To my father

Today is the birthday of my late father Carsten Arnholm Sr., he would have turned 85 years today. He was a caring grandfather to our children and came to visit us very frequently for more than 20 years. He also travelled with us several times abroad, and always had something interesting to say. He was someone who never stopped learning and we could sometimes sit and talk about history, technology, politics or anything else for hours.


Although he was educated as a lawyer, and spent his professional time in the Ministry of Finance working with oil taxation laws, his passion in life was photography.  He was born in 1929 and tried photography at a very early stage, and it never stopped fascinating him. He went through all the phases of technology from simple cameras in the 1940s, to more elaborate laboratory techniques in the 1950s and 1960s.

His great tragedy in life was the loss of his sister, father and mother over 18 months in 1947-1948, when he himself was only 17 years old. You don’t go through such an experience without scars, but he managed to get a good education and his passion for photography quite naturally became even deeper. He became very active in photo competitions world wide and won many prizes. He also became very active in local clubs such as Oslo Kamera Klubb where I saw him enjoy himself in the late 1970s.

Although never being formally educated in science or technology, he never had any problems following technological trends. Spending many long nights in the darkroom in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s gave him a deep insight into what constitutes a good photography and how to process an image. Sometimes he used very elaborate lithographic techniques with marvellous results. The image below was made in the 1970s without any digital techniques. The raw material is an image of an elderly portuguese woman, which he turned into his famous “Ektepar” (“The Couple”). It shows his humorous side!

02_Ektepar When people complained about “image manipulation”, he rarely agreed. He claimed all images are heavily processed in one way or another, “raw” presentations really do not exist.

When digital photography arrived, he was thrilled. At first he gave me long lessons about the superiority of negative film over the first digital cameras, but he really embraced digital image processing from day one.  He scanned films into digital files and spent much time exploring Photoshop. He became such an expert of Photoshop that when he was more than 80 years old, he routinely gave courses to people less than half his own age.

Later, the films were abandoned in favour of the top-of-the-line digital cameras. He had fully converted from simple box cameras, black and white film and a chemical lab, into someone who naturally spoke of bit depths, unsharp masks and many other things.  Although his techniques were superb and detailed, he also had an eye for what is a good image. He travelled with friends to both Antarctica and Svalbard in the far north. Arctic photography of natural life became one of his specialties.  Some of his portraits and other images can still be enjoyed at his personal website Carsten J. Arnholm . Have a look yourself.

In 2011, it became clear that he suffered from cancer. I cannot quite comprehend how he at once accepted his situation, and never ever complained although he insisted on receiving the treatment that doctors could give. His struggle lasted for 18 months, during which time he even found ways of doing photography from bed.

On the first day of 2013 he passed away quietly.

Thank you for being who you were. Happy birthday from your son.