Benedicte Marie Wrensted (February 10, 1859 – January 19, 1949) was a notable Danish-American photographer, who emigrated to the United States after running a studio for a few years in Horsens, Denmark. She is remembered above all for the many photographs she took of the Shoshone native people in Idaho.
Benedicte Wrensted was born in Hjørring, Jutland. Her parents were Captain Carl V. Wrensted, later an innkeeper, and Johanne Borgen. She grew up and attended school in Frederikshavn in the far north of Jutland. One of the few professions considered suitable for women at the time was photography. Wrensted learnt the craft in the 1880s from her aunt, Charlotte Borgen, who was a photographer in Frederikshavn. She then opened a studio of her own in Horsens which she ran for a few years before emigrating to the United States with her mother in 1894.
Years in America
After arriving in America, she first went to visit a cousin in Philadelphia, then went on to Pocatello, a small town town in southeastern Idaho where her brother Peter had already settled. Here she acquired a studio in 1895 where she took photographs of the local inhabitants and recorded the growth of the town. Perhaps her most famous work remains her documentary photographs of the Shoshone and Bannock Native Americans which are considered to be of great anthropological importance.
Wrensted became a U.S. citizen in 1912, at age 53, and the same year she ended her career as a photographer. She sold her studio in Pocatello and moved to Los Angeles where she died on January 19, 1949 shortly before her 90th birthday.
Place in anthropology
Many of her Native American images are preserved at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives. They were rediscovered in 1984 by Joanna Cohan Scherer who was looking for photographs for the Smithsonian's "Handbook of North American Indians". She found a collection of glass plate negatives in the National Archives labeled "Portraits of Indians from Southeastern Idaho Reservations, 1897".
- Aase Bak, "Benedicte Wrensted", in: Sys Hartmann (editor), Weilbachs Kunstnerleksikon, København: Rosinante 1994-2000. (Danish) Online here
- "Horsens billeder og postkort". (Danish) Retrieved October 4, 2010.
- "Benedicte Wrensted: An Idaho Photographer in Focus". Retrieved October 5, 2010.
- "Biography". In connection with previous reference. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
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