PICTURES

Here the Swiss Photo Foundation shows and describes highlights from its collection

cast feet

Alberto Giacometti im Atelier in Paris, um 1960.

Alberto Giacometti in the studio in Paris, around 1960.

Ernst Scheidegger / © 2021 Ernst Scheidegger Archive Foundation, / Fotostfitung Switzerland

The classic artist’s studio is an inspiring place: a space in which ideas and fantasies take on material form, permeated with creativity and mostly full of traces that tell of the struggle for the valid work. Alberto Giacometti’s Paris studio was exemplary in this regard. It was crammed with unfinished sculptures, the walls littered with sketches; the plaster sediments that covered the ground kept forming new formations.

The photographer Ernst Scheidegger (1923–2016), trained at the Zurich School of Applied Arts and friends with Giacometti, enjoyed privileged access to this magical world. In 1960 he was allowed to take photos in Giacometti’s studio, while the master devoted all his energy to a sculpture intended for a place in New York. From the series of photos taken at the time, one shot stands out: it shows the artist’s legs in plaster-covered trousers on the right, the stilted legs of a figure on the left, which seem to be rushing away from their creator.

The small scene, which gains spatial depth through the light falling from the side, acts like a metaphor for Giacometti’s incessant search for perfection. The artist vacillated every day between fulfillment and despair. Often he revised the result without ever reaching the goal – or destroyed it in order to start again immediately. Scheidegger’s photography also tells of the unfinished that runs through Giacometti’s work. Reduced to its feet, it shows stillness and movement at the same time – as if the artist had just breathed life into his sculpture. While he freezes to a pillar, she steals lightly away.

Bulky idyll

Nicolas Faure: A9 - Le pont de Riddes, Dezember 1997.

Nicolas Faure: A9 – Le pont de Riddes, December 1997.

Nicolas Faure / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Like an artificial backdrop, the panorama of the snow-covered Valais Alps sits on a structure that easily acts as a side wall a motorway bridge can be seen. The reversal of the situation is perfect: Nicolas Faure 1949) prefers to direct his camera precisely at those phenomena that are usually faded out in landscape photographs. The concrete block floating elegantly above the ground and its shadow are set so dominantly into the picture that the usual perception of the mountains suddenly collapses.
Faure takes the revaluation to extremes by recording the landscape in the most beautiful postcard weather and presenting his photography as a large-format, painting-like tableau.

In Switzerland he was one of the first to focus consistently on color. With extensive projects he is always looking for the unadorned face of the present – not as a critic, but as a sober, unexcited observer of repressed and overlooked facts. Faure’s book “Switzerland On the Rocks” (1992), which investigates the compulsive decoration of gardens with “wild” boulders, was continued in “Autoland” (1999), an essay on the transformation of the landscape through technical and structural interventions, and finally in «Landscape A» (2005), a work about motorways, which also includes the bulky picture from Valais.


Big hands

Roberto Donetta, Bleniotal, 1904–1932.

Roberto Donetta, Blenio Valley, 1904-1932.

Roberto Donetta / Photo Foundation Switzerland

The boy grips the girl’s forearm with large, strong fingers. It’s hard to believe that the hand belongs to this adolescent. In a butcher’s apron and smock, including a tie, he presents himself as an apprentice or employee. Next to him, brought to the right height by the photographer, is probably his sister. So the boy can pull her protectively towards him, hold her tight like the cat, who would rather jump away.
In the In the Blenio valley, a barren mountain valley in Ticino, sibling care was important at the beginning of the 20th century; Many families had to emigrate in order to survive, while those who stayed at home were also dependent on the labor of their children, who contributed to the nutrition of large households.

The touching double portrait is due to the self-taught Roberto Donetta (1865–1932), who works as a seed dealer regularly hiked through the entire Blenio Valley. What he earned, he invested in photography. Soon the eccentric became the chronicler of the valley he hardly ever left – with portraits, wedding pictures, numerous shots of children who look seriously and solemnly into the camera. Most of the time, they look like little adults. But with photography, Donetta also brought poetry to the valley. Whenever he showed up with his heavy glass plate camera, he became a director who turned the surroundings into a studio, inventing virtuoso improvised and loving compositions with the few props available. Donetta was an unrecognized, sometimes desperate artist in a remote area, completely addicted to his passions and dreams. In the end it broke.


Japanese Mermaid

Ernst A. Heiniger, Seegras-Taucherin, Filmszene aus Ama Girls (USA, 1958), um 1956.

Ernst A. Heiniger, seaweed diver, film scene from Ama Girls (USA, 1958), around 1956.

Ernst A. Heiniger / Swiss Photo Foundation

Ernst A. Heiniger (1909–1993) and his wife Jean drove along the Japanese coast for weeks to find the right location for a film that they commissioned in 1956 realized by Walt Disney. Disney had launched the new documentary film series “People and Places” and discovered the Swiss photographer and cameraman while visiting the “World Exhibition of Photography” in Lucerne.

Heiniger was immediately engaged for three films – one about Switzerland and two about Japan. The photographer, who grew up on a farm in Urdorf, moved to the USA, began a career in Hollywood and was enthusiastic about the new challenges. For “People and Places”, for example, Heiniger appropriated the new cinemascope process with widescreen, for which at that time there were only color films with weak light sensitivity. Despite the documentary approach, he worked with studio-like productions and artificial light to compensate for the technical deficiency of the film material.

A day’s trip west of Tokyo, Ernst A. Heiniger found a place that he imagined: the archaic fishing village of Inatori. He selected a few villagers, arranged them into a family and let them play their “authentic” everyday life. Yukiko – an 18-year-old hairdresser in real life – is one of those divers with special skills in the film. They stay under water for minutes to harvest the coveted seaweed.

The 30-minute film “Ama Girls” won an Oscar in 1959 and spurred Heiniger’s further career. Numerous photographs were taken on the set between filming, such as this shot of the alleged diver who had just emerged from the sea. As a kind of mermaid she embodies a phantasm: beautiful, mysterious, exotic and aloof.


Perfectly destroyed

 Luzzi und Michael Wolgensinger, Glühbirne, 1968

Luzzi and Michael Wolgensinger, light bulb, 1968

Luzzi and Michael Wolgensinger / Fotostiftung Schweiz

The broken light bulb looks like an answer to Hans Finsler’s icon of the flawless eggs. Luzzi Herzog (1915–2002) and Michael Wolgensinger (1913–1990) met in his photography class at the Zurich School of Applied Arts. In 1936, two years before their wedding, the two founded a studio for product photography, photo reports and advertising.

In the following five decades, the image ideas had to adapt to the aesthetics of the time and the wishes of customers: Lush, sometimes humorous presentations of the objects to be advertised were created; Wolgensinger’s studio was also known for color photography. But the picture of the lightbulb from 1968 paraphrases the New Photography of the 1920s and 1930s: The pieces were arranged with the greatest precision in such a way that they are reminiscent of a compact pear shape. They were lit so skilfully that the edges stand out like black lines from the white background and the glass is tinted darker in the center.

A masterpiece of product photography, but with the The purpose of the advertisement was denied – the light bulb shown can still be identified as such, but is useless in this condition. In this combination of destruction and perfection, the picture becomes an end in itself, a work of art.


(K) an ordinary bed

Balthasar Burkhard, Markus Raetz, Das Bett, 1969/1970.

Balthasar Burkhard, Markus Raetz, Das Bett, 1969/1970.

Vida Burkhard / Fotostiftung Schweiz, Markus Raetz / 2021, ProLitteris, Zurich

Photographs open up spaces. Often the observing gaze penetrates through the surface of the picture, it applies to the depicted scene and ignores the medium. The photography of this sparse interior resists such an approach – a stained wall, a bed lit by a desk lamp is illuminated.

The recording was made in 1969 when Balthasar Burkhard (1944 to 2010) visited his artist friend Markus Raetz (1941 to 2020) in his studio in Amsterdam . For an exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Luzern, the two enlarged the picture a year later to a width of 2.60 meters on a photo canvas. With the unusual materiality and the large format, they called for a critical examination of perception, in the spirit of the sentence “The medium is the message” of the sociologist Marshall McLuhan from 1964.

The photographed folds of the bedspread and the actual folds of the canvas overlap, space and surface mix. When it comes to creating the perfect illusion, photography is superior to painting. As an artistic medium, however, it still had to prove itself at the beginning of the 1970s. With conceptual and monumental works like this one, the Burkhard / Raetz duo undermined common viewing habits – crossing boundaries that paved the way for photography into museums.


A resting pole

Philipp Giegel, Auf dem Löwenplatz Zürich, 1950

Philipp Giegel, Auf dem Löwenplatz Zurich, 1950

Philipp Giegel / BAK / Swiss Photo Foundation

As in-house photographer for the Swiss National Transport Authority, Philipp Giegel (1927–1997) shaped the appearance of tourism advertising for 43 years. The graduate of Hans Finsler’s photography class at the Zurich School of Applied Arts took countless pictures of skiers and hikers in front of mountain panoramas. He was particularly fond of photographing sporting competitions that allowed him to display speed and dynamics in a spectacular way. Movement also plays an important role in the street scene captured in Zurich – the center of the composition, however, is claimed by a statue-like figure: the newspaper seller, wrapped in a coat and blanket, does not let herself be disturbed while the world around her is in a hurry.

The ski racer on the cover of the magazine for sale is racing down the mountain twice. A passerby rushes by and deliberately overlooks the protagonist. A window cleaner swirls his rag over the glass. Three people meet in a confined space, but none of them pays attention to the other. The fourth actor is the photographer, who stops time and thus makes himself an accomplice to the newspaper seller. The city can only be seen indirectly and reversed in the shop windows. So she appears more fleeting, more fragile than the woman enthroned in the center, who rebels in her own way against transience.


A cinema in four pictures

Werner Gadliger, aus der Maquette des Buches Begegnungen, vor 1979

Werner Gadliger, from the maquette of the book Encounters, before 1979

Werner Gadliger / Fotostiftung Schweiz

A clown, a madman, a street artist, a city original? The man’s idiosyncratic gestures refuse to be classified into familiar categories. But with the strange performance, he succeeds in inviting passers-by to linger – and participate. Four shots are enough for Werner Gadliger 1950) to dissolve the static of photography. The picture story becomes an animated flip book. Whereby “animated” can also be translated as “animated”: if you leaf through Gadliger’s book maquette “Encounters” from 1979, you will encounter very real individuals.

They are loving photographic dialogues, as equals the protagonists of the Aware of the approach of the photographer. Often they react to his presence with looks or grimaces. “I don’t photograph people to expose them, but to capture their uniqueness,” writes Gadliger. Originals and outsiders as well as artists – sculptors, painters, filmmakers and writers – come to the show. Whether known or not, Gadliger feels related to them. His work reads like a manifesto for diversity, a plea against small minds. His absurd poems and surrealistic drawings also prove: A generous view of the world opens up here, in which much has space.


Rhythmic study

Walter Schwabe, Rhythmik-Studie in der Tanzschule Suzanne Perrottet, 1927

Walter Schwabe, rhythm study in the dance school Suzanne Perrottet, 1927

Walter Schwabe / Fotostiftung Schweiz

The dancer dominates the picture: frozen in motion, her head as if in a trance thrown backwards, one arm outstretched as if reaching for a ray of sunshine. Her hand marks the tip of a compositional triangle, in the corners of which the Elevinnen, sitting on the floor, set the rhythm with the cymbal, tambourine and triangle. They observe and support the representation of this body, which stands out brightly from the background in an airy shirt.
The Rhythm study by Walter Schwabe (1887–1961) conveys concentration and dedication – and the modernity of Suzanne Perrottet’s dance school. She was a pioneer of expressive dance, which was developed as part of a life-reforming utopia.

The classic composition of photography and the The technical implementation as bromine pressure contrasts with the radicalism of the new dance – the picture follows the conventions of pictorialism, for which painting served as a model. In fact, Schwabe, a trained lithographer, worked as a painter in Munich until 1914 before emigrating to Switzerland to avoid being drafted into the war. He ran a photo studio in Zurich from 1915 to 1961 and specialized in dance photography in addition to portraits, material and fashion shoots. Apparently his fascination for modern body language was greater than his interest in the visual language of avant-garde photography.


The moment after

Candid Lang, Zuschauer und Polizei nach dem Rolling-Stones-Konzert im Hallenstadion Zürich, 14. April 1967

Candid Lang, spectators and police after the Rolling Stones concert in the Hallenstadion Zurich, April 14, 1967

Candid Lang / Fotostiftung Schweiz

It was the moment when the wave of international showbiz swept over sedate Switzerland, with such force that rioting fans turned the seating in the Zurich Hallenstadion into small wood – the guest performance of the Rolling Stones on April 14, 1967. The photograph by Candid Lang ( 1930 to 2006) documents the beginning of the subsequent youth revolts, which went down in history as the “Globuskrawall” (1968) or the “Opera House Riots” (1980). The tough crackdown by the city police formed the breeding ground for the clashes, which often broke out on the occasion of cultural events.

As an extremely productive photographer, Lang was a big name in Swiss press photography. Following the ideal of authenticity, his reports and portraits of numerous personalities still seem fresh and spontaneous to this day. The recording from the Hallenstadion lives from a special tension: It shows a chaotic situation from an elevated perspective. The stadium is brightly lit and resembles a battlefield. Although the actual riots after the concert are over, hundreds of knocked over and destroyed folding chairs testify to the brutality of what happened. The riots became the focus of media coverage, the fans stole the show from the Rolling Stones to a certain extent.


Total networking

Art Ringger, Fotomontage aus der Serie Vom Bücherwald zum Datennetz, 1995

Art Ringger, Fotomontage aus der Serie Vom Bücherwald zum Datennetz, 1995

Art Ringger, photomontage from the series Vom Bücherwald zum Datennetz, 1995

Art Ringger / Fotostiftung Schweiz

The wired The notebook in the man’s face makes us think of virtual reality glasses that simulate three-dimensional worlds. But it also obscures the man’s view and prevents him from perceiving anything. Do the electronic media provide new insights – or do they prevent them? Art Ringger 1946) seems to anticipate this question prophetically. It is true that the personal computer had already started its triumphant advance in 1995 when the picture was taken. Since then, however, the replacement of the Gutenberg galaxy by the Turing galaxy has advanced exponentially: networked computers have replaced the book as the leading global medium. Ringger’s series From the forest of books to the data network addresses this media change with wit and ingenuity and last but not least, a lot of technical skill.

The «Fotomontör», as he called himself, made a name for himself as a master of analogue photomontage, before digital image processing made it child’s play. His work falls into this phase of transformation: the transition from photo print to freely circulating image file has also radically changed his approach to photography. Art Ringger’s style is hyper-realistic, often based on analog black-and-white montages that he hand-colored with an airbrush technique. A trademark with which he amazed his audience – and which the photographer and illustrator used extremely well for the purposes of satire, advertising and art.


Bad surprise

Jules Decrauzat, Absturz des Fliegers François Durafour, Collex bei Genf, 1911

Jules Decrauzat, crash of the plane François Durafour, Collex near Geneva, 1911

Jules Decrauzat / Photopress archive / Keystone

With broken wings, François Durafour’s biplane lies in the thicket of trees and bushes – another Swiss aviation pioneer lost the fight against gravity on July 23, 1911 near Geneva. The photographer Jules Decrauzat (1879–1960) climbed a tree to get a good picture of the scene. From a bird’s eye view, you can see the summer hats of the elegantly dressed people who crowd around the wreck. But if you search the picture carefully, you will make a nasty discovery: In the lower left corner, half covered by leaves, you can see the face of a man, undoubtedly the pilot. His eyes are closed – is he dead?

Born in Biel and trained as a sculptor in Geneva, Jules Decrauzat was Switzerland’s first professional photo reporter. As early as 1900 he made a name for himself in the French press with gripping snapshots, from 1910 he worked for the Geneva magazine “La Suisse Sportive” and devoted himself to the emerging aviation sport. Decrauzat was an ardent advocate of progress: wherever speed records were set, he was there. Inevitably, he was also an eyewitness to many of the tragedies that the new age brought with it. In this case it could be that the photographer didn’t discover the fallen hero until he was developing the picture in the darkroom – luckily he already knew that Durafour had survived the crash.


Midsummer Night’s Dream

Aus der Werkgruppe Flaxen Diary, 2003.

From the group of works Flaxen Diary, 2003.

Christian Vogt / 2021, ProLitteris, Zurich

That happened in the tabernacle from which the girl with the rabbit rushes out? The ball left behind indicates a harmless child’s play, the child’s summer clothes glow in cheerful colors. But the nocturnal scene, captured like a snapshot, appears gloomy and unsettling. The little witch crouches and shakes as if she wanted to free herself from an invisible hand. She herself holds the wriggling animal by the neck – what she does to him seems to happen to her herself. “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are”, quotes the photographer Christian Vogt 1946) from a Talmudic sentence and thus explains his relationship to photography, his awareness that there is no objective perception of reality gives, let alone a general interpretation of images.

From the 1970s, Vogt made a name for himself as a photo artist who made use of the diverse possibilities of his medium exhausted: He stages, constructs, integrates language and writing. But he also appreciates the “associative potential of reality”. For example, in the Flaxen Diary series, created from 2003: Incidents observed by chance are turned into enigmatic works of art, fragments of a narrative, through lighting and excerpts. However, this narrative only becomes meaningful when the viewer looks for meaning.


Photographic memory

Doppelwohnhaus (von Südosten), Dessau, 1926

Double house (from the southeast), Dessau, 1926

Moholy, Lucia / Lucia Moholy / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Behind a curtain made of pine trunks stand the masters’ houses. Lucia Moholy (1894–1989) made necessity a virtue: she integrated the trees into the picture. The dark trunks break through the horizontal lines of the Bauhaus buildings in Dessau and divide the white facade into squares, the basic geometric element of modern architecture. The blurry tufts of the treetops create a contrast to the relentless clarity of the buildings. These must once have seemed disturbingly modern and alien to the inhabitants of Dessau, but in Moholy’s portrayal they do not seem to threaten the old order.

The New Objectivity, implemented here in architecture and photography, was the defining style at the Bauhaus and was developed by the The photographer consistently pursued: Soberly and with high quality standards, she went to work when she photographed the objects from the workshops – from the coffee cup to the furnishing of entire rooms. Her pictures were an instrument with which the Bauhaus tried to establish its ideas and market its products. While her husband, the Bauhaus teacher László Moholy-Nagy, became famous for his experimental approach, Lucia Moholy, who lived in Zollikon from 1959, has shaped the myth of the avant-garde institution with her photographs to this day.


Male looks

Männerblicke, Sao Paulo, 1952.

Male looks, Sao Paulo, 1952.

Armin Haab / Swiss Photo Foundation

The young woman strides purposefully through a group of men. She has a tight grip on her purse and concentrates on the floor so as not to return any of the many male glances she is exposed to. Armin Haab (1919 to 1991) recorded this situation in São Paulo in 1952. Did he want to document Latin American machismo? That would fit the ethnographic interest with which Haab traveled in many countries.

The offspring of a mill owner and later owner of the mill was financially secure. He traveled, collected Mexican graphics and took photos. Haab was professionally trained, but he could afford to pursue his private interests – without an assignment or deadline pressure. An impressive work was created between 1948 and 1969, which Haab put together in over 40 cassettes; some of his reports appeared in the magazine “Du”.


In the above shot he caught the decisive moment. The protagonist is in the center, the extras form a circle around her, some turn around to look at her. The male behavior seems intrusive and enthusiastic at the same time, voyeurism and admiration are close together. Also in Haab’s photography: The picture is a piece of booty and at the same time a compliment to a proud, self-confident woman who does not allow herself to be distracted from her path by macho behavior.


Sorcerer’s apprentice

Jean-Pascal Imsand: Die Milchstrasse, 1987.

Jean-Pascal Imsand: The Milky Way, 1987.

Jean-Pascal Imsand / Fotostiftung Schweiz

The shadow figure has just landed in a fog of light, only one foot is on the inclined plane , the tip of her coat is still fluttering. Through the wing-like au With her arms outstretched, she seems connected to the stars above her, dancing with them through the galaxy. Jean-Pascal Imsand (1960–1994), the creator of this gloomy bird man, was a trained lithographer, but from the mid-1980s he made a name for himself as a photographer with large essays for publications such as “Du”, NZZ, “Das Magazin” or “Le Nouveau” Quotidia ». His outstanding achievements include the assemblies with which he demonstrated his craftsmanship and imaginative power in the darkroom. In the work “Die Milchstrasse”, for example, at least two images flow seamlessly into one another by exposing different negatives one after the other on the same paper – an analog process that anticipates digital techniques. Imsand blended real scenes perfectly and created a new, surreal dream image; he drew from his negative fund and used it to compose dark fantasies, like the brain in sleep at night. Jean-Pascal Imsand would have been credited with many more brilliant projects. But in 1994, at the age of 34, he committed suicide. Against this background, the motif is reminiscent of the sorcerer’s apprentice who can no longer get rid of the spirits he called.


In a circle the photographer family

Carl Taeschler (zugeschrieben): Johann Baptist Taeschler mit seinen Söhnen, Daguerreotypie gerahmt, um 1850.

Carl Taeschler (attributed to): Johann Baptist Taeschler with his sons, framed daguerreotype, around 1850.

Collection Fotostiftung Schweiz

Two generations of a family of photographers who were among the pioneers in Switzerland: Johann Baptist Taeschler (1805–1866), surrounded by his sons Emil, Max and Ludwig. Carl, the oldest, is probably behind the camera. The watchmaker Taeschler mastered the daguerreotype, the first commercially usable photography process, just a few years after the patent application was filed in Paris in 1839. He used this elaborate unique technique to capture the portraits of wealthy people on silver-plated copper plates – initially as a traveling photographer, from 1850 in his photo studio in St. Fiden near St. Gallen.

The artistic claim is revealed in the company name «photographic-artistic Atelier Taeschler», under which the Taeschler brothers continued the business after the death of their father. They were known for painterly retouching negatives and high quality prints. Something of the flair of an artist family also resonates in this, for the time, unaccustomedly informal family picture: Although they had to hold still for a long time, the boys with their elegant foulards are not grouped rigidly around their father, who emphasizes the familiar with his house cap. At the same time, the placement and expression of the hands appear carefully studied. It’s probably not the first time they’ve been posing in front of the camera.

Such private family pictures only found general distribution almost 40 years later, with the introduction of handheld cameras and roll film. It is noteworthy that the female family members contributed effectively to the business success, but did not find a corresponding place either in the picture or in the family chronicle.


Wind from the south

Anny Wild-Siber: Ginster.

Anny Wild-Siber: Gorse.

Anny Wild-Siber / Photo Foundation Switzerland

In the Piedmontese early summer, Anny Wild-Siber (1865–1942) captured a strange picture: a Mediterranean landscape with rolling hills and cypresses, framed of a flowering gorse bush and a branch of a tree swaying in the wind. While the sharpness of the picture is reserved for the gorse, the landscape appears so remote, as if it were a painted background. The velvety colourfulness of the photography contributes to the dreamlike atmosphere.

The subdued colourfulness is typical of the autochrome plates, which came on the market in 1907 and also allowed laypeople to use color taking photos. For the process, the glass plates, which served as the carrier for the light-sensitive emulsion, were additionally coated with a layer of orange, green and purple colored potato starch granules. These worked as light filters and created a pointillist color effect.

Anny, the youngest daughter of the Zurich silk manufacturer Siber, had married Emilio Wild in 1893 and moved with him to northern Italy, where he did business successfully in the cotton industry and – financially secure – devoted herself to art: first she painted still lifes and copied old masters, later she took photos. Thanks to the Lumière brothers’ autochrome invention, their landscapes and flower arrangements came astonishingly close to painting.


The lightness of being

Martin Glaus, Stadt-Spielplatz, Nizza, 1948.

Martin Glaus, Stadt-Spielplatz, Nice, 1948.

Martin Glaus / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Three years after the end of the war, Martin Glaus (1927-2006) from Thun photographs an unspectacular street scene in Nice: Through a large iron gate, the panes of which have been partially knocked out, the view falls on children playing, poor facades, a paved street and the laundry hanging over it. The gate takes up most of the picture area; Shreds of torn posters merge with the grid structure to form an abstract pattern that connects almost organically with what is happening on the street and the textiles in the air. The superimposition of the different levels obstructs the unobstructed view – a deconstruction that shows that photography can only ever be fragmentary. Glaus, who has just finished his training, seems to register rather than focus with his camera. He belongs to the generation of young photographers who, after the war, turned their backs on the clean, objective, euphemistic and bloodless photography of their fathers with “subjective photography”.

The picture title Stadt-Spielplatz is more than a synopsis; This also includes a general interest in everyday urban life, in which the public and private come together in a small space and the juxtaposition of different living environments enables unpredictable images – a stimulating environment for lyrical, expressive photography in which the personal viewing experience is more important than the objective depiction. Glaus observes the children on the street from a respectful distance without disturbing them while they are playing. Framed by gray and black fields, they convey an idea of ​​the lightness of being.


So far, so close

Pictures Yvonne Griss / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Yvonne Griss, from the series «Melancholie», 1988.

Pictures Yvonne Griss / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Television should bring the foreign closer to us, bring the big wide world right into our living room. However, these four spectators do not seem particularly fascinated. Rather thoughtful and absorbed in oneself. Yvonne Griss (1957–1996) was interested in the facial expressions of television viewers and remarked: “At this moment, people are immersed in a state of inner contemplation.” So does the view into the distance become a journey to ourselves? The pictures are part of the series “Melancholie”, which appeared in 1988 in the magazine “Du”. The high-contrast black and white and the dramatic lighting through the bright screen, which draws the portrayed under its spell and distracts them from the camera, make the recordings look like film images.

After completing his apprenticeship as an industrial photographer, Griss did an internship as a camerawoman and worked in film production. The conceptual way of working and the careful staging were also part of her photographic practice. With a lot of imagination and a willingness to experiment, she often illustrated abstract topics for various Swiss magazines. She photographed menstruation and childlessness, but also created a humorous series about gun fools and exotic pets. Griss did not travel to distant lands on the hunt for a photo report – in those years reporting was more and more taken over by television anyway. Instead, she turned her gaze to the mostly overlooked, the private, the obvious


Modeling with light

Martin Imboden / Photo Foundation Switzerland

In the 1920s and 1930s, an avant-garde sounded out the means of photographic design: unusual cut-outs , Perspectives or lighting effects were used to present the familiar in a surprisingly new, even strange way. In cooperation between the photographer Martin Imboden and the dancer and later theater scholar Axi (actually Agnes) Bleier, her face served as a projection surface for a joint staging.
Martin Imboden (1893–1935) was a trained carpenter, very interested in music and versatile. After various courses and the first published reports, he decided in 1929 to turn photography into a profession. As already as an apprentice, he went hiking again, this time with the camera, and remained a traveler until his early accidental death.

During his stay in Vienna, he moved around the area the free dance scene, which tried out new, expressive elements far away from classical ballet. With his photographs, Imboden tried not to document this expressive dance, but to recreate it. In the photo by Axi Bleier, the expressivity focuses on the facial features modeled by the light – it does not come from within, but is placed over the face like a mask from the outside.

Imboden’s picture exposes the physiognomic clichés of the time when photographic portraits were misused to classify people into races and to determine their characters. One can understand his Sphinx as an antithesis to so-called type photography.


occupy mountains

Jean Gaberell, Am Gallina, um die Jahre 1914–18.

Jean Gaberell, Am Gallina, around the years 1914-18.

Jean Gaberell / Fotostiftung Schweiz

In earlier times the high mountains were a feared, eerie zone; It was not until the 19th century that adventurers began to climb peaks. Climbing got a deeper meaning: Whoever reached the top had achieved a victory, gained a view and insight and symbolically marked the territory.

The latter plays a central role in the recording that Jean Gaberell (1887 – 1949) made at Pizzo Gallina during the First World War. The Gotthard massif, to which the Gallina belongs, became the epitome of the Alpine fortress of Switzerland. In fact, if you take a closer look, you can see that the two exposed figures are not just daring athletes, but fearless guards. They pose for the photographer like toy figures and occupy “their” mountain. A bright mountain lake shines deep below them, which makes the almost vertical rock face even more dramatic.

Jean Gaberell, whose photographic archive has been lost, learned from the successful Thalwil postcard publisher Gebr. Wehrli AG how photography can be used to reach a wide audience. Later he made a name for himself with impressive pictures of the Swiss mountains, in wartime also in a military context. Many of his photos were printed in brochures with which the army wanted to strengthen the will to fight. He summarized his best landscape photos in two opulent volumes under the title “Gaberell’s Swiss Pictures” (1927/30): thanks to excellent gravure printing quality, a milestone in the history of Swiss photo books.


Outlook and Hope

Thomas Kern, Camp Canaan, Bon Repos, Haiti, 2012.

Thomas Kern, Camp Canaan, Bon Repos, Haiti, 2012.

Thomas Kern / 2021, Pro Litteris, Zurich

The flag of Haiti flutters on an improvised mast, Countless dwellings can be made out on the lower level. After an earthquake devastated the country in 2010 and claimed more than 300,000 deaths according to official figures, tens of thousands who had become homeless settled here; they marked out plots of land and built new shelters. Canaan is the name of the haphazardly created camp, but milk and honey do not flow there. There is a lack of water, electricity, medical supplies, sanitary facilities, schools.

Thomas Kern 1965), co-founder of the Zurich photography agency Lookat Photos (1990-2004), worked as a photojournalist in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and the Balkans, among others. For twenty years he kept returning to Haiti to devote himself to the everyday life of the Haitian people, away from the seemingly endless series of disasters and calamities. His 2012 photograph is more than a document – it also conveys a mood. Rigidity and pride, which are reflected in the cut flag, are also expressed in the upright posture of the girl in school uniform. The out of focus figure, deep in thought, holding a pencil to her lips, looks into the distance – where the photographer has focused. This picture also tells of the hope for a better future, for education, for a life in dignity. Can this dream ever come true in Haiti, where black slaves fought for independence from the colonial power France in 1804?


Let there be light

Hugo Paul Herdeg, Lichtschalter, um 1945.

Hugo Paul Herdeg, light switch, around 1945.

Christian and Klaus Herdeg / Fotostiftung Schweiz

It has long been a matter of course that we turn night into day with a single click can. For this convenience, the Swiss company Feller invented a toggle switch in 1932, in which form and function matched perfectly – Max Bill described it as “perhaps the final form of an electric light switch at all”. The photographer Hugo Paul Herdeg (1909 to 1953) paid tribute to this simple object made of synthetic resin in his own way: He detached it from its everyday context and erased all traces of the accidental. Set in the light against a black background, the small, white switch looks monumental – a ready-made that confronts the viewer with self-confidence and clearness.

Herdeg was undoubtedly the right photographer for this assignment. After causing a sensation in Paris with his modernist photographs of the 1937 World’s Fair, he returned to Zurich in 1939, where he ran one of the most important ateliers for object photography. He stayed true to his factual, strict style, which also integrated surrealist influences. For Herdeg, it wasn’t about documenting, but about constructing images that precisely capture the essence of an object. For hours or days he explored his object, circled it and scanned it, according to his friends – until he carried it inside him and knew exactly what the valid recording should look like.


Hats and hairstyles

Hansbeat Stricker, USA, 1953.

Hansbeat Stricker, USA, 1953.

Hansbeat Stricker, USA, 1953.

Swiss Photo Foundation

A photographic distillate of American city life in the early 1950s : Women and men stand shoulder to shoulder in their trench coats and wait. Maybe the cinema will open its doors soon, maybe the barrier to board the ferry will go up straight away. From above, through a metal construction, Hansbeat Stricker (1924–2015) observes hats and hairdos. Or is he right in the middle of it himself and photographing the scene from below, looking into a mirrored ceiling? The narrow delimitation of the section makes the picture a mystery. Stricker left behind a whole series of recordings from New York that are more than contemporary documents. They are shaped by the fascination for this metropolis, by its iconic backdrop and by the choreography of everyday life that brings people together and separates them again. After his photography apprenticeship in Basel, Stricker worked in the advertising department of Ciba, and later for Ciba-Geigy. The stays in the USA, the further training with the documentary film director Leo Hurwitz and the acquaintance with Herbert Matter must have had a lasting impact on the young man. From then on, he preferred moving images professionally, creating documentary and cultural films as well as audio-visual shows, but he never gave up photography. He kept looking for the moments of condensation that characterize his composition of heads and shoulders.


Technology and Art

Stefan Jasienski, Schnellzug Bern – Thun, 1907.

Stefan Jasienski, express train Bern – Thun, 1907.

Collection Photo Foundation Switzerland

Somewhere between Bern and Thun, a steam locomotive pulls past a telegraph pole – two symbols of mobility and communication in the early 20th century. The diffuse light and the softly drawn implementation transform the powerful machine into a cloudy shadow shape. The echoes of painting are no coincidence. Pictorialism had established itself at the end of the 19th century: a movement of amateur photographers who wanted to get more out of photography than faithfully depicting nature. In order to express moods and to create independent works of art, a lot of effort was put into making the prints. Stefan Jasienski (1899–1990) took the picture of the locomotive when he was only eight years old.


A photographic prodigy? Not quite. Even if the picture is successful, it lives mainly from the artistic interpretation during the later transfer to paper. Jasienski was a master at this. Even as a teenager he tinkered around in the photo laboratory and mastered all possible high-quality printing processes. For this he received international prizes and the possibility of a solo exhibition in the “Camera Club of New York”. Professionally, Jasienski dealt with photographic optics and played a key role in the further development of Swiss camera models. He managed to combine technology and art.


vortex around the Mathis 333

Marcel Bolomey, Mathis 333, Pariser Autosalon, 1946.

Marcel Bolomey, Mathis 333, Paris Motor Show, 1946.

Marcel Bolomey Estate / Gottfried Keller Foundation / Fotostiftung Schweiz

In this picture everything revolves around the automobile, namely the prototype of the Mathis VL 333, which was presented at the Paris Motor Show in 1946. The vehicle with the round three-way concept – three wheels, three seats, three liters of gasoline per 100 kilometers -, developed in the middle of the war by the automobile manufacturer Émile Mathis, should be affordable for the general public. The streamlined design already points to the pace of the coming epoch, and this dynamic was also expressed by the Geneva photographer Marcel Bolomey (1905–2003). With a long exposure time, he puts the trade fair visitors, who are circling around this object of desire, into soft, flowing movements – a vortex that makes the car’s teardrop shape stand out all the more concisely.

For the mass production of the Mathis VL 333, the authorities of war-torn France did not issue a permit. He was almost as forgotten as Bolomey himself. He probably began to take photos as an autodidact in the 1930s and worked as a photo journalist for various magazines. The highlights of his career as a photographer include a report on the execution of Mussolini and the orders he received as the first official photographer of the United Nations. It was only a few years ago that his estate in the United States, where Bolomey emigrated in 1947, reappeared. A wealth of carefully composed images full of contemporary history is waiting to be rediscovered.


Magic of everyday life

Annelies Štrba: Sonja mit Samuel-Maria; 1994; aus der Serie «Shades of Time».

Annelies Štrba: Sonja with Samuel-Maria; 1994; from the series “Shades of Time”.

Annelies Štrba / 2021, ProLitteris, Zurich.

Four blue eyes stare out of the picture. The mother looks knowingly but unfathomably, the child clueless and yet wise like a little Buddha. The rumpled bed creates an intimate atmosphere; the viewer is confronted with an unconstrained and very private scene. Despite the flash, you don’t get the feeling of being an unauthorized intruder. The photograph “Sonja with Samuel-Maria” is part of the series “Shades of Time” by Annelies Štrba, which was published in 1997 as a three-part slide projection with 240 images and in book form. From the 1970s onwards, Štrba photographed her three children Sonja, Samuel and Linda obsessively – mostly in casual situations in her house in Richterswil.

Cats and other family members are also actors in the picture stories, which in their entirety are woven into a dream-like cosmos . Annelies Štrba is the mother and photographer you never see. It is able to transform everyday occurrences into universal truths. In 1994, when her eldest daughter became a mother herself, the maternal gaze doubled. The snapshot of Sonja and her son is reminiscent of devotional images of the Virgin Mary and not only cites one of the oldest motifs in Western art history, but also seems to want to capture the myth of human origin.


Retouchers at work

Atelier Eidenbenz: Maler hinter dem Fenster, um 1940.

Atelier Eidenbenz: Painter behind the window, around 1940.

Eidenbenz CH-4102 Binningen

Photography is often referred to as a window to the world, and windows have always played an important role in the history of the medium – so also with the recording from the Basel “Atelier Eidenbenz for Photography and Graphics”. This company, founded in 1933 by the brothers Hermann, Reinhold and Willi Eidenbenz, was one of the most renowned advertising agencies in Switzerland. Commercial as well as free and experimental work was created here. The vague painting scene, however, was hardly suitable as an advertisement for a painting business, although it was planned down to the last detail: from the symmetrically opened hatches to the carefully arranged brushes to the nicely placed, triangular ladder in a field of rectangles.


Also the action of the two painters, posing on a floating beam, can be understood as a design idea that gives the optical confusion a surreal, symbolic component: For once, the retouchers were called in to take the picture – not just to post-process the finished image. As it were, they blot out photography as it is created. The ornamental glasses, in turn, are reminiscent of the focusing screen of a large format camera, on which reality emerges as a possible image. Could this work be a little reflection on photography and the deceptive legibility of the world? Precisely where there are two perspectives, almost nothing can be seen.


The ideal object

Hans Finsler: Spiegeleier, 1929.

Hans Finsler: Fried eggs, 1929.

Estate of Hans Finsler

“A rose is a rose is a rose” is the famous line of poetry by Gertrude Stein, which one likes to refer to Hans Finsler’s 1929 photograph – an egg is an egg is an egg. But that would be too easy. Rather, Finsler, who became a teacher in the Zurich photography class in 1932 and shaped generations of photographers, wanted to find out how the grammar of photography works: “I wondered whether there would be some kind of basic form, a normal object, on which one could generalize Could study the laws of photography without being distracted by a special material, an individual shape or a conscious color effect. ” Finsler found the ideal object in the egg: a white, timeless natural product without edges and corners, on which the transitions from light to dark are perfectly visible. Through composition, lighting, cut-outs or reflections, he repeatedly created new, abstract-looking images in which the specific qualities of photography are beautifully expressed. With a wink, Finsler called his picture “fried egg”, but this is not about a realistic depiction of a chicken egg, but about the essence of the photographic image. He wanted to “detach the objects from the unrest of the changeable and the accidental”, said Finsler and thus created icons of modern photography.


Daring passage

Annemarie Meier: Die zerstörte Allenby-Brücke (Hussein-Brücke) über den Jordan, Jericho, 1967.

Annemarie Meier: The destroyed Allenby Bridge (Hussein Bridge) over the Jordan, Jericho, 1967.

Swiss Photo Foundation

The destruction of a bridge has Symbolic power. Like almost nothing, it symbolizes the break in relations, in this case between Israel and the Arabs. The bridge in the picture fell into the river, the Jordan. The bent iron girders and the swarm of people combine to form a high-contrast, confusing structure of light and shadow that takes up almost the entire surface of the picture and reinforces the impression of a situation from which there is no escape. The daring passage over the narrow Notsteg is the only way for the Arab refugees from the West Bank to Jordan.

The photo reporter who was right in the middle of the action was Annemarie Meier, born in Zurich in 1943. She studied with Walter Binder in the photography class at the Zurich School of Applied Arts. She was versatile, moved in the art world, but also made excursions into fashion photography. In 1966 she documented demonstrations in the United States against discrimination against African Americans and the Adobe architecture in Santa Fe. In 1967 she ventured into Israel, into the Six Day War: Her pictures show operating theaters, prison camps, dead people on the streets, wrecked planes, military convoys and again and again the faces of conquerors and displaced persons.

That the photographer’s commitment was no longer noticed is probably due to the fact Early end of her career: An avalanche accident abruptly tore the 24-year-old Annemarie Meier, who also worked as a swimming and ski instructor, out of life.


Creation of Antimatter

Christian Staub: «Genesis of Anti-Matter», Monroe, Washington, 1976.

Christian Staub: “Genesis of Anti-Matter”, Monroe, Washington, 1976.

Christian Staub / Photo Foundation Switzerland

How do you manage to reduce the three-dimensional body of a house to a two-dimensional area? Christian Staub (1918–2004) seems to have set himself this task with his photo taken in 1976. All that can be seen is a monochrome facade with a door recess and a hint of a roof; the photograph itself consists of nothing but geometrically butting rectangles. Only the white crack sets a counterpoint. Like lightning, it creates a connection between the sky and the door. Christian Staub, who grew up in Menzingen (ZG), first became known for his narrative images of people. His illustrated book “Circus” from 1955 shows the famous clown Grock in the spotlight of the arena and artists in intimate moments outside the tent.

These photographs were created as free work in addition to his employment as a photographer at an advertising agency. He continued his career abroad as a lecturer for photography: to Ulm, to Ahmedabad in India and then as a professor for (architectural) photography at the universities in Seattle and Berkeley, where he taught until the end of the 1980s. In this second creative phase, people are left out and the environment they have built comes into focus. Staub is interested in the marginal phenomena of architecture, repellent places with walled-up windows, barren parking spaces and deserted intersections. He examines the laws and symbols of the urban world; its titles give banal appearances deeper meaning.


More masks than faces

Franz K. Opitz: Guggenmusik, Luzern, um 1960.

Franz K. Opitz: Guggenmusik, Lucerne, around 1960.

Swiss Photo Foundation

The scene is confusing: Are you looking down into Dante’s inferno? Or do you attend a Mexican dance of death? The umpteen reflections and shades of deep black offer the eye no hold. Only the white of the bones stands out. They float over the rain-soaked ground while they mock us with their wind instruments – that is scary. Franz K. Opitz (1916–1998), born in Zurich, loved the bizarre and bizarre. He found it in Swiss customs: Appenzeller New Year’s Eve or the Lucerne Carnival were his preferred motifs. And in 1960 he also dedicated an enchanting illustrated book to the circus with its showmen, clowns and acrobats. It was the illusion that Opitz paid homage to, the unmasking look behind the scenes did not interest him. In the case of his Leica, the wondrous, magical and strange found a safe refuge from which rational thinking was excluded. To do this, he not only used photography, which he did not find until the 1950s, but also painting, poetry, printmaking, glass painting and playing the violin. Franz K. Opitz was a versatile artist, and perhaps it was this diversity that prevented him from achieving great public success in one of these disciplines.


Bird in a cage

Heini Stucki: Ohne Titel, 1981.

Heini Stucki: Untitled, 1981.

Heini Stucki

A television set, a framed watercolor and a table with two chairs. Not much more can be seen in this sparsely furnished room. Photography lives from the precise composition and the tension of the fleeting moment, which was captured here for eternity – “petrified” or rather “silvered”, as Heini Stucki would say. The focus is on the bird of prey, which seems to break out of its screen cage into freedom and to fly towards the painted landscape of the neighboring picture. Stucki 1949) knows how to draw our gaze again and again to almost metaphysical moments, surreal situations that we constantly encounter without us consciously perceiving them. His pictures oscillate between sobriety and dream world, often underlaid with subtle humor. Stucki’s preferred means of artistic expression is analog black and white photography. In this way he succeeds in a form of reduction that also invites reflection on his own medium: Doesn’t this seemingly windowless room look like a camera obscura, the screen like the viewfinder of a camera? And does this little window to the world, which is also reflected on the table top, ultimately turn out to be a mirage? The bird in the TV set is just as subjective a medial representation of reality as the watercolor hanging next to it or the present photograph.


Abstract intimacy

Gertrude Fehr: Akt (negative Solarisation), Paris 1936.

Gertrude Fehr: Nude (negative solarization), Paris 1936.

Gertrude Fehr / Pro Litteris

Gertrude Fehr (1895–1996) was a defining figure in French-speaking Switzerland. After running her own photo studio in Munich and specializing in theatrical photography, she emigrated to Paris in 1933 with her future husband, the Swiss painter Jules Fehr, and founded the private photo school Publiphot on Montmartre Reportage photography taught, her husband taught typography and graphics. Was it during this time that she encountered the novel nude photographs by Man Ray, who experimented with the Sabattier effect in Paris in the early 1930s? In the case of manipulation, also known as solarization, the print is briefly exposed to light while it is being developed in the darkroom, which means that tones are reversed in places – chance plays a role. So the body loses its individuality; he becomes an object. In 1936 Gertrude Fehr also worked with the Sabattier effect to make the lines of a female body emerge from the black photo paper to let. Frozen in an intimate, everyday action, pulling an item of laundry over her head, the model is transformed into a torso, a faceless sculpture, a play with lines and shades. Alienation and abstraction bring Fehr’s photography close to surrealism, shaped by artistic excursions into the realm of the unconscious, desire and dream. When the war broke out in 1939, Gertrude Fehr fled to Switzerland with her husband – she took with her her interest in the dark, hidden sides of human existence. She founded a new school in Vevey, which was integrated into the École des Arts et Métiers in 1945, and was an influential teacher.


“The snow must go on”

Jules Spinatsch: Unit BT, Davos, 2004.

Jules Spinatsch: Unit BT, Davos, 2004.

Jules Spinach

A perfect set: in the foreground a wooden counter in the style of a lumberjack, in the center the skeleton of a gnarled tree, in the background the slopes illuminated with spotlights, prepared for the night showdown. Which piece is being played here? Jules Spinatsch, who was born in 1964 and comes from the mountains, observed and photographed the transformation of his native landscape for years – and found time and again that there wasn’t much left of nature. His projects, which he carried out between 2001 and 2008 under the title “Snow Management Complex”, are an in-depth study of the infrastructures, terrain simulations, advertising props and the illusion machinery that is used to market tourist destinations and the media exaggeration of sporting events. If the actors are missing, this landscape appears as a desolate ghost train – the downside of the leisure and event society. With a cool eye, Spinatsch reports on the “added value on crooked fields” (as the subtitle of his group of works) alludes to the centuries-old cultivation of the Alps. Today the field hardly plays a role anymore. The snow is all the more important: Where mountain farmers once worked, cannons now supply the raw material that snow groomers process and illuminate in order to feed our clichés.


Dream of flying

Bruno Kirchgraber: Zürich, 1958.

Bruno Kirchgraber: Zurich, 1958.

Bruno Kirchgraber / Photo Foundation Switzerland

It looks so easy when a seagull hovers over the Limmat. Maybe flying will work if you just try hard enough? The two women seem to be trying. The lady in the foreground stretches her arms like swaying with a concentrated, downcast gaze. The other is striving towards the sky, and her feet are almost detaching from the ground. Or could it be that the first feeds ducks and swans on the river, while the second throws crumbs at the flying bird? Whatever the case, the constellation is perfect, the photographer caught it at the right moment. The trained cartolithographer Bruno Kirchgraber 1930) has the special gift of recognizing such moments and translating them into perfectly shaped photographs. Often a note of subtle humor is mixed in with his pictures. «As a photographer, I walked around like a dream with my camera slung around my neck until a certain subject, a human occurrence, woke me up. But then I switched over in a flash, »says Kirchgraber. On his forays into everyday life in Switzerland, he looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary. From the 1960s onwards, he created an extensive work that he published in various magazines – individual images that tell not of major events, but of the bizarre theater that goes on before our eyes every day. You just have to see it.


Suction into the depths

Martin Hürlimann: Pfeilerhalle des Grossen Tempels, Rameswaram, Indien, 1926/27.

Martin Hürlimann: pillar hall of the Great Temple, Rameswaram, India, 1926/27.

Martin Hürlimann / Fotostiftung Schweiz

When Martin Hürlimann (1897–1984) traveled to India in 1926 , this country was an inaccessible fairytale land for the Swiss public, which they could get an idea of ​​by means of published photographs. The journalist, author and later publisher of illustrated books, who taught himself to take photos, did not fixate himself on everyday exoticism or tourist genre scenes. His numerous architectural photographs remain committed to the principles of modern, factual photography of the 1920s, even when they are abroad: “Consideration for the architect or sculptor seems to me to be more decisive than the photographic effect.”

Precise and detailed, static and Martin Hürlimann documented the mighty colonnade of the temple of Rameswaram on the island of Pamban between India and Sri Lanka – one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage sites in a symmetrical, harmonious and balanced way. The photo is historical evidence of the condition of this ancient building at that time. At the same time, a strange magic permeates this image. The dense succession of richly decorated sandstone pillars creates a dizzying suction into the depths. Light and shadow are balanced, the picture looks like negative and positive in one, and so the brightly shining steps on the substructure lend the architecture a seemingly spiritual weightlessness: «By trying to capture the beautiful, I wanted something of the soul of India at the same time show. »


Many greetings from Josef

Unbekannter Fotograf, Rorschach, 1918.

Unknown photographer, Rorschach, 1918.

Collection Fotostiftung Schweiz

A bright, makeshift hospital room, wall decorations and flowers, soup bowls on the table. Four young men lie in their beds under Swiss military blankets and look into the camera – only one straightens up. The nurse, who turns her head when the picture is taken and is therefore out of focus, makes the photograph appear spontaneous and unsophisticated. But it only becomes significant because of the awkwardly written text on its back: “Rorschach, November 2nd, 1918. I’ve been sick with flu for 14 days in the hospital room, but now I’m pretty much better, my fevers are gone, I’ll come next Thursday for 10 days to Walzenhausen to recuperate. Many greetings from Josef ».

The picture was taken by one of the many amateurs who used photography as a medium for pictorial short messages during the First World War – Instagram a hundred years ago. Thousands of such greetings were sent home by the soldiers on duty. Anyone who owned a camera and had access to a darkroom could produce individual photo postcards in small editions and give them to their comrades or sell them so that they could give their loved ones an insight into their everyday lives. The important thing was not the aesthetics or the photographic perfection, but the sender’s sign of life.

After four long and hard years of war, the pandemic, which began in 1918, claimed more deaths than the war itself; around 25,000 people died of the Spanish flu in Switzerland. Josef was lucky.


A thousand looks

Vella, Bündner Oberland, 1943/44

Vella, Bündner Oberland, 1943/44

Emil Brunner / Hugger Collection / Photo Foundation Switzerland

Vella, Bündner Oberland, 1943/44

Vella, Bündner Oberland, 1943/44

Emil Brunner / Hugger Collection / Swiss Photo Foundation

Knabe aus Vella, Graubünden, aus der Serie «Bergkinder», um 1943.

Boy from Vella, Graubünden, from the series “Mountain Children”, around 1943.

Emil Brunner / Hugger Collection / Swiss Photo Foundation

Mädchen aus Vella, Graubünden, aus der Serie «Bergkinder», um 1943.

Girls from Vella, Graubünden, from the series “Mountain Children”, around 1943.

Emil Brunner / Hugger Collection / Swiss Photo Foundation

Emil Brunner: from the «Bergkinder-Archiv», Vella, 1943/44.

Emil Brunner / Hugger Collection / Swiss Photo Foundation

A mixture of curiosity, embarrassment and respect lies in their looks: the four children from the small mountain village are standing Vella in front of the camera for the first time? Have you prepared yourself specially to be photographed by the strange photographer? How long did you have to pose? In any case, the portraits taken in front of the stable wall are not snapshots. Rather, they belong to a series of 1,700 pictures that Emil Brunner (1908–1996) made in 1943 and 1944 in twelve communities in the Bündner Oberland. Every time he returned home from a mountain tour, he looked for a suitable background in one of the villages in order to gradually capture all of the valley’s youth. Apparently he also won the trust of the villagers, for whom the visit of a photographer was an event.

Brunner mostly took photos from the front and from a short distance, so that the picture is only the half figure or a little more. He controlled light and sharpness so that the faces could develop their individual beauty. And he also brought the clothes to their best advantage – clothes that reveal a lot about everyday life and the living conditions of the children.

The «Bergkinder», which appears modern in its formal rigor -Archive »was rediscovered after Brunner’s death. For the Glarus press photographer, who loved to travel around the world, it was a by-product without a clear objective. Today, however, this neatly numbered collection of portraits has proven to be a unique treasure trove of images. A collective snapshot from an alpine microcosm – a thousand glances from young people not known by name who approach us like a community of fate.


cherries on lead type

Carl Arthur Schmid: Kirschen, 1930er Jahre.

Carl Arthur Schmid: Cherries, 1930s.

Carl Arthur Schmid / Fotostiftung Schweiz

The photograph by Carl Arthur Schmid (1874–1955) falls between a chair and a bench in various ways. Schmid was a citizen of Tuttlingen and ran a “studio for modern visual art” in Schopfheim, Germany, for a stylistically more conservative audience. He was close to Pictorialism – a photographic style that was based on painting. At the end of the 19th century, starting in London, Vienna and New York, it found supporters in Switzerland as well, but in the 1920s it increasingly fell into disrepute among progressive photographers. Schmid took up motifs and compositions from art history in the 1930s and used the painterly-looking printing processes of the pictorial school to refine his pictures.

With the still life with cherries, however, he was also inspired by the new, modern photography. Clear reproduction, a narrow section, a game with limited depth of field and the accentuation of light and shadow emphasize the sensual and material appearance of the objects shown; the abundance of round, glossy cherries contrasts with the matt, crumpled paper – presumably the evening paper of the Basler “National-Zeitung”. Nevertheless, Schmid remains committed to the «carpe diem» of baroque painting: the ripe fruits are indeed wrapped up in current events, but only a few meaningless scraps of words can be recognized from the text printed in metal type.


When the water rises

Daniel Schwartz: Bewohner eines temporären Schwemmlandeilands im Meghna, Sibchar, Distrikt Madaripur, Bangladesh, 21. September 1991.

Daniel Schwartz: Resident of a temporary alluvial land in Meghna, Sibchar, Madaripur District, Bangladesh, September 21, 1991.

Daniel Schwartz / VII / Pro Litteris

Already a quarter of a century before the climate youth raised their voices, the Swiss photographer Daniel Schwartz pointed out emphatically Recordings on the consequences of global warming. In the early 1990s he traveled to the densely populated deltas of Southeast Asia, where the Ganges / Meghna, Irrawaddy and Mekong create alluvial fans – several times larger than Switzerland. It is “land on water”, shaped and constantly changed by seasonal floods, erosion and cyclones and, more and more, land subsidence.

How closely the inhabitants of these deltas are connected to their ecosystem is expressed in this photograph. Three men on an alluvial island, a so-called “char”, in Bangladesh. They built their house on stilts, just high enough that the land emerging from the water reaches just below the ground. If the island disappears again, the delta inhabitants move on, together with the building material.

This temporary state holds the camera in an intense encounter of gazes – with people who were among the first climate refugees of the 20th century. Environment and ecology are also the main themes of the photographer’s work on global glacier collapse, which was completed in 2017. Daniel Schwartz, a chronicler of the Anthropocene, combines intuition and expertise to depict the irreversible planetary interventions of man.


Genre scene from the cultivation battle

Marie Ottoman-Rothacher: Lützelflüh, 1942.

Marie Ottoman-Rothacher: Lützelflüh, 1942.

Marie Ottoman-Rothacher / Fotostiftung Schweiz

The servant lies on the stove bench and pretends to be asleep; the two brats on the stove sill are distracted by something outside of the frame. Only the boy, who has settled down on the top floor of the warming soapstone stove, fixes the camera like an eagle from his guard post; With his chin resting on his fists, he is, as it were, the tip of a carefully arranged pyramid. This genre scene was photographed in 1942 by Marie Ottoman-Rothacher (1916–2002). She accompanied an agronomist in his task of winning as many farms as possible for the so-called cultivation battle: The conversion from dairy farming to arable farming should guarantee the country’s self-sufficiency during the war.

Ottoman-Rothacher and the agronomist stayed with the farmer’s family in Lützelflüh. She documented the economy with the cattle, the ten children at lunch, the sociable evening hours and sometimes created almost picturesque evidence of everyday rural life. Marie Ottoman-Rothacher thus followed in the footsteps of important representatives of social documentary practice. What would have become of the now little known photographer if it had been easier for a wife and mother in the 1950s to continue to develop professionally?


Cat, fire, steel

Kurt Blum: Katze, Stahlwerk Cornigliano, Genua, 1962.

Kurt Blum: cat, steel works Cornigliano, Genoa, 1962.

Swiss Photo Foundation

Kurt Blum from Bern took photos of steel works in the 1950s and 1960s in northern Italy. But the protagonist of this picture is a cat. What leads them to this inhospitable place is left to the imagination of the beholder. The steel mill forms the dramatic background for the enigmatic story. In the backlight of the sparkling blast furnaces, a worker emerges in silhouette. Like a modern Hephaestus – or a terminator? – the infernal figure appears as the conqueror of fire. The blurring and the black and white give the picture a mythological quality. Kurt Blum (1922–2005) also shot the documentary “L’uomo il fuoco il ferro” in this Genoese steelworks.

In addition to the tangible, the freelance industrial photographer’s love was the bohemian: he portrayed artists in their studios and documented their creative process. With this picture, Blum demonstrates what beauty can be in photography. Their peculiar attraction arises from the meeting of the unrelated, the cat and the worker. They meet without noticing one another. The scene can be read as a symbol of (post) industrial existence. In a dense visual language, Blum captures the fleetingness of a moment in which different worlds intersect.


A skeleton of progress

Anton Krenn: Zeppelin LZ 129 in der Montagehalle, Friedrichshafen, 1933.

Anton Krenn: Zeppelin LZ 129 in the assembly hall, Friedrichshafen, 1933.

Anton Krenn / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Austria-born Anton Krenn (1874–1958) probably reached Zurich as a journeyman shoemaker, acquired shorthand skills and got into journalism before the turn of the century. Soon he was supplying the dispatch agency, the “Basellandschaftliche Zeitung” and the “Daily Anzeiger for Thun” and was working as an editor for the “Boten vom Walensee”. His descriptions of the von Zizers brand in 1897 brought Krenn the recognition of the national and international press. In the years that followed, he took up his camera, but as a one-man agency he also sold other people’s pictures. In 1898 he is said to have photographed the assassination attempt on Empress Elisabeth in Geneva, in 1900 he reported on the murder of King Umberto in Monza. Compared to these spectacular events, the picture from 1933 with the inscription “The skeleton of the giant zeppelin LZ 129 under construction in the assembly hall in Friedrichshafen” looks rather contemplative. In contrast to the photographs of the hall, as they appeared in the daily press or were printed on postcards by the photography department of the Zeppelin Works, Krenn’s depiction is characterized by a sophisticated image design. It shows the zeppelin cut so that its structure overlaps with the hall architecture, which makes its shape appear even more gigantic. Access barriers and warning signs ground the fantastic backdrop, while the ghostly legs of a person, which dissolve in the long exposure time, do exactly the opposite. The image of the steel skeleton already bears the moment of its dramatic exposure: On May 6, 1937, the Zeppelin LZ 129 “Hindenburg” went up in flames when it landed in Lakehurst near New Jersey and ended the era of the airships.


Uncertain future

Theo Frey: Flühli, Entlebuch, 1947.

Theo Frey: Flühli, Entlebuch, 1947.

Theo Frey / Fotostiftung Schweiz

The village of Flühli, in the back Entlebuch, in 1947 it was one of the poorest communities in Switzerland. Theo Frey (1908–1997) chose this place to report on people who fought for their existence after the years of war and crisis. So did the Felder couple, who had to feed eight children from the meager income from a small farm. While the boys Josef and Toni as well as the dog fix the camera, mother Rosa lets her worried gaze wander into the distance. The uncertainty about their future is written on these people’s faces, their poverty can be seen in their clothes.

Nevertheless, the woman with the strong arms exudes calm and security; in front of the dark entrance she seems to watch over her home and defy the need. In some ways it is reminiscent of one of the most famous and most discussed pictures in the history of photography, the “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange. Ten years before Frey’s report for the American Farm Security Administration, Lange had documented the growing poverty in rural areas as a result of the global economic crisis.

That Theo Frey let his portfolio and veston come into the picture, is characteristic of the photographer’s style: For him, revealing the relationships was always more important than the perfect and aesthetic image. Frey saw himself as an eyewitness and a strict documentarist – it is as if he wanted to use his props to prove the authenticity of his recordings.


Nature morte

Klaus Küderli: Schlachthof Zürich, 1962.

Klaus Küderli: Schlachthof Zurich, 1962.

Klaus Küderli / © Fotostiftung Schweiz

The eyes are rigid and empty, the skull marbled with coagulated blood. Only the mouth is comfortingly downy. As was still common in the 1960s, it will end up as an ox mouth in soup or as a salad. The two cattle heads hang on a pillar in the Zurich slaughterhouse. Their symmetrical arrangement and the reduction in black and white take the horror out of the picture, but still leave us disturbed. Klaus Küderli 1937) worked as a trained rotogravure retoucher for the Zurich publishing house and the printing company Conzett & Huber, known for excellent reproductions of photographs.

Küderli encountered the pictures of great photographers from 1959 onwards during the technical implementation of the cultural magazine “Du” – they gave him the impetus to take photos himself. His recordings were made in his free time: at jazz concerts, at dance evenings and while traveling. But he was also interested in the stark contrast to the beautiful glow of the sixties. His report from the slaughterhouse documents a world of work whose bloody reality is increasingly hidden from view in the course of rapidly advancing mechanization. At the same time, this nature morte with its dark tonality and the staging of the severed heads looks like an echo to the photographs of the surrealist Eli Lotar, who created iconic images of the Parisian slaughterhouses in the 1930s.


Camouflage and deception

Christian Schwager: Infanteriebunker, Gland VD, aus der Serie «Falsche Chalets», 2001/2003, Sammlung Förderverein FSS.

Christian Schwager: Infantry Bunker, Gland VD, from the series “Falsche Chalets”, 2001/2003, Collection Förderverein FSS.

Christian Schwager / © Pro Litteris

Disguising army bunkers as chalets is not so absurd. This type of house was the most common in the Alpine region when the majority of Swiss fortresses were built. But military installations are not only hidden behind chalets, but also behind barns, stables, villas and Bernese Oberland farmhouses. Between 2001 and 2003 they were tracked down and photographed by Christian Schwager (born 1966) – as if they were idyllic calendar or postcard motifs. In the most beautiful autumn light and against a blue sky, the simulated harmlessness appears even more surreal.

Schwager’s inventory “Falsche Chalets” (2004) illuminates a strategy of covering up and hiding, but also the questionable belief in military invincibility . What all buildings have in common is that they only show their true colors at second glance. They are artistically painted in the local tradition or adorned with geraniums – one is amazed at the meticulousness and diligence of the unknown decorators, who went to work with great effort and loving detail. With the end of the Cold War, many of the Swiss Army’s bunkers, which had been kept secret for decades, lost their importance. The photo series is thus also a contemporary document that reflects geopolitical and ideological change.


The Grim Reaper

Paul Senn: Mäherin bei Schwarzenburg, um 1930.

Paul Senn: Mower near Schwarzenburg, around 1930.

Gottfried Keller Foundation / Photo Foundation SwitzerlandSenn, Paul

Pictorial representations of farm work are often read symbolically. We tend to glorify the close relationship with nature and to interpret traditional activities such as sowing, mowing or harvesting metaphorically; the scythe, in turn, is associated with death. There is also something archaic in the recording by Paul Senn (1901–1953). And yet this photography does not want to fit into the worn peasant iconography. The unknown mower is laying a wide track through the meadow with her scythe. In the diffuse light and against the seemingly painted background of the vast landscape, she resembles a dream figure, a remote appearance, absorbed in a work that is otherwise mainly attributed to men.

She concentrates entirely on her rhythmic movements and seems to effortlessly move the swing of her body onto the tool to transfer their hands. This shot differs from many other peasant pictures by Paul Senn, who became known for his strong, socially critical reports in the “Zürcher Illustrierte”. In the 1930s and 1940s, the former advertising artist and retoucher liked to use a dramatic, emotionally stirring design to convey his political message. The image of the lonely grim reaper in a simple work dress, on the other hand, lives from fine, enigmatic poetry – if you look closely, you think you can hear the regular sound of the sharp blade cutting the grass.


Technical tricks and a shining star

Ernst A. Heiniger: Weissweinstern, 1939.

Ernst A. Heiniger: Weissweinstern, 1939.

Swiss Photo Foundation

A circle, a diagonal line, highlights and a shining star made of finely sparkling white wine. The glass beaker, which looks much larger than it is, was photographed in 1939 by Ernst A. Heiniger (1909–93) in his studio in Zurich. Heiniger made a name for himself as a representative of modern and factual photography in the 1930s. This picture was probably made without a commission; it is rather due to the personal ambition of the photographer who wanted to prove his technical skills to himself. A lot has to come together to create such a star on the surface of the wine and also to hold onto the so-called “white wine star”: A certain type of wine has to be poured into a cylindrical glass from a great height under specific climatic conditions.

The photographer also had the warmth of the in his studio Fight tungsten lamps. Heiniger only succeeded in taking this picture when he came up with the idea of ​​capturing daylight with the help of mirrors, which he deflected onto the glass at the crucial moment. He also made the calibration of the typical Swiss white wine goblet shine: The small Swiss cross promises quality and accuracy. And the number 39 undoubtedly refers to the year of inclusion – the year the world sped into the catastrophe of war. Is the picture with the bright star also a subtle contribution to the spiritual defense of the country?


Hidden Camera

Yvan Dalain: aus der Serie «Geister-Express», Zürich, 1956.

Yvan Dalain: from the series “Geister-Express”, Zurich, 1956.

Yvan Dalain / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Yvan Dalain (1927-2007) was born and raised in Avenches ) aspired to a career as an actor. But when he failed to make his breakthrough in Paris, he trained as a photographer and made a name for himself as a busy and creative reporter in the 1950s. The fondness for the theatrical, the dramatic storytelling and the social role plays remained with him. Unlike many contemporary photographers, Yvan Dalain did not believe in the objectivity of photography. He was not afraid to playfully influence his surroundings with the camera or to direct inconspicuously.

In «Woche», a magazine for high-quality photojournalism under the creative direction of Jacques Plancherel, he found an excellent platform for this – for example for an extensive series with the title « Ghost Express ». Dalain lay in wait for the ghost train drivers and flashed with a constant attitude into the passing faces, in which the lust for horror is reflected; his “hidden camera” caught an amusing mimic and gestural spectacle. The photographer’s intervention is a kind of visual behavior research that is also reminiscent of artistic approaches from the 1970s. Dalain saw the world as one big stage and never tired of discovering new stories on it – or of staging them himself.


A restless life

Iren Stehli: aus der Serie „Libuna“, 1974-2009.

Iren Stehli: from the series “Libuna”, 1974-2009.

Iren Stehli

A mountain of laundry is waiting on the floor. When she has mastered it, the work continues: tidying up, cleaning, cooking, washing up, calming screaming children, setting the table for the family. Libuna sat down to forget her exhaustion for a cigarette. A brief pause in a restless life that Iren Stehli photographed from 1974 to 2009. While other photographers sought their fortune in Paris or New York in the 1970s, Iren Stehli moved to Prague to train photography in what was then the Eastern Bloc, where she still lives today. She watched with fascination how simple people came to terms with the difficult living conditions, but above all, she got involved with individual people with great empathy. The work on the Roma woman Libuna became her life project: Using expressive recordings and a subjective-narrative style, Stehli created a comprehensive visual essay in which the protagonist’s life stages pass by like in a film. It tells of the dreams of the young woman and of the tough everyday family life, of love relationships, of the wilting of beauty and Libuna’s early death. The story of Libuna, published in 2004 as a book, is a tragic epic about human existence and an impressive document of contemporary history.


Flawless sculptures

Johann Linck: Hilfspumpe, hergestellt von den Gebrüder Sulzer, um 1880.

Johann Linck: auxiliary pump, manufactured by the Sulzer brothers, around 1880.

Johann Linck: Dampfmaschine, hergestellt von den Gebrüder Sulzer, um 1880.

Johann Linck: Dampfmaschine, hergestellt von den Gebrüder Sulzer, um 1880.

Für die Schweizer Industriegeschichte spielt die Firma Sulzer in Winterthur eine zentrale Rolle. Schon um 1880 sind ihre Dampfmaschinen weltweit gefragt; sie werden nach Mailand, London, Kairo, Moskau oder Kobe exportiert. Der Stolz des Unternehmens spiegelt sich auch in den Aufnahmen von Johann Linck (1831–1900). Dieser verstand es meisterhaft, die Maschinen für potenzielle Käufer in Szene zu setzen: Die Vermeidung harter Schlagschatten durch perfekte Ausleuchtung und der retuschierte Hintergrund bringen Konstruktion und Funktionalität ideal zur Geltung. Linck, der in Winterthur ein prosperierendes Atelier betrieb, arbeitete nicht nur im Auftrag lokaler Fabrikanten. Schweizweit dokumentierte er den Bau von Eisenbahnbrücken, Fabrikanlagen und Gewerbeausstellungen und wurde so zum Chronisten der Industrialisierung. Seine Fotografien der dampfbetriebenen Maschinen wirken heute wie eine Verherrlichung des technischen Fortschritts, doch der Fabrikwelt sind sie seltsam entrückt: Losgelöst von Kontext und Grössenverhältnissen, stehen sie als ästhetisierte Skulpturen auf ihren Sockeln. Kein Stäubchen, kein Ölfleck auf den glänzenden Oberflächen lässt an die laute, geschäftige Werkhalle denken. Die Arbeiter, die dem Diktat der Maschinen zu folgen haben, bleiben ebenso ausgeblendet wie die Energie und die Dynamik, die von diesen technischen Meisterwerken erzeugt werden.


Die schwarze Steilwand

Hans Baumgartner: Primarschule, Rickenbach, 1934.

Hans Baumgartner: Primary School, Rickenbach, 1934.

Swiss Photo Foundation

Tablets have found their way into schools – the threatening black blackboard that generations of schoolchildren have been exposed to will soon be have had their day. But memories of it are preserved in photographs like this one by Hans Baumgartner (1911–1996), taken in a primary school in the rural community of Rickenbach near Wil in the canton of Thurgau. The picture visualizes the joys, pitfalls and existential hardships of everyday school life: because the girl, exposed to the gaze of the class, slides the chalk higher and higher, she is forced to stand on tiptoe. How is this vertical wall to be conquered? The bare feet suggest that the photo was taken before the time of the economic miracle. It is a historical document – but also an excerpt from life that is repeated in schools around the world, even in changed times and under different circumstances. Having worked as a teacher himself for a lifetime, Baumgartner was able to create particularly impressive and meaningful pictures of the school. As the children quickly got used to the camera in the classroom, they took note of his attempts at photography with natural confidence. But what at first glance looks like a contemplative scene from an Albert Anker picture has the idea of ​​reform in it. If we compare Baumgartner’s casual shots with the strict, official class photos, we immediately feel that his ideal of upbringing was for free people. For him, it is not the posed pose that dominates, but the moment, the snapshot and compassion. That made him not only a progressive teacher, but also a pioneer in the free use of the camera.


Supervision and insight

Georg Gerster: Brackige Tümpel bei Morawa, Westaustralien, 1989.

Georg Gerster: Brackish ponds near Morawa, Western Australia, 1989.

Estate Georg Gerster / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Flight images not only convey breathtaking aesthetic experiences, they also make it possible to recognize geographical, ecological or economic relationships that remain hidden to the human eye on the ground. Hardly any other photographic perspective arouses as much amazement as the view from above. Georg Gerster (1928–2019) refined conventional aerial photography into aerial photography in half a century of aerial photography. In doing so, the doctor of German studies not only achieved technical mastery. Gerster combines his flair for shapes, patterns and colors with the urge for knowledge.

It uses the alienation effect of the aerial photo to arouse respect for the beauty of our planet in the viewer, and at the same time provides information on complex topics such as environmental damage and sustainability – for example with the photo of the Western Australian steppe near Morawa: The disturbance of the ecological cycle through agricultural overexploitation is shown here in a strong salinization of the soil, which also affects the former freshwater ponds. They are colored according to the salinity and the different microorganisms that settle in the brackish water. What at first glance looks like an abstract painting turns out to be the result of a man-made catastrophe.

More about Georg Gerster

Wie eine Katze schmiegt sich eine wandernde Sicheldüne der Tengger-Sandwüste in der Wüste der Gobi an das grüne Land. (Georg Gerster / Panos)


Arme der Arbeit

Jakob Tuggener: Arme der Arbeit, 1947.

Jakob Tuggener: Arms of Work, 1947.

Jakob Tuggener Foundation, Uster

Man’s arms and fists brace a tool, shiny skin stretches over muscles. The body parts appear as a symmetrical sculpture, detached from the two workers, whose faces are turned away and hidden in the shadows. This pleasure in fragments, lights and blackness, in the photographic reproduction of velvety, smooth or greasy surfaces permeates the world of images by Jakob Tuggener (1904–1988). After studying design in the pulsating city of Berlin, he sought to satisfy his “hunger for eyes” in an environment that he was already familiar with from his apprenticeship as a machine draftsman at Maag Zahnräder AG in Zurich: factory work became one of Tuggener’s most popular motifs – alongside car races , Flight meetings, rural scenes and opulent ball nights in luxurious hotels.

The eccentric did not understand photography as a documentary illustration, but as a Means of expression for moods and feelings. The painting, entitled “Arms of Work”, is one of the best known by Tuggener, as it was exhibited in large format in 1955 in the famous exhibition “The Family of Man” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The human body is represented memorably and symbolically like the set piece of a machine. There is something glorifying, but also something sinister in this scene – according to the artist’s credo, who was fascinated by the power of machines and at the same time repeatedly warned that they might one day rule people.


In the trap

1958

1958

Rob Gnant

The child murderer looks up in horror. He fell into the trap. But in Rob Gnant’s (1932–2019) photograph, he is not facing the police, but the film crew. The conviction of the perpetrator, staged as real as possible in the film, is exposed as an illusion: the clapperboard and camera lens protrude out of focus and seem to threaten the actor Gert Fröbe. The photographer is on the set of “It happened in broad daylight” on behalf of the magazine “Die Woche” and looks at the scene from the perspective of the cameraman. Gnant would have liked to learn this profession himself, because of a lack of training opportunities, his childhood dream has turned into an apprenticeship as a photographer. However, film and photography remain linked to one another throughout his life: movement and blurring give his images dynamism, photography in S equenzen makes his reporting style appear cinematic.

Gnant reports as a critical contemporary again and again about social grievances – for example with reports about the Italian guest workers and their everyday life in Switzerland. His keen sense for strong images also characterizes the film “Siamo Italiani”, which Gnant realized in 1964 with Alexander J. Seiler and June Kovach. The photographer’s camera work helps make this film a startling statement against the “foreign infiltration” initiative of the time.


Cultural confusion

Namsa Leuba: Patience, aus der Serie «Zulu Kids», 2014.

Namsa Leuba: Patience, from the series “Zulu Kids”, 2014.

Namsa Leuba

Ancestors, aus der Serie «Zulu Kids», 2014.

Ancestors, from the series “Zulu Kids”, 2014.

Namsa Leuba

Namsa Leuba: Two works from the series “Zulu Kids”.

Namsa Leuba

In a dry plain, on the edge of an industrial zone, human sculptures stand on pedestal-like pedestals. The painting, clothing and jewelry of the posing children are reminiscent of so-called “tribal art”. Is an African ritual represented here? What seems authentic at first glance is a fiction by the Swiss-Guinean artist Namsa Leuba, born in 1982. For her series “Zulu Kids” she collected accessories in Guinea and put them on, or even on, her extras in South Africa, on the other end of the continent – a confrontation of cultures that most European viewers probably miss.

The photographer designed the body like a sculptor, treats it like a material. She plays with set pieces of cultural identity and questions their meaning: Traditions and folklore can be manipulated and instrumentalized, the exotic is a product of our imagination. Not only the cultural confusion that Namsa Leuba engages in is remarkable, but also the stylistic one: Her work combines an anthropological and documentary interest in customs with an aesthetic sensitivity that is more familiar to us from the world of fashion and design. She uses irony and wit to seduce not only to look but also to think.


landscape with Triangle

Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs: «Street», 2005, aus der Serie «The Great Unreal»

Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs: «Street», 2005, from the series «The Great Unreal»

Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs

There is hardly a landscape that has been colonized by the camera to a greater extent than the Southwest of America. Mediated by images, the vastness, the emptiness and the mighty nature have become a myth that is the identity of the land of unlimited possibilities.Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, both born in 1979, undertake their first trip across the United States in 2005 West. You go on a search for the real America and walk in the footsteps of photographers who have traveled the American landscape before you. At first, the Swiss artist duo felt incapable of taking pictures without notorious repetition.

The most impressive motif that the two drivers have in front of their eyes is the road, which, with a shortened perspective, drills into the landscape as a triangular wedge. For “Street” they make one from paper Dummy and place it in the image section. Onorato / Krebs call their approach a performance for the eye of the camera. By executing the Photoshop commands «Cut», «Copy» and «Paste», photography in the digital age is presented parodistically and the oscillation between illusion and disillusion becomes the intended strategy. It is no coincidence that the result is reminiscent of an iconic picture by Robert Frank.


«Air costume» in the studio

F. Jenny-Becker macht Atemübungen nach Keller-Hoerschelmann, um 1913.

F. Jenny-Becker does breathing exercises according to Keller-Hoerschelmann, around 1913.

Collection of the Swiss Photo Foundation

F. Jenny-Becker macht Atemübungen nach Keller-Hoerschelmann, um 1913.

F. Jenny-Becker does breathing exercises according to Keller-Hoerschelmann, around 1913.

Collection of the Swiss Photo Foundation

Johann Baptist Nikolaus Schönwetter: F. Jenny-Becker does breathing exercises according to Keller-Hoerschelmann, around 1913.

Collection Photo Foundation Switzerland

This bearded man does his exercises almost naked, stretching his arms with the weights in his hands , bends the muscular legs. Long before leggings and yoga mats, tight panties offered freedom of movement and a rug served as a base. The athlete was photographed in the studio of Johann Baptist Nikolaus Schönwetter (1875–1954) in Glarus. Usually the carpet with a few pieces of furniture formed the backdrop for portraits in a middle-class style. The neutral background gives the gymnastics pictures a scientific character, even if they look rather comical from today’s perspective. How did a photographer who was best known for his landscapes and portraits end up doing squats?

The two poses belong to a 31-part leporello with glued-in original photographs; this refers to the guide “My respiratory system” by Dr. med. Adolf Keller-Hoerschelmann. As a supporter of the life reform movement, the doctor propagated these breathing exercises in the “air costume” to promote general well-being, to activate self-healing powers and to liberate spirit and soul. “If we want to move forward in the air bath movement, we just have to get used to the sight of the naked person,” said Keller-Hoerschelmann.


Dream about flying

Anita Niesz: Quartiers-bas, Troyes, Frankreich, 1956.

Anita Niesz: Quartiers-bas, Troyes, France, 1956.

Anita Niesz / Fotostiftung Schweiz

The coat flies, arms and legs are in quick motion, the head thrown to one side and the blowing hair give the figure additional dynamism. The young woman looks playful and carefree, in her sweeping turn she transforms into a dancer. The empty street becomes the place of dreams for a short time – before the shabby houses in the background bring us back to reality. Anita Niesz (1925–2013) took this photograph in Troyes in 1956. The textile city in eastern France was heavily bombed by the Germans at the beginning of World War II, and almost the entire population had left the city beforehand.

The cathedral was not damaged, the houses in the picture also seem intact, but the area along the street was before War built up. Barriers, piles of rubble, the excavation pit and a backhoe suggest that new living space will be created here more than ten years after the end of the war. The photographer Anita Niesz traveled to France and Italy again and again; she worked for the cultural magazine “Du”, the NZZ and for organizations such as Pro Juventute or the Pestalozzi Children’s Village. Children and young people play an important role in their work. The picture from Troyes represents the departure of a new generation into a new time; but it also reminds us that not everyone benefited equally from the economic miracle of the post-war period.


Summer vacation

Charles Weber: Aulen, Kanton Appenzell Innerrhoden, August 1989, aus der Serie «Jardin Suisse».

Charles Weber: Aulen, Canton Appenzell Innerrhoden, August 1989, from the series “Jardin Suisse”.

Charles Weber / Fotostiftung Schweiz

As pure as in the laundry detergent advertising, the white cloth diapers hang on the line and shine with the snow fields in the background to the bet. The clothespins in funny colors are placed at regular intervals, the floor is swept well. The scenery that Charles Weber 1947) photographed in Appenzell looks like an installation loaded with Swiss clichés: fantastic panorama, rural seclusion, fresh air, accuracy, order and cleanliness. The author is attracted by this collection of striking motifs, which he turns into caricatures. For his “Jardin Suisse” series, created in 1989, Weber photographed the design of exterior spaces across the country.

The locations and excerpts are pointedly chosen, some bizarre excesses of Swiss taste can be found below. In addition, a piece of the natural landscape is visible in almost every image in the series. Shortly before the 700th anniversary in 1991, the question of Switzerland’s identity was a much discussed topic. How can you recognize it? In the mountain landscape with snow-covered peaks, which has provided the backdrop of their lives for generations of Appenzellers? The order and tidiness? Or the tendency to transform nature into a cute little garden – as the title of the work suggests – in which people set up their small, ideal world?


India on the thread of fate

Walter Bosshard: Gandhi in Dandi, Indien, 7. April 1930.

Walter Bosshard: Gandhi in Dandi, India, April 7, 1930.

Swiss Photo Foundation / Archive for Contemporary History of the ETH Zurich

When Walter Bosshard arrived in the Indian coastal town of Dandi on April 7, 1930, the situation is explosive. Gandhi has just finished the great salt march – an unheard-of, non-violent provocation, which is why he has to expect his arrest almost every hour. Nevertheless, the Swiss reporter managed to penetrate the inner circle of the Indian independence movement: for one morning he was allowed to photograph Gandhi while he was eating, shaving, reading, joking and discussing. Walter Bosshard (1892–1975) immersed himself deeply in the festive atmosphere. The concentration of the charismatic Mahatma is echoed in the faces of his followers, who listen devoutly to his words.

Away from the seething mood on the street, they seem to be practicing spiritual discipline – a community unwaveringly clinging to their ideals. The photographed moment has a deeper meaning: the cotton and the hand-spun white clothes are symbols of resistance, and Gandhi’s gesture seems to indicate that the fate of India is hanging by a thread. When the “Münchner Illustrierte Presse” published Bosshard’s photo report under the title “Mahatma Gandhi private!” published, the sensation is perfect: the first “home story” about the most famous man of his time goes around the world. And it is anything but private.


shimmering and pulsing

Roger Humbert: ohne Titel, 1955.

Roger Humbert: untitled, 1955.

Roger Humbert / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Is this picture still a photograph? In addition to his work as an advertising photographer, Roger Humbert 1929 in Basel) began to try out artistic expression in the late 1940s. His experiments in the darkroom led him, among other things, to the so-called luminogram: With the help of stencils, grids and Plexiglas, Humbert designed light and shadow so that they emerged on the photo paper according to his ideas. “I photograph light,” said Humbert, commenting on this approach. With his works he was one of the avant-garde representatives of concrete photography, who explored the essence, but also the limits of the medium; her abstract compositions appear as the greatest possible contrast to documentary photography, which remains attached to an external reality.

In addition to arrangements and superimpositions of geometric shapes, pictures were created that seem like reflections of synaesthetic experience: this is where each other meets shimmering movement and pulsating rhythm, one thinks of dance and music, silence and noise. Humbert also linked his interest in “seeing in the back of the visual space” with studies on autogenic training, in which the test subjects described visual experiences. Some pictures are reminiscent of those streaks and spots that we can “observe” with closed eyes.


From somewhere to nowhere

Andreas Seibert: Vor der Abfahrt, Guangzhou, Provinz Guangdong, 2005.

Andreas Seibert: Before departure, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, 2005.

Andreas Seibert / Fotostiftung Schweiz

A scene like from a film: as if a director had pushed the traveler into the cutout of the train window with centimeter precision and carefully controlled the lighting from the inside – outside that blue-green artificial light prevails that in Asia from dusk a n everywhere the public space is dimly lit. The young man with the beautiful face seems completely lost in his thoughts. And the epic impression of this picture sets a story in motion in the mind of the beholder: It tells of the eternal coming and going, of the search for happiness and prosperity, which always drives people somewhere. A romanticizing perspective does not do justice to this motive.

Because the picture is part of a comprehensive report with which Andreas Seibert 1970) documented the plight of Chinese migrant workers for years. Seibert, who himself lived in Asia for a long time with his family, has published it under the title “From Somewhere to Nowhere” as a book and exhibition as well as in various newspapers and magazines. Millions of workers travel to their distant homeland in the hinterland, especially for the Chinese New Year celebrations. They are among the weakest, the fewest guns, and at the same time they are the fuel for the engine of globalization. Where will this migrant worker’s journey end?


That last festival of lights

Roman Vishniac: «The Last Hanukkah», Krakau, 1938.

Roman Vishniac: “The Last Hanukkah”, Krakow, 1938.

Mara Vishniac Kohn / Courtesy ICP

A group of men in sleet: The picture of this gloomy gathering was taken in 1938 in the Jewish quarter of Krakow. Roman Vishniac (1897–1990), a Russian of Jewish descent, was a pioneer of scientific photography and lived in Berlin at the time. Between 1935 and 1939 he traveled several times to Eastern Europe on behalf of a Jewish aid organization, where, despite the ban on photography, he managed to record the miserable living conditions of the Jews in the ghettos and shtetls. Vishniac’s winter scene shows used clothing dealers and their customers. The title of the photograph refers to an invitation to the Hanukkah celebration on the house wall.

It was the last time the Festival of Lights took place in Kazimierz, the Jewish residential area of ​​Krakow. After the attack on Poland in 1939, the National Socialists built a ghetto on the outskirts, surrounded by barbed wire and walls and guarded by the SS. 15,000 Jews were crammed into an area where previously 3,000 people lived. The population of the Krakow ghetto was deported to labor and extermination camps in 1942/43, hundreds of weak people shot in the ghetto itself. Vishniac’s sparse photography seems to indicate the incomprehensible horror in its leaden sadness: defenseless people in the wet and cold in front of a repellent facade and a closed door.


sequins and patina

Flurina Rothenberger: aus der Serie «Dakar ne dort pas. Dakar se noie», 2012/13.

Flurina Rothenberger: from the series «Dakar ne there pas. Dakar se noie », 2012/13.

Flurina Rothenberger

A sequined headgear, an elaborately tailored dress made of shiny fabric, ruffles and ornaments – the Senegalese woman walking in an upright posture through an empty street exudes the elegance and aura of a model on the catwalk. The desolate surroundings are also photogenic: the wrecked car in the background, the patina of the walls and the reflections on the flooded floor. But what is it like for the young woman to live in a world eroded by water? The picture is part of the photo series «Dakar ne there pas. Dakar se noie »by Flurina Rothenberger 1977). Floodplains on the fringes of Dakar have been wildly populated since the 1970s, there are no urbanization concepts, and everyday life, especially during the rainy season, is shaped by the consequences of floods, overpopulation and the lack of infrastructure.

Even if a single picture cannot convey the complex relationships, an important aspect in dealing with the problem is visualized here: Resilience. Despite the grievances, the young Muslim woman walks with poise through the world marked by disintegration. This contrast is fascinating, and we have the impression that the photographer chose an extraordinarily festive woman for her documentary work. At the same time, the picture irritates us because the fashionable codes we are familiar with do not apply when reading.


Double make-up

Hans Peter Klauser: Ausflecken eines Werbebildes für den Hauptbahnhof Zürich, um 1960.

Hans Peter Klauser: Patching out an advertising image for Zurich main station, around 1960.

Hans Peter Klauser / Fotostiftung Schweiz

A photograph of the production of a photograph reveals the artificiality of the world of images that surround us: On the middle stripe of a huge woman’s head that is supposed to advertise Nescafé at Zurich’s main train station , ka Outside, yes, two hardworking people are retouching disruptive things with fine brush dabs – on the face and on the photograph. Hans Peter Klauser (1910–1989) recorded this double make-up in his own studio at Stadelhoferstrasse 26 in Zurich. Here he made large enlargements for advertising customers from 1957 to 1989 and made a name for himself in this field thanks to his technical flair. Klauser would have preferred to devote himself to reporting – the meagerly paid profession that he learned from his teacher Gotthard Schuh and passionately practiced in the years before and after the Second World War.

The observation of people fascinated him: His folklore book about the Appenzellerland contains impressive pictures as well as his magazine articles about refugee children. But he even managed to get this snapshot from an advertising order: Before the woman froze on the floor into an oversized mask in the station hall, the photographer made the open eye and the fine work the topic – an invitation to take a closer look in order to discover the peculiar in everyday life .


From the first to the second glance

Doris Quarella: aus der Serie «Urner Bildnisse», 1979.

Doris Quarella: from the series «Urner Bildnisse», 1979.

Doris Quarella / Fotostiftung Schweiz

The first look is crucial. We try to classify the other person – according to origin, age, social position, occupation or charisma. This also applies to photographic portraits. But what if the Anha points for classification are reduced to a minimum? Doris Quarella (1944–1998) deliberately “uprooted” the people portrayed in her “Urner Portraits”, removed them from their everyday context. Between March and May 1979, she invited 208 people from the canton of Uri, selected on the basis of statistical data, to her improvised studio in the hall of the Hostellerie “Sternen” in Flüelen.

For the picture against a neutral background, the photographed had to adopt an attitude without relying on biographical information or to be able to rely on professional props or on their familiar surroundings. Facial expressions, hands and clothing become the focus of attention. What do the mischievous smile, the dark-rimmed fingernails, the wool sweater reveal about Ambros Lussmann? What does Franziska Epp’s open, direct view say about her being and her life? Quarella presented the mountain farmer and the woodworker and many others with the name of their occupation, but in their pictures we do not encounter types that can be categorized at first glance, but unique personalities.


ride with doll

Hugo Jaeggi: Paris, 1961.

Hugo Jaeggi: Paris, 1961.

Hugo Jaeggi / Photo Foundation Switzerland

A girl on roller skates with a doll’s basket in her hand. What would be a lovely motif for other photographers seems strange and unsettling to Hugo Jaeggi (1936 to 2018). The unusual perspective leaves out the girl’s upper body, instead the focus of the camera is on her legs and feet. The recording lives from the details: the doll’s wreath-like hair; the weapon-like piece of wood in the child’s hand; the feet that seem to be in too small shoes; the ground littered with autumn leaves; the crooked horizon that endangers the child’s steadfastness – whereby the sensuality of the details has a magical power.

Jaeggi was able to select people and objects of the image section and the imprint at the right moment in such a way that they seem removed from the everyday. Each picture is a careful composition. His photographs open a space of meaning beyond the visible and invite associations. This also reflects Jaeggi’s artistic attitude: For him, photography was a means of expression for his inner world of emotions, thoughts and dreams. What Jaeggi sometimes took to extremes in his later works can already be seen in his early photographs. Doesn’t the roller skate girl seem to want to take you into an uncanny realm of fantasy?


Lunch

Hans Staub: Pause der Bauarbeiter, um 1930.

Hans Staub: Break of the construction workers, around 1930.

Hans Staub / Photo Foundation Switzerland

Three young men crouch close together: construction workers taking a break in the shade. Someone reads the newspaper, the others read along – or does their gaze wander to the passer-by on the other side of the street? At least this is what the image section suggests: Due to the limited depth of field of the photography, the woman remains only a blurred hint, but the bright sunlight gives her an enigmatic presence. When this snapshot was taken, the press reported on the global economic crisis that began in 1929, but which only hit Switzerland in the following years and plunged many into unemployment. The sensitive observer of the scene, Hans Staub (1894–1990), first tried his hand at a sculptor, then worked as a heliographer and head of Escher Wyss’ in-house print shop before becoming a photo reporter in 1930.

His big topic was the life and work of ordinary people. Staub’s photographic work appeared primarily in the legendary “Zürcher Illustrierte”, which was discontinued in 1941. In doing so, he not only lost his most important client, but also a prominent place as a chronicler of everyday life. In old age he was able to experience how interest in his work was reawakened. With an unerring instinct, he recognized inconspicuous but revealing situations in everyday life – and photographed moods in which the past comes close to us.


Constructed impartiality

Ruth Erdt: Pablo und Eva, 1998, aus «The Gang».

Ruth Erdt: Pablo and Eva, 1998, from “The Gang”.

Ruth Erdt

Who the photographic work of Ruth Erdt knows, means to know her and her family personally. The two freckled protagonists in front of the mirror wall are their children: Pablo and Eva meet us in countless pictures, including the partner and friends of the photographer, who was born in 1965. They form “The Gang”, as she titled her first monographic publication in 2001. This sequence of portraits, self-portraits and still lifes looks like an intimate diary, but on closer inspection reveals a clever play with small stagings. Pablo’s gaze fixes on the camera lens pointed at him in the mirror.

He participates in the construction of a snapshot, is an accomplice, but he cannot see the refractions and delusions that ultimately make up the attraction of the recording. Eva seems to run a comb through his hair, while in reality she keeps her distance and pauses in movement. The scene is touching because it conveys closeness and distance at the same time, because it simulates impartiality and refers to the subjectivity of perception – and because it makes us think of our own youth or the youth of our children. What remains are fragments of a lost present, mirrored and distorted in the kaleidoscope of memories.

The art and the life

Karl Geiser: Maria Vanz steht Modell im Atelier Zollikon, um 1933.

Karl Geiser: Maria Vanz is a model in the Atelier Zollikon, around 1933.

Karl Geiser / Photo Foundation Switzerland

Karl Geiser is one of the most important Swiss sculptors of the 20th century. Less known than his sculptures are his photographs. It is true that he never aspired to a career in photography; but the recordings that he made while traveling or in the studio are impressive testimonies to an artistic vision and can exist as works in their own right. This also applies to the photograph taken around 1932 of Maria Vanz, Geiser’s model for his work on the Bernese “girl group”. In the studio in particular, it often happened that the sculptor obsessively circled and courted his figures with the camera; like a lover he indulged in a frenzy of pictures. In this way, he established an intense relationship with his models, as if he wanted to save them from permanent freezing.

With his spontaneous, technically carefree and extremely sensual way of taking photos, he also emphasized the fragmentary and provisional nature of the emerging group of figures in this case. Fantasy and reality are still in conflict – the sculpture towers over the model like a threatening shadow. Geiser’s studio was not only the center of his love and life; it was also the eerie place where his creations sometimes grew beyond him.


The return of the repressed

Jean-Luc Cramatte: aus der Serie «Culs de ferme», 2016.

Jean-Luc Cramatte: from the series «Culs de ferme», 2016.

Jean-Luc Cramatte

The chimney is crooked, the boards are loosening their joints, and scrub pressing from the crumbling facade reveals that no one is taking care of this part of the farm any more. The operation has not yet been given up – the cart filled with manure and welded-in hay bales in the background are evidence of this. But the symptoms of a precarious existence are obvious. The photo by the photographer Jean-Luc Cramatte, born in Porrentruy in 1959, is part of the extensive series “Culs de ferme”, a work about the mostly somewhat hidden backsides of courtyards and stables: non-places where barrels and boxes, broken frames and machine parts, rusty chains and tools, often also a desolate caravan or a sad Töffli were deposited. Cramatte was not interested in documenting the end of the peasant class.

Without criticism and without demonstrative intent, without specifying the location and time, he compiled an extensive inventory of the rural remnants, which he also published as an artist’s book in 2016 – fascinated by the Poetry of accumulation. It looks like a look into the collective unconscious, a counterpart to all the idyllic images with which we like to glorify the rural world. A metaphor for all those areas of our life that we prefer to ignore. Alone, the repressed keeps catching up with us.


crack in the picture

René Burri: Bahnhof, Frankfurt am Main, um 1960.

René Burri: Bahnhof, Frankfurt am Main, around 1960.

René Burri / Magnum Photos; Fondation René Burri, Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée

published in 1962 René Burri wrote his large photo essay “The Germans”, in which he impressively captured the social and political climate in Germany at the time. As early as 1959, at the age of 26, he was accepted into the famous Magnum agency, whose members were based on models such as Henri Cartier-Bresson: A good photographer, according to Cartier-Bresson, should be like a hunter for the “decisive moment” Action lurk. However, Burri’s picture of the Frankfurt train station, which made it onto the cover of his book, shows that the Swiss liked to target such dogmas.

Cartier-Bresson certainly paid him credit for this photograph, which he apparently considered to be a decisive moment: a peculiar break runs through the picture and separates people – a disruptive disruption, one might say today. Years later, Burri was still happy about his prank. Because the woman on the left belongs to a previous shot; on the negative strip it lay so perfectly next to the following picture that it resulted in an exciting, almost cinematic scene. So not a decisive moment after all – but a masterpiece that stimulates thought about the isolation of people, the search for orientation and the deep cracks in post-war society.


Absurd ballet

Gotthard Schuh: «Zöglinge bei Perugia», 1929.

Gotthard Schuh: «Zöglinge bei Perugia», 1929.

Gotthard Schuh / Photo Foundation Switzerland

«I am aware that my early photograp hien no longer surprise today’s observer. Over time, their content and form have become a matter of course for us. But when they were created, they were revolutionary in both respects », wrote Gotthard Schuh (1897–1969) about his early work. He referred to pictures such as “Zöglinge bei Perugia” from 1929. Even before Schuh turned to photojournalism, he discovered photography as a means of expression around this time, coming from painting. He was interested in clear, unpathetic imagery and the ability to translate everyday situations into an exciting visual experience.

With the camera, Schuh was able to capture those coincidences in life that would otherwise be hidden from the human eye stay. Or make constellations visible that transform the world into an absurd ballet. With the playing pupils it is not so much about a specific place or the document of a specific time. It is the simultaneous gestures and postures, the exciting juxtaposition of the various figures and movements that make photography so attractive. But Gotthard Schuh was only able to become aware of the formal power of the intuitively captured moment when he developed and enlarged the recording in the darkroom.


The wandering gaze

«Paysages de femme» – eine Transformation der weiblichen Anatomie in eine freie, skulpturale Formensprache.

«Paysages de femme» – a transformation of the female anatomy into a free, sculptural design language.

René Mächler / Swiss Photo Foundation

René Mächler (1936–2008) is primarily a representative of so-called concrete photography known: at the end of the 1960s he started working on unobjective To work fine compositions by using light to bring abstract shapes and patterns onto delicate paper. The work “Paysage de femme” already heralds this departure from documentary photography. From 1960 to 1996 Mächler worked as a science photographer at the Institute for Forensic Medicine at the University of Basel and dealt intensively with the human body. “Paysage de femme” can be understood as a reaction to this – a transformation of the female anatomy into a free, sculptural design language. Mächler’s work was published in Italy in 1964 under the title “Paesaggi di donna”; it also stands for a new approach in nude photography.

Despite the modern, object-like alienation, the representations remain extremely sensual. In narrow, precisely selected sections, Mächler scans bulges and indentations, the surface of which, depending on the lighting, presents itself smooth and white against the black background or reveals a structure of pores and hairs, folds and cavities. With the fragmentation and the exaggerated contrasts, the anatomical starting point is obscured. The gaze wanders “over hills, mountains, plains”, as it says in the suggestive text for “Paesaggi di donna”.


Show and hide

Henriette Grindat: Times Square, New York, 1968.

Henriette Grindat: Times Square, New York, 1968.

Henriette Grindat / Photo Foundation Switzerland

The photo of Henriette Grindat is not apparent at first glance. There is a young, almost naked woman who fixes the viewer with half-open mouth and covers her breasts in a playful surprise. There is an older, clothed woman who hides her face behind the speaking slots in the cash register. Both figures are caught between frames, windows and reflections. The photographer captured this confusing situation in a grotesque way: the superimposition of foregrounds and backgrounds creates an absurd juxtaposition of gestures of showing and hiding, of opposing female role models that encounter the voyeur. Because Grindat stands at the entrance to one of those establishments that opened up around New York’s Times Square in the 1960s: porn cinemas, peep shows, go-go bars, sex shops.

At the bottom of the picture a turnstile that the customer passes after he has paid. Behind it a banister that leads down to shabby amusements in the basement. As early as the 1950s, the Lausanne-based photographer, defying a limp caused by polio, devoted herself to traveling and discovering new worlds. The snapshot of Times Square seems to echo the influence of surrealism that Grindat had grappled with in Paris in the 1940s.


The uncertainty afterwards

Dominic Nahr: Japan, Namie, 2012. Ein Jahr nach dem Tsunami sucht die Polizei nach den sterblichen Überresten vermisster Personen in der nuklearen Sperrzone in Fukushima.

Dominic Nahr: Japan, Namie, 2012. One year after the tsunami, the police are looking for the remains of missing people in the nuclear exclusion zone in Fukushima.

Dominic Nahr

A barrier made of jagged concrete elements that deny the view of the landscape; a heavy sky, people in white protective suits and bright red vests. Everything in this picture points to a state of emergency, a catastrophe, a GAU. Don’t we know this scenario from Hollywood? It is only when we take a closer look that we are amazed to see the simple instruments that the faceless hooded people carry with them. With sticks they poke in the concrete elements that dominate the picture like the dice of a giant.

What they do can only be discovered in conversation with the Swiss photographer Dominic Nahr, who captured the eerie scene in 2012 near Namie, a small town in the Fukushima prefecture. The coastal town next to the Daiichi reactor complex was badly hit by an earthquake, tsunami and radiation on March 11, 2011. You can see police forces looking for missing persons – one year after the tsunami. We can hardly imagine how agonizing the long uncertainty must have been for the bereaved. Nahr documented the consequences of the accident more comprehensively than any other photographer. He also worked with a 360-degree video camera that puts the viewer in the middle of the restricted area. The production recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.


passing landscapes

Simone Kappeler: Auf einer Autoreise quer durch die USA entdeckt Simone Kappeler 1981 den Reiz von Plastikkameras.

Simone Kappeler: On a road trip across the USA, Simone Kappeler discovered the appeal of plastic cameras in 1981.

Simone Kappeler

The picture could come from a road movie in which cool cars, passing landscapes and loud music play a central role. Golden light falls on the neck and the flowing hair of the young woman in the passenger seat, while the person at the wheel remains invisible; only her hand, holding a cigarette, protrudes into the picture. Outside the brutal concrete buildings of a big city, overpasses and underpasses for free travel. Inside, the intimacy of a protected space.

The scene recorded by Simone Kappeler promises freedom, adventure and departure into an unknown future. It is a key image from the extensive “America 1981″ series, in which the newly trained photographer found a new, personal visual language. During a month-long road trip from New York to Los Angeles, she discovered the appeal of fleeting photography with cheap plastic cameras. These allowed her to play a cheeky game with random cut-outs and blurring, washed-out colors and uncontrolled exposures. Kappeler’s visual diary also reflects her liberation of sight: “I only wanted to take in what touches me and express my feelings in soft or hard tones and subjective colors. It should also be a journey to myself. ”


Message in double

1982

1982

Barbara Davatz

2014

2014

Barbara Davatz

Barbara Davatz: Serge and Carole, 1982/2014, from the series “As Time Goes By”.

Barbara Davatz

In 1982 Barbara Davatz 1944) photographed twelve couples in Zurich who stand out for their expressive appearance. In the double portrait, the codes that are sent out via clothing, posture and facial expressions are amplified and at the same time varied. They express both individuality and group membership. Davatz portrayed the same people again in 1988, 1997 and most recently in 2014. Most of the time, the partner constellation changed. Serge and Carole are an exception. Their relationship remained constant, even if it is unclear whether it is a friendship or a love affair.

The once androgynous Serge, who wore a new, slightly too large biker jacket in the 1980s, became a man – his style of clothing more subtle, the rebellious in view disappeared. Carole went through a similar metamorphosis. The flow of time can be read from the outer shell of the portrayed, but not from the changed aesthetics of the photography. This seems banal at first, but it is what defines the quality of the work: the composition, lighting and contrast of analog black-and-white photography have defied the ongoing technological change. Only in this way is it possible for us to compare the two images, which are 32 years apart, as if they were scientific drawings of the human species.


Meaningful looks

Pia Zanetti: Fussball-Zuschauer in der Township Soweto am Stadtrand von Johannesburg, 1968

Pia Zanetti: Football spectator in the township of Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg, 1968

Pia Zanetti

After completing her training in Basel, Pia Zanetti 1943) worked as a freelance photographer in Rome and London. In 1971 she returned to Switzerland, from where she continued her involvement in various magazines, including the NZZ weekend supplement, Du, Die Woche and Das Magazin vom Tagesanzeiger. Pia Zanetti is one of the most prominent Swiss photojournalists of her generation. She produced many reports on social and political issues with her husband, the journalist Gerardo Zanetti.

This photo of a crowd was taken in 1968 as part of a report on apartheid in South Africa. You can see a grandstand in the township of Soweto am Stadt edge of Johannesburg: A juxtaposition of young black men who are watching a football game in a concentrated and mostly amused way. Different emotions speak from their gaze – expectation, joy, but also worry – as if they were not just fixing what is happening on a playing field. The blurred face in the foreground of the picture gives the scene something disturbing and unsettling. Like a mask, like the phantom of a hunted person mounted in the peaceful situation, this face reflects a tense vigilance that reminds one of the harassment of an everyday life marked by racism.


The discovery of slowness

Guido Baselgia: Tierra templada № 1, 2018, Sammlung Förderverein der Fotostiftung Schweiz.

Guido Baselgia: Tierra templada № 1, 2018, Collection Förderverein der Fotostiftung Schweiz.

Guido Baselgia

An irritating backdrop, in front of which it is easy to lose the ground under your feet: the silhouettes of the trees stand out in front of you in a surreal way m haze off. Overgrown by ferns, creepers and orchids, they are reminiscent of primeval creatures with shaggy furs and beards. The recording of Guido Baselgia 1953) is part of his latest work cycle, which was created in Ecuador and Peru in 2018 and 2019. After years of intensive examination of barren and empty landscapes – be it in the Engadine, northern Norway or in the Andes – the artist faced abundance: Equipped with a large format camera, he searched the impenetrable thicket of the rainforest for the shapes, structures and lighting moods, that shape this habitat.

Baselgia, who not least made a name for himself as an architectural photographer, plunged into a world one that obeys its own laws. Here you look in vain for an overview: What is above, what is below? How close or how far is the foliage that is lost in the fog? The loss of the usual orientation forced the photographer to slow down – and sharpened his senses for a wondrous wilderness, the destruction of which continues unstoppable.


light and shadow

Barnabás Bosshart: Faustina Leitão Amorim, Alcântara, 1986.

Barnabás Bosshart: Faustina Leitão Amorim, Alcântara, 1986.

Barnabás Bosshart / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Faustina Leitão Amorim’s gaze seems to go through the viewer. The wrinkled face looks tired, marked by life and age. “She was half blind and hardly heard anything,” says the Swiss photographer Barnabás Bosshart 1947) about the woman who can be seen in the tough struggle for survival in Maranhão, one of the poorest countries in Brazil. It can be assumed that like most of the residents of the former Portuguese colonial city of Alcântara, she descended from African slaves. Barnabás Bosshart first visited the forgotten town in the north-east of Brazil on his trip to Latin America in 1973 and fell in love with the area – his later adopted home. Soon after, he said goodbye to glamorous fashion photography, in which he had started a promising career.


From 1980 he visited Alcântara once a year and began to portray the place and its inhabitants with the camera. The result is atmospheric landscape shots and sensitive portraits, which are characterized by a sober and at the same time aesthetic imagery. Bosshart’s photographs thrive on strong contrasts and deep black tones, which make the bright areas of the picture shine. The portrait of Faustina Leitão Amorim seems to be formed entirely from light and shadow – a light drawing in the truest sense of the word.


Pfauensprung

Lukas Felzmann: Aus der Serie «Waters in Between», 2008.

Lukas Felzmann: From the series “Waters in Between”, 2008.

Lukas Felzmann

«Interesting pictures», says Lukas Felzmann, «don’t just fall into my mind at any moment. The prerequisite for this is a kind of expanded awareness and a special receptivity. It is a process in which you oscillate back and forth between intuition and reflection. ” Felzmann, born in Zurich in 1959, has lived in California for 40 years. In countless forays into the Central Valley, the 600 km long and 80 km wide Californian long valley, which is one of the most fertile regions on earth.

The photographer is fine His work is not so much a scientific documentation as a slow, intuitive exploration of the interplay between nature and civilization. He looks for visible connections between past and present, between the smallest phenomena and the greatest forces in the universe. His book, published in 2009 Waters in Between is a kind of visual meditation in which there is actually room for everything – even a peacock floating over the roof of a shabby house it seems. The distant antennas are in stark contrast to the graceful silhouette of the hopping bird. An absurd moment, caught seemingly by chance, opens the eyes to the near and fleeting.


Mode in motion

Peter Knapp: Grace Coddington in Electric Fittings, für «Vogue», London, Juni 1971.

Peter Knapp: Grace Coddington in Electric Fittings, for «Vogue», London, June 1971.

Peter Knapp / Fotostiftung Schweiz

With a sweeping step, this shrill creature pushes a stroller towards a colorless group: N annys pushing their charges through Hyde Park in aprons and hoods. The fiery red mane belongs to Grace Coddington, who was already a picture editor for “British Vogue” at the time. Because the legs of the intended model were not long enough for the photographer Peter Knapp, the ex-model spontaneously asked to appear in front of the camera. She chose the outfit from Electric Fittings, and Knapp staged the bizarre situation, which appeared in British Vogue in June 1971. Born in 1931 in Bäretswil, Peter Knapp went to Paris to study art after completing his training as a graphic designer at the Zurich School of Applied Arts, where he made a name for himself as a fashion photographer.

As artistic director, he shaped the image of «Elle» in the 1960s and 1970s. Knapp recognized the future of the prêt-à-porter collections, he brought fashion onto the street – and set it in motion. He also translated the dynamics of his own photographic compositions into the layout of the magazine. In addition to the success in the Mo dewelt devoted himself to Peter Knapp’s freer, more conceptual work. In 2018, the Fotostiftung was allowed to add a substantial number of this important Swiss photographer to its collection.

The intimate space

René Groebli: Aus: «Das Auge der Liebe», 1952.

René Groebli: From: «Das Auge der Liebe», 1952.

René Groebli / Fotostiftung Schweiz

René Groebli’s second photo book “The Eye of Love”, published in 1954, was not well received in conservative Switzerland in the 1950s, but meanwhile it has become an indispensable part of the history of photography. The illustrated book reads like a poetic declaration of love to his wife Rita. The recordings, taken on their honeymoon in France, seem to capture a day in the life of the newlyweds. The intimate space of the hotel room is seldom left. Instead, the eye of the camera lingers on the beloved or on the trail of a night spent together.

The photographer and husband remain – with a few exceptions – invisible. Nevertheless, he always directs: through his gaze, which does not exhibit the female body, but rather playfully circles around with the camera. Rita appears as a silhouette in the backlight, emerges from the twilight of the hotel room or hides in the slight motion blur of the recordings. A gentle melancholy mingles with the intimacy and sensuality. The erotic undertone as well as the radical subjectivity of photography make “The Eye of Love” an outstanding work with which Groebli set new standards in the field of picture narration.


Berlin hatching

Rudolf Lichtsteiner: Berlin, 1961.

Rudolf Lichtsteiner: Berlin, 1961.

Rudolf Lichtsteiner / Photo Foundation Switzerland

A bicycle crosses the restricted area on the designated cycle path. If it were missing, it would be difficult to recognize the area as a crossroads and to assess its proportions. But as it is, the cyclist gives the picture depth with his shadow: the two-dimensional hatching becomes urban space.

The recording comes from an early Berlin report by Rudolf Lichtsteiner. With the creation of his own imagery, the autodidact, who was born in Winterthur in 1938, said goodbye to documentary photography in the early 1960s. Lichtsteiner’s photography also refers to his later work: the cyclist seems removed from the real world through the choice of detail and perspective. In addition, there is coincidence, which is partly responsible for this quiet, surreal moment. In later works Rudolf Lichtsteiner used multiple exposures or photograms, i.e. experimental varieties of photography, to challenge our viewing habits.

The effect of the picture is based on the strong formal composition; it works independently of contextual information about the person depicted, the location or the date. But if you know that it was built only a few weeks before the wall was built, you are tempted to read it as a symbol for the divided city.


Show and hide

Manon: Aus der Serie «La dame au crâne rasé», 1978.

Manon: From the series «La dame au crâne rasé», 1978.

Manon / Photo Foundation Switzerland / © Pro Litteris

In the mid-1970s, a young artist gave herself the programmatic name «Manon». She mixed up the Zurich art scene with her appearances as femme fatale, with provocative performances and installations, exhibited men in a shop window or presented her bedroom overflowing with erotic décor as a salmon-colored boudoir in a gallery.

During her Parisian years, Manon concentrated on photographic self-staging. The present picture from the series “La dame au crâne rasé” combines two images that seem to merge into one another. A bare back peels out of the darkness – or does this androgynous phantom flee from the light? The shaved head emphasizes the sculptural aspect; the face is turned to one side, but alienated by a brightly reflective mask. Here light and shadow wrestle with each other: showing and hiding. Above the added backdrop of gloomy city roofs, the view is caught by a cloud that does not manage to cover the sun.

To this day, Manon deals with beauty and transience in her work – again and again including self-portrayals. On the occasion of her eightieth birthday in 2020, the artist will be honored with exhibitions in Zofingen, Paris and Winterthur.


lost in oneself

Manuel Bauer: Der Dalai Lama in Klausur, Dharamsala, 2004.

Manuel Bauer: The Dalai Lama in retreat, Dharamsala, 2004.

Manuel Bauer / Fotostiftung Schweiz

How many minutes can there be between these two portraits of the 14th Dalai Lama? Is the posture of the head still the same? Are there any other wrinkles on the eyelids? When meditating, time seems to have vanished. Outwardly, there are hardly any changes to be seen in the self-absorbed person. And yet the short duration might be enough for him to move mountains.

Manuel Bauer, the Swiss photographer born in 1966, to whom these portraits are to be owed, knows how to combine the visible and the invisible. When he turned to the spiritual leader of the Tibetans in Dharamsala on August 16, 2004, he did not want to capture external characteristics, but rather to make the spiritual power that emanates from the Dalai Lama tangible. The representation of the highest, completely inwardly directed concentration shows us a man who is present and absent at the same time.

These intimate images are based on deep trust: Wi e hardly any other photographer has access to the closest circle around the Dalai Lama, whose friendship he has built through years of commitment to the cause of the Tibetans. Only in this way was it possible for His Holiness to have himself photographed by him in the most private situation.


War without war

Meinrad Schade: Beltring, Grafschaft Kent, England, aufgenommen 2009.

Meinrad Schade: Beltring, Kent, England, recorded in 2009.

Meinrad Schade / Fotostiftung Schweiz

A peaceful heaven with sheep Fchenwolken hangs over a puzzling scene: In the background there are tanks in front of an army tent, in front a manned toy tank drives head-on towards the photographer. With his pink mirrored sunglasses, the driver exudes a coolness that is embarrassing. Meinrad Schade is not a war photographer. Nevertheless, the war is thematically the focus of his free work.

This picture was taken in Beltring, where around 100,000 people meet every year for a huge “Living History” event. So-called “re-enactors” reenact scenes from the great wars at this “War and Peace Show” – on the grounds that they made history accessible to others and thus heightened awareness of the horrors of war. Classic war photography uses a similar line of argument: pointing to deter. Meinrad Schade chooses a different strategy.

It illuminates the sidelines on which war and Peace intertwine ominously and the fascination for the martial is played down under the guise of enlightenment. The protagonist of the picture symbolizes at least a ridiculous potency with his upright tank cannon, and Schade’s sarcasm is evident.


A memorial

Werner Bischof: Opfer des Atombombenabwurfs über Hiroshima, Japan, 1951.

Werner Bischof: Victims of the atomic bombing on Hiroshima, Japan, 1951.

Werner Bischof Estate / Fotostiftung Schweiz

A back like a battlefield – wounded, scorched, scarred . «One of the few surviving witnesses of August 6, 1945 in Hiroshima», wrote the Swiss Magnum photographer Werner Bischof (1916–1954) about his 1951 photograph. “Barely a mile from the center of the explosion, he tried to escape into a doorway and was burned by radioactive rays.” After various assignments in the Korean War, which made him doubt the meaning of his profession, Bischof was looking for a way out of the fast-paced photojournalism in Japan at that time. His pictures became calmer, more meditative, more subjective.

The photograph of the injured back is indicative of Bishop’s desire for deepening, his disgust for photographs that just scream for attention. Instead of a personal victim story, he created a manifesto against the war. The body presents itself like a memorial – a carefully designed sculpture, recorded in grazing light that relentlessly illuminates the injuries. Even though the man turns his face away, it is not difficult to identify with him. His scars may have also reminded the photographer of his own vulnerability.


look out – look in

Robert Frank: Landsgemeinde, Hundwil, 1949.

Robert Frank: Landsgemeinde, Hundwil, 1949.

Robert Frank / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Robert Frank, born in Zurich in 1924, is one of the most influential photographers of the 20th year hundred. His book «Les Américains», a critical portrait of the USA, first published in 1958, opened the eyes of generations of photographers – not least because of the raw, spontaneous and radically subjective style with which he revolutionized photography in the post-war period.

After his death last Monday the world press has once more honored his pictures of America as icons. Frank didn’t just invent his style on a road trip through the United States. As early as 1949, on the occasion of a rural community in Hundwil, he anticipated what would later become the signature of his book on America: The look at the inconspicuous, snapshot-like blurring or cut faces can certainly help to say “something true”.

«I keep taking the same pictures. I always try to see the inside outside. I’m trying to say something that’s true. But maybe nothing is really true. Apart from what is out there – and what is out there, is constantly changing. ” Look out – look inside: Could there be a better example of Frank’s photographic dialectic than the Hundwil pub scene?


Modern women

Marianne Breslauer: Paris, 1937.

Marianne Breslauer: Paris, 1937.

Marianne Breslauer / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Marianne Breslauer (1909–2001) began her training as a photographer at Le Berlin in 1927 tte association. She moves in artistic circles and captures the zeitgeist of the Weimar Republic in expressive portraits. During a stay in Paris, the young photographer discovers a new visual language for herself: She strolls through the streets, observes discreetly and lets herself be inspired to cautious arrangements by the urban backdrop.

The photograph of the cigarette smoker in front of the wall with the words “Défense d’Afficher” is placed: next to the elegant protagonist, every kind of prohibition seems petty; the shadow of the lantern and the ghostly graffiti head contribute to the fact that the scene seems taken from a film noir. Ilse Jutta Zambona, the first wife of Erich Maria Remarque, poses here. Marianne and her husband, the art dealer Walter Feilchenfeldt, remain connected to the writer even after their escape from Nazi Germany. The photographer had contacts in Switzerland even before she settled in Zurich in 1948: she took on orders from Arnold Kübler for the “Zürcher Illustrierte”, and in 1933 she traveled to Spain with Annemarie Schwarzenbach. Although much of her work was printed in magazines, Marianne Feilchenfeldt put the camera aside when she was not yet 30 and made a name for herself as an art dealer.


What remains

Virginie Rebetez: Aus der Serie «Packing», 2012.

Virginie Rebetez: From the series «Packing», 2012.

Virginie Rebetez / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Garments – folded and carefully illuminated they lie d a and rest in oneself. The main focus is on the socks and trousers, but if one knows that the dresses were worn by the deceased at the time of their death, one immediately tries to imagine the wearer, whose absence becomes apparent. These cases were packed by a funeral home for the relatives who never picked them up. The photographer Virginie Rebetez, who was born in Lausanne in 1979, calls her 12-part series “Packing” – and thus alludes to “the last trip”, as if you could still pack a few useful things for it.

The themes of absence, loss, identity and death are central in Rebetez’s work, which is also reflected in the home when watering plants, eating and watching TV recently deceased. For a moment she picks up the thread of everyday life that was suddenly torn by death. Other series are a photographic search for clues in the case of a missing woman or unidentified murder victims. What all photographs have in common is that Virginie Rebetez comes very close to people without depicting them directly. It just holds on to what of them remains in the world. This is how her pictures counteract the disappearance.


Good news

Leonard von Matt: Vinzentinerinnen, Vatikan, 1958.

Leonard von Matt: Vinzentinerinnen, Vatican, 1958.

Leonard von Matt / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Delight, excitement, joy – that speaks from the gestures d he nuns. Your eyes are on the cardinal in the limousine, who has just left the Sistine Chapel. Leonard von Matt captured the euphoric moment when the conclave came to an end in 1958: John XXIII. was elected the 261st Pope. The autodidact of photography, who comes from a family of booksellers in Stans, documented everyday life in central Switzerland in his early years. A trip to Rome in 1946 marked the beginning of a photographic inventory of cultural assets in Italy, France, Spain and Greece.

Thanks to his good relations, he was given access to areas in the Vatican where otherwise only clerics and religious. His particular merit was a series of illustrated books about the Vatican – for this he was raised to the knighthood of the Gregorius Order in 1951. Von Matt’s photographs provide unique insights during the conclave: the alterations in the Sistine Chapel for the papal election, the sealed doors, the improvised sleeping quarters for the cardinals. In the picture of the Vincentine Sisters, two worlds contrast, the almost floating, white-clad nuns and the elegant, shiny black car from the top floor of the clergy.


pilgrims on the ice

Otto Pfenniger: Skitourenfahrer auf einem Gletscher, um 1950.

Otto Pfenniger: Ski tourer on a glacier, around 1950.

Otto Pfenniger / Swiss Photo Foundation

Otto Pfenniger (1919-2004) was not daring ner photo reporter, but a careful craftsman and sensitive observer of the everyday. Before he became self-employed in 1959 and opened a shop in Zurich, he had gained experience in various photo studios, including as head of the laboratory at the renowned Eidenbenz studio in Basel. Photoglob-Wehrli, a subsidiary of Orell Füssli AG specializing in postcards, provided Pfenniger with numerous views of Swiss landscapes. The passionate mountaineer also dealt with the alpine world photographically. First of all, he wanted to stand out from the average through unconventional picture compositions. He mastered the game with backlighting and, as in this example, experimented with unusual perspectives: En miniature and lost at the edge of the picture, the silhouettes of the ski tourers move over a plane that seems to tilt into the vertical. There is no horizon to hold the eye, no summit that reveals a destination – in this icy desert the small caravan looks like a pilgrimage; one is tempted to read the scene, which is difficult to locate, as a symbol. From today’s perspective, the finely structured surface of the glacier that breaks up in places is reminiscent of the battered skin of a gigantic, primeval creature


Insects in sight

Kurt Caviezel: Insect 14, 2009.

Kurt Caviezel: Insect 14, 2009.

Kurt Caviezel / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Netcam photographer Kurt Caviezel’s eyes are (almost) everywhere. Around 20,000 cameras across the globe provide him with real-time recordings on his screen. From his studio in Zurich he goes on trips with a click of the mouse and fishes fleeting moments from the stream of images that the private and public cameras he controls feed into the network. But the artist, born in Chur in 1964, does not do this to collect information or to monitor other people. Rather, he is interested in pictures that were actually not intended by anyone.

In addition to image disturbances, unintentional selfies or puzzling messages to the cyber community, there are also motifs in which nature reports back. For example, when a bird misuses the camera as a landing site and – instead of the ski slope – its plumage appears in front of the lens. Or when insects seize a device high above the picturesque market square of a small town, not quite in the spirit of the local tourism organization. Kurt Caviezel today has an archive of around four million Netcam images: an inexhaustible reservoir for his artistic work, with which he creates a bizarre, alien kaleidoscope of our time.


Hodler’s last day

Gertrud Dübi-Müller: Ferdinand Hodler mit Ehefrau Berthe und Tochter Paulette, «Port Noir», Genf, 18. Mai 1918.

Gertrud Dübi-Müller: Ferdinand Hodler with wife Berthe and daughter Paulette, “Port Noir”, Geneva, May 18, 1918.

Gertrud Dübi-Müller / Swiss Photo Foundation

Ferdinand Hodler is one of the most photographed Swiss artists of his time. He liked to put himself in the limelight – preferably in front of the camera of Gertrud Dübi-Müller (1888–1980). The young woman from Solothurn, who would go down in history as an important art collector, was not only a model for him, but also a beloved friend. From 1911 to 1918 she photographed him over 100 times. In an era when representative portraits were still part of the domain of professional studio photography, the autodidact took spontaneous snapshots, especially outdoors.

Again and again she knew how to animate Hodler to small appearances and jokes. The immediacy and freshness of her pictures seem modern: with Gertrud Müller – at the time still unmarried – the famous painter also showed his unpretentious and vulnerable side, cocky or lost in thought. On May 18, 1918, Gertrud accompanied her boyfriend on a walk on Lake Geneva, together with his wife Berthe and his daughter Paulette. Berthe looks into the distance, the child is preoccupied with itself. Only the artist, an invisible burden on his neck, looks questioningly into the camera. What is he seeing? The following day, Hodler is dead.


Enchanted parking space

Emil Schulthess: Auto-Occasionsmarkt an der Livernois Avenue, Detroit, 1953.

Emil Schulthess: Second-hand car market on Livernois Avenue, Detroit, 1953.

Emil Schulthess / Fotostiftung Schweiz

After this Emil Schulthess (1913–1996) made a name for himself primarily as a graphic artist in the 1930s, the Zurich-born artist increasingly appeared as a photographer and designer of monumental illustrated books in the post-war period. The exploration of distant continents and the urge to depict the wonders of nature in memorable images run through his entire work. Schulthess first traveled extensively in the 1950s to Africa and the USA, later followed by destinations in Asia and South America as well as participating in an expedition of the US Navy to the Antarctic.

His photo books about those who traveled Areas became international bestsellers. In addition, Schulthess was a pioneer of color photography who spared no effort to produce high-quality color photos perfectly in terms of printing technology. This photograph of a second-hand car market in Detroit, taken in 1953 during his trip to the USA, conveys an almost solemn atmosphere: the fairy lights are reflected in the polished bodies and enchant the used cars – most of them no more than five years old. The picture stands for a nation of rapid consumption and for a time in which broad strata of the population were able to fulfill their dream of unlimited mobility for the first time.


Floating weightlessly

Monique Jacot: Maternité de Morges, 1980.

Monique Jacot: Maternité de Morges, 1980.

Monique Jacot / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Monique Jacot , Born in Neuchâtel in 1934 ren, has repeatedly dealt with female living environments. Her personal interest and feeling for feminist perspectives probably helped her assert herself in male-dominated photojournalism. In the 1980s and 1990s she documented the everyday life of women farmers and factory workers and accompanied the women’s demonstrations on the occasion of Christiane Brunner’s defeat in the elections. When she was commissioned by the editorial staff to photograph «women’s issues», she also accepted this as the challenge of delivering something other than ordinary reportage images.

Something like the magazine «L’Illustré »Pictures ordered for a report on new antenatal services in Morges Hospital: At first glance, the bathers can hardly be identified as pregnant women, and the swimming boards are also hidden. The edge of the pool and the reflection of the window front only hint at the surroundings of the indoor pool. Detached from their context, the bodies transform into seemingly weightless floating figures of black and white ornament. This turn into the melancholy-poetic is typical of the photographer, who always brought her subjective style into her commissioned work and thus repeatedly created images that outlast the current situation.


Strei Trains through New York

Nicolas Faure: Zwei Badenixen am Pier des Hudson River in New York, 1980.

Nicolas Faure: Two bathing mermaids on the pier of the Hudson River in New York, 1980.

Nicolas Faure / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Nicolas Faure, born in 1949, became known for unconventional Switzerland pictures: his large-format photographs of motorway landscapes, for example, radically broke with the tradition of idyllic calendar photography that had shaped the representation of Switzerland for so long. What is less well known is that the autodidact from Geneva had already devoted himself entirely to color in the late 1970s – at a time when black and white photography was still considered to be artistically more valuable. At that time Faure was living in New York and developed his own photographic signature on his forays through the city.

His interest was in everyday urban life, in which bizarre opposites meet . The erotically charged staging of the two bathing beauties on the shabby pier on the Hudson River combines glamor and shabbiness. As an observer of this photo shoot, Nicolas Faure also addresses exhibitionism and voyeurism as the main features of the medium of photography. For his anecdotal and lifelike street photography, color was an indispensable stylistic device. He later published a selection of his photos in the book “Goodbye Manhattan” – an exciting testimony to the cultural change that was only to really capture the world of photography in the following decade and to make color photography suitable for museums.

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