Winter Magic. Spellbinding Photographs by Per Breiehagen

winter magic photos per breiehagen if it's hip, it's here

I came across these stunning winter landscapes by photographer Per Breiehagen, taken for personal family Christmas cards, years before they were immortalized in a book. Charmed with the beautiful images I shared them with you here for the first time way back in 2011. Since then, I’ve had to continually update this article, because the photos have since turned the photographer and his wife into quite the success story.

As Breiehagen embarked on more similar images on a grander scale, he received such positive feedback, he licensed them as stock photos to Getty images. They were used by many brands, including an Italian children’s clothing brand, who then commissioned an international ad campaign from the photographer for the holiday season. A year after that, accompanied with text written by his talented wife, the images are used in what becomes a best-selling book and, then a series of books. Wow.

Winter Magic photos by Per Breiehagen

Winter Magic photos by Per Breiehagen

Per briehagen photo

Winter Magic photos by Per Breiehagen

little nordic girl pulling tree on sled

In 2007 Breiehagen photographed his three year old daughter Anja, styled by his wife Lori Evert, as a traditional Nordic elf near his home in Minnesota. The images expertly and magically captured the holiday spirit for his personal Christmas cards.

photos of a nordic christmas

Winter Magic by Per Breiehagen

Encouraged by positive feedback to the cards, Breiehagen embarked on a much larger version of the project. Born and raised in Norway, his childhood had centered around the fairytales and lore that are rich in Norwegian culture. Stories of elves, trolls and other creatures have inspired his narratives, instilling a sense of magic and mystery in his imagery. “Growing up in a storytelling tradition, these mental images would always be there and certainly influenced my creativity,” he says.

Winter Magic photos by Per Breiehagen

christmas wish photographer Per Breiehagen

The first round of images went to Getty Images to be used as stock photography. Within a year, the elf girl series had been picked up by agencies in South America, Northern Europe and Asia for a variety of advertising and editorial campaigns, including AT&T. In 2010 ad agency McCann Erickson used the stock images for Italian fashion brand Chicco‘s holiday campaign.

Chicco holiday campaign photos

anja and polar bear per breiehagen

Chicco holiday campaign photos

The following year Breiehagen worked again with McCann Erickson to shoot his daughter Anja in an exclusive set of images for the the Chicco brand holiday campaign, making the sweet little elf in the red cap the icon for the brand.

2011 Chicco brand holiday campaign
above: One of the images as used on Chicco’s website.

The images were seen on billboards, on television, in print and on their web site promoting the brand throughout this holiday season.

2011 Chicco brand holiday campaign

per breiehagen photos of christmas elf

per breiehagen photos of his daughter

per breiehagen photos polar bear

Winter Magic photos by Per Breiehagen

per breiehagen photos of his daughter

snow covered trees

nordic elves in winter

christmas wish photos

winter magic photo series

winter magic photo series

winter magic photo series by per breiehagen

At the time this post was originally written, Breiehagen and wife Evert were actively on the hunt for a publisher to create a Christmas book featuring these images. Anja was getting older but Breiehagen hoped her legacy as the little elf girl would continue to represent a timeless holiday spirit.

a christmas wish book

Well, it happened! Two years after this post Lori’s story The Christmas Wish was published by Random House accompanied by the photographs, became a New York Times best seller and spawned an entire series of “Wish Books” by the family.

The wish books series
After the success with their first book in 2013, Per and Lori continue to churn out more books in the Wish Series.

Several of the images in this post can seen in the children’s book by Lori Evert , The Christmas Wish .
I have chosen some of my favorites from his Winter Magic Series for this post.

To see more visit Per Breiehagen’s site.

To learn more about the props, styling and digital compositing for these beautiful images, read Jacqui Palumbo’s detailed article on this project for PDN, here.

all images courtesy of Per Breiehagen

The original photos have since spawned books, dolls and more.

Shop the Wish Books here