Andrée’s Arctic Balloon expedition in 1897. And the exhibition also shows the Danish artist Joachim Koester’s work Message from Andrée (2005), which borrows its visual material from Strindberg’s documentation of the expedition.

Written in Light – Early Photography is a continuation of the project Another Story (2011) and is part of Before and Behind the Lens, Moderna Museet’s investigation of the role of photography in art and how the medium has changed. The exhibition Written in Light – The First Photographers was on view at Moderna Museet in Stockholm 2017.

The exhibition is part of Copenhagen Photo Festival.

Curators: Anna Tellgren and Andreas Nilsson


Carleton E Watkins, Down the Valley, Yosemite, 1861
Nils Strindberg, Den 14/7 1897, Örnen efter landningen. Ur serien Ingenjör Andrées luftfärd, 1897/1930
Rosalie Sjöman, No title, 1865
Carl Jacob Malmberg, From the series Gymnastics, ca 1875

More about this exhibition