A Norwegian University Student’s Secret Street Photography From 1890s Oslo

Known mostly as an accomplished mathematician and physicist from Norway, Carl Størmer (Fredrik Carl Mülertz Størmer) also enjoyed a very unusual side hobby at the time. With a bulky camera hidden in his clothes, Størmer walked around Oslo, Norway and secretly capture candid moments of passersby. As his subjects were always caught in their natural states, Størmer’s photography stands in striking contrast to portraiture of the era that largely consisted of serious and grave images against decorative settings.

Most of his photos were taken in the 1890s by using a C.P. Stirn Concealed Vest Spy Camera, which he got in 1893 when he was a 19-year-old student at the Royal Frederick University (now, University of Oslo). “It was a round flat canister hidden under the vest with the lens sticking out through a buttonhole,” he told the St. Hallvard Journal in 1942. “Under my clothes, I had a string down through a hole in my trouser pocket, and when I pulled the string the secret camera took a photo.”

Størmer tended to capture people exactly at the time they were greeting him on the street. “I strolled down Carl Johan, found me a victim, greeted, got a gentle smile, and pulled.” He described. “Six images at a time and then I went home to switch [the] plate.” In total, the Norway’s very first paparazzi took a total of about 500 of these black-and-white photos.

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