About the Grace Photo

by my Great Great Uncle Eric Enstrom

Photography runs in my heritage, from my brother Craig who introduced me to photography, to my Great Great Uncle Eric Enstrom who created the "Grace" photo, which became Minnesota’s official state photograph in 2002.

When i was very young, i stayed at Rhoda Nyberg's house in Bovey. She was the daughter of Eric Enstrom, the professional photographer who captured the "Grace" photo. She had lots of her own very beautiful paintings on the walls. She was very artistic!  It was that visit that made me aware that the Grace image is part photo and part painting. As on her walls, were original photos that lacked the window light coming down on the left side of the print. Not a secret, but also not commonly known, the daughter had been enhancing the photo by hand oil painting prints. The print was displayed in the Enstrom Studio window, it would sell and they would print another...and another. Rhoda eventually would paint in the window light. Later one of those photos/paintings was scanned by the Augsburg Publishing House for mass production. 


Compare the original sepia tone i have, to the enhanced hand colored works.

Grace-Photo-sepiaGrace Photo Sepia Tone

Above - original sepia tone without window light or color.


Above - hand painted popular Grace image


Grace postcardGrace postcard

Above - another version of the window light from a printed postcard i bought in Bovey MN.


My mom, Marion Challgren, gave me the framed original sepia tone photograph without the window light, the photo was originally given to my Grandma Selma, on her wedding day, by Eric Enstrom. One day i was looking at the back of the framed photo and i found news clippings inside an envelope taped to the back of the frame. Its from a 1961 newspaper. The interesting thing for me is how the photo evolved.


On May 21, 2011, I attended the Exhibit opening of "The Significance of Grace" telling the story of Eric Enstrom in Bovey, MN, at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm, MN. Sponsored by the American Bank, Enstrom Studio and the Kent E. Nyberg Law Office. Exhibit contributors: Itasca County Historical Society, Brian Carlson, and the Nyberg Family.  Below are some of the photos I took of that exhibit while i was there. 

Eric Enstrom's Studio CameraEric Enstrom's Studio Camera

Eric Enstrom's Camera used in his studio. Master Studio Camera and stand. CA 1895-1905


Front of CameraFront of Camera

Front of Camera



Close up of plate on the camera


Model ReleaseModel Release

Model Release signed by Charles Wilden on July 23, 1926. If only he knew how famous his photo would become.
From what i have read, no one seems to know what became of him.


Enstrom StudioEnstrom Studio

The Enstrom Photo Studio in Bovey, Minnesota.

And the lessons here are that great images are created scenes, carefully chosen elements. Great photos are made, not taken. Enhanced with techniques after the initial capture, great photos evolve, tweaked and transformed into dynamic images. Visual art is made from our thoughts, to match our visions.

And images need to be seen, promoted, published or they are forgotten in the dark void of time.

I am honored, humbled and inspired by my linkage with "Grace" thanks to my mom Marion, my grandma Selma Enstrom (Olson), my great grandfather Louis Enstrom, brother of Eric Enstrom.

And here is a link to the Grace by Enstrom web site.