When Preben Mosborg died at the age of 85 in 2012, he left behind 12,000 photographic slides shot on Ektachrome and Kodachrome over the course of nearly six decades and meticulously organized into 152 carousels.
Today, about 80 of the full-color photos he left stashed in his hall closet are on display in the social hall of First Universalist Church in South Uptown — alongside pictures taken by his son, Steven, and his granddaughter Amanda.
“This thing is an ode to dad, to grandpa Preben,” Steven said about the intergenerational photo exhibit. “There’s a lot here that’s timeless.”
Preben traveled the world, from Beijing to Bali. Everywhere he went, he’d take photos.
“He wanted photos of people and places that no one in Minneapolis had seen before,” Steven said.
Brightly colored and vividly lit, Preben’s most striking photos — of a lion nuzzling its mate in a Kenyan wildlife reserve, or of an older Swiss man leaning out of a window as his boots dry in the sun — give viewers a glimpse into the everyday subjects that caught his eye.
Preceded by a few uncles, Preben Mosborg emigrated from Denmark to South Minneapolis at the age of 20. He was a gardener and paratrooper and carpenter and postman with a wry sense of humor and a strong sense of wanderlust.
Steven noted that of his father’s 12,000 pictures, those of his family fit easily in a single carousel.
“My dad did not pull out his camera in the Twin Cities hardly ever,” he said. “I have eight million pictures of my daughter. There weren’t eight million picture slides of us growing up.”
Steven’s daughter, Amanda, said that, like many of her generation, she uses her camera to capture an experience in the moment but that photography meant something different to her grandfather.
“He took a photo to take a photo,” she said.
Steven said his father was a self-taught photographer but had an eye for perspective, composition and lighting. Most importantly, he had patience.
“If my dad saw a woodland stream or something he thought was of interest to him and the sun wasn’t out, he would wait,” he said. “My mother would quickly bring out the blanket and the crackers and the toys and try to keep us occupied until he got the perfect shot.”
Steven, a Linden Hills resident, said his first camera was a hand-me-down Nikon his father gave him for a bicycle trip to Duluth he took when he was 14. But his father never gave him photography lessons.
“My dad didn’t teach me,” he said. “He didn’t sit down and say, ‘This is my camera, here’s how to use it, these are the bells and whistles.’”
Instead, Steven learned to take photos by studying his father at work over many years. He now edits a photography column for the Southwest Journal.
Unlike his father, Steven said, “I’m drawn to capturing the four seasons in the city.”
Steven said he’s proud that his photos, and those of his daughter, now hang alongside his father’s on the walls of the church his parents joined in the early 1960s.
“I feel my dad’s presence in the whole thing,” he said. “He’s here in spirit, he just is.”
The exhibit “Three Generations Capturing the Moment” can be seen on Sunday mornings through July 7 at First Universalist Church.