Margit Karlsson was a landscape and portrait photographer who could be termed the tourists’ photographer of Leksand.
Margit Karlsson was born in Tibble village, Leksand parish, in 1898. She was the daughter of local parish builder Per Karlsson and his wife Mina. When Margit Karlsson had completed her schooling she began to work in a fashion store but did not settle in there. On turning 17 she became a photography student of Berta Hallgren at her second photographic studio in Leksand. Margit Karlsson had to pay 200 Swedish kronor to cover the costs of a year’s studies. She learned to retouch photographs and also undertook other technical tasks. The following year she began to work as a photographic assistant, receiving a monthly salary of 25 kronor. She then travelled to Uddevalla where she served as an apprentice for a local photographer. This was followed by another move, to Stockholm, and another period spent shadowing a photographer in the capital city.
During Margit Karlsson’s time in the metropolis she received a telegram from her father informing her that Berta Hallgren’s photography studio in Leksand was for sale and he was keen for her to purchase it. She did so, taking on the studio which Berta Hallgren in turn had previously taken over from Gerda Söderlund. It was located on the top floor of the same building which housed Efraim Gudmundsson’s café on Norsgatan. The premises were large, comprising a reception area which was full of photographs and was supplied with a desk where clients’ names and wishes were recorded. The studio itself was a large room with large windows, with a small room off it where the cameras were loaded. The workshop had dry heat presses and other equipment and an adjoining darkroom for developing and copying prints. Margit Karlsson retained the studio backgrounds which Berta Hallgren had left behind – one of which had probably been painted by the kurbits painter, Kers Lars. Initially Margit Karlsson used calling-card boxes with “Bertha Hallgrens Eftr.” (successor) printed on them, but when they ran out she printed new boxes displaying her own name.
The most frequent subjects of her photographs, other than portraits, were school class pictures and other group photos. Once box cameras and film rolls became available it took longer time to develop and copy prints taken by amateur photographers. At closing time there could sometimes be up to 40 amateur films needing to be developed, fixed, rinsed, and dried. It could take two hours to rinse the films, during which time Margit Karlsson and her photography assistant and cousin, Knis Anna Lundblad, would go on long walks towards the cemetery or cycle to the village of Plintsberg where they sampled the tasty coffee offered by Turistföreningen. On other occasions they headed out to the park or to Tibbleberget dancefloor. Sometimes they even managed to catch one of Ernst Rolf’s revue shows at Sveasalen whilst the films were being rinsed. On returning to the studio the films had to be hung up to dry before the photographer and her assistant could finally go home. The next day they still had to copy the films. During the most hectic periods developing and copying the films handed in by passing tourists was a fulltime occupation which meant that they were kept busy at nights in their primitive darkroom. Nevertheless, the studio would open at the usual time the next morning as the tourists continued to take their pictures.
On acquiring the studio Margit Karlsson had also taken over all of Gerda Söderlund’s local Leksand costumes and many tourists wanted to be photographed wearing local dress. One of Knis Anna’s tasks was to dress the paying tourists to ensure they wore the outfits correctly. Sometimes Knis Anna would be left in the darkroom, without a skirt or her shoes as she had had to lend them to a client if none of the existing items fitted. Knis Anna often wore a Leksand costume to work with the unfortunate result that some of her beautiful tops were ruined by exposure to the darkroom chemicals. Knis Anna also recounted that Margit Karlsson was equally talented at landscape photography and portrait photography. Her apprentice, Erik Franzén, who was often tasked with managing the lighting, was impressed by his boss’s eye for a photographic subject. Margit Karlsson, like her assistant, often dressed in local Leksand costume. Similarly her colleague Märta Berg in Rättvik often wore the local Rättvik outfit. The two lady photographers often socialised with Gerda Söderlund, Berta Hallgren, and Selma Westberg. On the death of her father in 1944 Margit Karlsson moved her photography studio into her parents’ home in Tibble and continued working from there until she retired in 1963.
Margit Karlsson died in Tibble in 1984.