Suburban World: The Norling Photos

Journalist Brad Zellar discovered a treasure trove of photographs by Irwin Norling in the vaults of the Bloomington Historical Society in 2002. He knew he was onto something special. As Zellar writes, among the 10,000 photos, “[I found] portraits of Shriners, shots of donkey baseball games, parades, rodeos, city council meetings, fires and horrific car crashes. There are family Christmas-card photos, documents of drug busts, and periodic shots of Met Stadium going up; there are pancake breakfasts, weddings and murder-suicides.”

Irwin Denison Norling (1916-2003) was born in south Minneapolis and attended Roosevelt High School. He married June Rose Mills in 1943; they were together for fifty-five years, until her death in 1998. They had three children, daughter Pat and sons Dave and Mike.

While Irwin Norling worked at Honeywell for more than 37 years, in his spare time he was also “Bloomington's unofficial photographer,” not only selling his photos of community events to the local paper, but also offering his services to the police. “If they wanted photos,” Norling said, “I always provided them gratis. A lot of these accident or crime scene photos would come in handy as evidence, and the cops eventually became my best salesmen. If an attorney or an insurance company wanted photos, the police department would refer them to me, and these people would have to pay for them. I knew I liked to take pictures, and I discovered that I liked it even more when I realized I could make money at it.”

Here is a small selection of the 40 photographs on exhibit at the History Center.

Slide Show: Select any image to bring up the slide show.