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Have Camera, Will Travel

While on his honeymoon in England, Arvid Viktor met George Eastman, the man who would soon found the Kodak Company and make photography accessible to the average consumer. The two men formed a business partnership, based on a simple handshake, that would last for almost 80 years. In 1888 Hasselblad began importing Eastman’s products as the sole Swedish distributor. The increasing popularity of photography and accompanying technical advances in the field led to increased demand for photographic products, a demand that the Hasselblad company was more than happy to meet. The photographic division of the company grew so rapidly that in 1908 the family formed a separate firm to deal with the increased business. This firm, Hasselblad’s Fotografiska AB, was the exclusive Swedish distributor for what was now EastmanKodak products.

Developing labs and a nation-wide network of retail outlets were established. The collaboration, founded on trust and honor between two men, proved to be an extremely successful one.  

Karl Erik Hasselblad, grandson of the company’s founder, realized how much the family had benefited from photography –  and acted accordingly. Karl Erik’s son Victor, born in 1906, was raised to be the natural heir to the family business. A shy and sensitive child with two sisters and a younger brother, Victor enjoyed country walks and developed an interest in bird watching that would stay with him the rest of his life. Victor grew into a precocious teenager with a passion for photography, an interest he had inherited from his grandfather, and a determination to improve upon existing equipment. 

During this time, he kept meticulous records of his findings and his notebooks from the period already contained suggestions for camera improvements. In what may seem like a curious move to us now, Karl Erik removed his son from school at the age of 18, cutting short the boy’s studies and sending him off to Dresden, Germany to learn the camera industry and optics manufacturing from the ground up.

This was probably a godsend to young Victor. The youth was often up early in the morning, heading out into the countryside to bird watch before school. Frequently, he was caught dozing through his classes, having exhausted himself early on. An alternative form of education was perhaps just the ticket.