Maria Jonn was a successful businesswoman and photographer who ran several photography studios in various Scanian towns.
Maria Jonn was born in 1855. She was the fourth child in a family of seven siblings born at a farm in Stora Råby, just outside of Lund. Her parents were Jöns Johnsson and Hanna Johnsson (née Pålsdotter) and they were tenant farmers. The siblings were close and ended up living and working together in various combinations throughout their lives. In 1875 the family moved into Lund following the father’s unexpected death. Maria Jonn, along with her sisters, fell under the guardianship of her eldest brother Jonas Johnsson at this time.
Maria Jonn attended a female teacher training course in Ystad in 1878 and subsequently began to work as a junior school teacher. In 1886 Maria Jonn accompanied her youngest sister, Lina Jonn, to Helsingborg when Lina – after a few years of touring around Sweden and Europe – began to work at Per Alexiz Brandt’s photography studio in the town. Maria, along with her two sisters Lina and Hanna Jonn, spent the next few years learning the basics of photography. Meanwhile her brother Pål Johnsson had begun to work as a mining inspector at various sites in North and South America. In September 1889 Maria Jonn travelled, alone, across the Atlantic to Argentina to help run her brother’s household there. A little over a year later, in 1891, she returned to Sweden just as her sister Lina Jonn opened her photography studio in Lund. Maria Jonn began to work as a photographic assistant. She also supplied some of the venture capital required to start the business.
The studio, known as Fotografisk Atelier Lina Jonn, was located at Bantorget 6 in Lund and it quickly became a successful business, making Lina Jonn nationally famous as a talented photographer. Although Maria Jonn also took pictures it seems that she initially kept herself out of the limelight.
In 1895 Lina Jonn got married and moved to Norway so Maria Jonn took over the running of the business – this was just as the studio achieved peak success, winning prizes in competitions and gaining wide exposure through the national media. As the name “Lina Jonn” had become a successful and established brand representing high quality and fine portrait photography Maria Jonn retained her sister’s name for the business, even after her sister had left the enterprise.
Maria Jonn expanded the business even further. She sometimes took photographs herself but she also hired skilled photographers, including Per Bagge who later became a famous Lund photographer and who had started out as one of Lina Jonn’s assistants. Maria Jonn was a clever businesswoman who soon set up new branches to the business, located in Malmö and Arlöv. In 1901 she purchased a property at Stora Tomégatan in Lund and the entire extended Jonn family moved in there together. The success of her business was reflected in the fact that she was one of the most highly taxed residents in Lund, as per a list published in the Sydsvenska Dagbladet in 1903. That same year Maria Jonn sold the Lund branch at Bantorget to Per Bagge who ran the shop under the name of Lina Jonns Efterträdare (Lina Jonn’s successors).
In October 1904 Maria Jonn opened a studio in Malmö at Östergatan 41 which rapidly became a popular place to have your portrait taken. The following year the next branch opened, in Arlöv. At this point Maria Jonn changed the business name to Atelier Jonn which continued to benefit from the perceived quality and reputation associated with Lina Jonn from her time in the business. Maria Jonn also began to expand her enterprise beyond portrait photography and began to produce photographs of various events which were subsequently printed up as postcards. This became particularly trendy and popular during the earliest years of the twentieth century. An example of this kind of work is Maria Jonn’s image of the visit by Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf and Crown Princess Margareta to Malmö in 1905. In 1908, however, Maria Jonn sold the Malmö branch of her photography business to another photographer named Ragnar Küller, who also ran the Ystad branch under the name of Atelier Lina Jonn.
Halfway through the first decade of the twentieth century Maria Jonn also had a large stone building constructed at Stora Gråbrödersgatan 12 in Lund. The plan was to open a new modern studio there. The building was completed in 1908 and is still standing today and its history can be deciphered from some of the visible details. Above the main door is a relief containing the name Jonn in squiggly letters and at the very top of the façade there is a stone depiction of a folding camera. The studio itself was located on the top floor allowing for photographs to be taken using daylight emanating from the large roof window as well as at night thanks to the modern convenience of electricity. The ground floor of the building contained a shop which sold photographic accessories, cameras, and other equipment. The studio at Stora Gråbrödersgatan was staffed by a photographer named Ida Ekelund. She, following Maria Jonn’s death, took over the business and ran it under the name of Atelier Jonn – Ida Ekelund.
Maria Jonn never married and never had any children. However she, along with her sisters Hanna and Erika Jonn, took in their sister Lina Jonn’s child John, following his mother’s death in 1896 when he was just a few weeks old. On the death of Lina Jonn Maria Jonn travelled to Norway, organised her sister’s burial, and then brought her nephew home with her to Lund.
In 1910, just two years after her new studio had been completed, Maria Jonn died having suffered from cancer of the spine. Her obituary, published in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper states: “Through Maria Jonn we have lost an unusually hardworking woman, who was highly interested in her art, and very sympathetic in her demeanour, whose life’s work is a telling example of how a diligent and practically minded woman can in our time find ample pastures to suit her inclination and aptitude”. Maria Jonn is buried at the cemetery of St Peters Kloster.