For decades after her death, Marie Høeg’s secrets remained hidden, until the 1980s, when a box of 440 glass plate negatives marked “private” was found inside a disused barn in Oslo, Norway.
The discovery revealed the near-forgotten rebellion of a group of women and friends experimenting with gender in an era of strict conventions surrounding sexuality and identity. In 1895, Marie and partner, Bolette Berg, both students of photography, opened a portrait studio in the naval base town of Horte. Customers came looking for fairly conservative scenic and portrait postcards, but when the last tourist souvenir had been snapped and the studio closed up shop, it became a different place entirely…
Having been heavily influenced by the women’s rights movement during her art studies in Finland, Høeg used the studio not only for photography, but also as a meeting place for women interested in feminism and women’s suffrage.
At a time when women were seen as the “weaker sex” and forbidden to vote, Marie starred in her own theatrical photo shoots where she and her friends poked fun at Norwegian stereotypes, indulged in masculine vices and pushed gender boundaries. While she publicly promoted women’s rights; she started the Horten Branch of the National Association for Women’s Right to Vote and the Horten Women’s Council; these photos were never meant for public view.
You can see Marie Høeg was a woman desperately trying to express her true spirit and find an equal place in society. Sadly for Marie, she was born in an era that made her hide it all away, only to be discovered by the generation that is now enjoying the freedom she fought for without reward, like so many others.