Ida Johanne Hesbeck – Danish Discovery

Day 118 of Colourisation Project – September 2

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

If not for the discovery in the early 1980s of a large collection of photographs from a house about to be demolished in Denmark, the life and work of Ida Johanne Hesbeck would have faded into the darkroom of oblivion.

Little is known about Ida Johanne Hesbeck, a Danish photographer, who was born this day September 2, 1873 in Varde, Jutland.

Self portrait – Ida Johanne Hesbeck – 1910 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

What is known for certain is that between 1905 and 1914, she was apprenticed to Denmark’s famous Royal Court photographer and film maker, Peter Elfelt. There is not much information to be found in Peter Elfelt’s archives other than the fact her name appears in his notebook on the list of persons who must have Christmas cards.

Following her long apprenticeship, she moved to Søllerød Municipality, where she ran her own successful portrait studio in Holte, north of Copenhagen from 1915 to 1927.

After Hesbeck’s death in 1927, at the age of 55, her business was taken over by another female photographer, Ella Bach, who ran the business up until the late 1970s. The Studio was marked for demolition to make way for a parking space at Holte Center.

Though the majority Hesbeck’s negative collection is portraiture, its value lies in the unique historical representations of the Søllerød region through its people. All the photos are numbered and meticulously catalogued with full details of her sitters. On occasion she produced portraits for the local newspaper, Søllerød Tidende.

Consisting of some four thousand 12 × 8 cm photographic plates and approximately four hundred 16.5 × 12 negatives taken from 1915 to 1927, the photographs consist mainly of individual portraits and groups. There were also some 300 stereoscope negatives of various sizes taken between 1895 and 1915. While her photos were generally shot in traditional poses, they are nonetheless of a high quality, as can be seen from her self portrait. Some benefitted from artificial lighting and shadow effects. There was also a number of photographs of dogs in the collection.

The collection is now housed in the Historical Archive of the Rudersdal Museums in the Søllerød region.

What an extraordinary find! The kind of discovery I dream of making when fossicking around in old second-hand stores. Today in the absence of any quotes from Hesbeck herself, I will have to leave you with a quote from Susan Sontag, who had a lot to say on photography.


“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
  ― Susan Sontag

This entry was posted in Black & White, Colorization, Colourisation, Denmark, Film, Photography, Women Photographers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Ida Johanne Hesbeck – Danish Discovery

  1. This is fascinating. Thank you for sharing.


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