Werner Bischof Swiss photo legend

Art, Photography
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Bischof, On the road to Cuzco, Valle Sagrado, Peru, 1954
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Harbour of Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, 1952

Photojournalism as a springboard to art

He was on the lookout for those moments where he could capture the essence of humanity with a click. Swiss photographer Werner Bischof (1916-1954) travelled to many different countries to find rays of hope in a world traumatised by wars and conflicts. He died in a car accident in the Andes at the age of 38.

Photojournalist who gained fame at an early age after WWII, Werner Bischof joined Magnum Photos, founded by Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson.  The agency’s purpose was to allow photographers to regain control of the pictures that they sent in undeveloped films to their editors, sight unseen.

Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne celebrates the centenary of the birth of a legend whose search for the truth was remarkably enhanced by the eye of an artist. Marco Bischof, who was only three when his father died and who is the guardian of the Bischof estate, has mounted an exhibition entitled Point de vue (Viewpoint) which reveals the itinerary of an artist seized by the dramatic events of his time.

Bischof’s experimentations at art school in Zurich were followed by the years during which the photographer captured the devastation left by WWII and postwar zones of conflict. But a more mellow period sets in after his time in Japan, where suddenly the images find a quiet beauty again.

A second exhibition, produced by the Musée de l’Elysée and entitled Helvetica focuses exclusively on Bischof’s Swiss years, on his training and work in fashion and advertising before becoming a press photographer during the war years in Switzerland. It is the subject of the first publication of the “Collection - Musée de l’Elysée”, under the stewardship of the insolently young Tatiana Franck, niece of Martine Franck, the last wife of Henri Cartier-Bresson. 

By: Michele Laird

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