Finland, 1906. An amateur photographer named Frans Nyberg takes 9 snaps in Helsinki. 9 pictures that lead to a life.
Released from the archives of the Society of Swedish Literature in Finland to coincide with Helsiki’s 200th year anniversary. these nine images were captured by an amateur photographer named Frans Nyberg.
Nyberg’s snaps, like a tiny shaft of light into a dark attic, present us with a small but crystal sharp portal into some very everyday events in 1906 Helsinki
Crowded street celebrations on May Day, “bank girls” walking on the Klippan foreshore on the tiny harbour island of Louto, his relatives on a park bench (Pi and Ulla Berg who look like twins – are they his children? Is Elsa Berg his wife?). Kerstin Ahnger, her shy, smiling face shadowed by a flat and wide straw hat leaning on an enormous wooden carpenters horse in the rubble of a demolished building, forever a mystery.
There’s this sartorial pair too. Bruno and Ingrid Aminoff. A quick search finds Bruno on findagrave.com. He was a railway station inspector from Helsinki and he died in Russia’s Karelia Republic in 1929, age 57. His middle name was Roland. Nyberg’s photos of the Aminoffs are sharp, well exposed and composed.
And what kind of person was this amateur photographer? Frans Nyberg was a Finnish architect, graphic designer, a teacher and a painter. Born in Helsinki in 1882, he graduated as an architect in 1903, and was employed by the Emanuel Nobel Oil Company in Baku, Azerbaijan. So when he took these photos in 1906 he was 24 years old and most likely home in Helsinki on holiday, catching up with family and friends.
During the 1910s, he worked for a quite prestigious architectural firm: Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen. There he helped develop city planning proposals for Canberra in Australia and Tallinn in Eastonia amongst other places. His architectural zenith was when he designed & drafted the plans for two Finnish city halls, in Lahti and in Joensuu.
THE TWO TOWN HALLS BY FRANS NYBERG FOR ELIEL SAARINEN
FRANS NYBERG MOVES ON FROM ARCHITECTURE & HELSINKI
In the 1920s Frans changed tack, moved 35 miles east of Helsinki, to Porvoo and began working as a drawing teacher in a girls school. He would stay working in the visual arts and in Provo for the rest of his life. He etched and painted in watercolours mainly, street scenes and landscapes of Finnish cities, harbour views and factory interiors. The Finnish wikipedia states that he held several exhibitions of his work. Another search finds his watercolours. They are, as you’d expect from an architect turned drawing teacher, perfectly precise and well proportioned. Competent. One of them is of a town hall. It sold for €200.
The museum in Porvoo holds over 100 of Nyberg’s watercolours of the town as well as over 800 works from all over Finland.
In his 80th year Frans Nyberg died, a Porvoo local hero, in 1962.