Exhibition: ‘Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the present – A Different History of Photography’ at Fotostiftung Schweiz, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 22nd October 2011 – 19th February 2012


Many thankx to Fotostiftung Schweiz for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Eduard Spelterini. 'Über den Wolken' Brunner & Co. A.G., Zurich 1928


Eduard Spelterini (Swiss, 1852-1931)
Über den Wolken
Brunner & Co. A.G., Zurich


Albert Steiner. 'Schnee, Winter, Sonne' Rotapfel-Verlag, Zurich-Erlenbach/Leipzig 1930


Albert Steiner (Swiss, 1877-1965)
Schnee, Winter, Sonne
Rotapfel-Verlag, Zurich-Erlenbach/Leipzig



Albert Steiner was one of the finest Swiss photographers of the twentieth century. Like Ansel Adams, he favoured imposing natural phenomena, landscapes with what might be called good bone structure, (in his case the Alps, in Adams’s comparable work, the American West), and he printed his vision of them in black-and-white, revealing nature in all its majesty. His impressive scenic work has fundamentally shaped the world’s perception of Switzerland as an alpine country of timeless beauty. It spans the period from before World War I – an era of pictorially inspired images that look like oil paintings – to the straightforward and elegantly modern photography of the 1930s. Unlike many other photographers of the same generation active in the same area, Steiner saw photography as a completely appropriate means of creating works of art, and considered himself an artist.

Text from Amazon. Albert Steiner The Photographic Work. Steidl November 21, 2008


Jakob Tuggener. 'Fabrik' Rotapfel Verlag, Erlenbach-Zurich 1943


Jakob Tuggener (Swiss, 1904-1988)
Rotapfel Verlag, Erlenbach-Zurich



The Swiss Foundation for Photography (Fotostiftung Schweiz) is marking its fortieth anniversary by presenting a fresh view of Swiss photography – a tour d’horizon covering a range of illuminating photobooks in which not only the great themes of photography are reflected but also the development of photographic styles and modes of expression. Since the late 1920s the book has repeatedly proved itself to be an ideal platform for the presentation of photographic works. Books have not only contributed to the dissemination and transmission of photography but also facilitated the integration of the individual image into a meaningful context.

In the history of photography the photobook plays a major role not only in publicising photographs, but also as an independent means of expression. The significance of many photographers’ works only emerges when presented in book form, in the coherent sequence or series of images. Content, design and printing quality combine to produce an intricate architectural whole.

This jubilee exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the Fotostiftung Schweiz focuses on a selection of photobooks that have influenced photography in Switzerland since the late 1920s. At that time, technical advances made the reproduction of top quality photographic images possible and promptly gave rise to a first boom in illustrated books that placed greater emphasis on the photographs than on the texts. Since then, Swiss photobooks have continued to develop in various directions and have repeatedly attracted considerable attention at international level as well.

With the help of seven thematic areas – homeland, portraiture, mountain photography, the world of work, aerial photography, contemporary history, travel – this exhibition aims at a kind of typology of the Swiss photobook which draws attention to the potential interplay between book and photograph, while also revealing the extent to which modes of expression have altered over the course of time. Concise excerpts from these books exhibited on the walls highlight the basic principle of each photobook – a photograph positioned on a double page still remains an integral part of a larger sequence. The concept, design and reception of photobooks are examined more closely in display cases. A large wall installation is devoted to photobook covers. The photobook is also presented as an object in film form: “reading” illustrated photography books is not just an intellectual but also a sensual act.

Press release from the Fotostiftung Schweiz website



Eduard Spelterini (Swiss, 1852-1931)
Über den Wolken (cover)
Brunner & Co. A.G., Zurich



Swiss balloonist Eduard Spelterini (1852-1931) lived an extraordinary life. Born the son of an innkeeper and beer brewer in a remote village in the Toggenburg area of Switzerland, Spelterini achieved international fame when he became the first aeronaut to fly over the Swiss Alps in 1898. Over the next two decades, Spelterini navigated his balloon through the skies of Europe, Africa, and Asia, and over such sites as the Great Pyramid of Giza and the gold mines of South Africa. Spelterini remains an important figure today because of his achievements in aerial photography. Seeking images to illustrate his lectures, he began taking a camera along with him on his expeditions in 1893, and his breathtaking photographs quickly became the talk of Europe.

Known as the “King of the Air,” the Swiss balloonist Eduard Spelterini enchanted the imaginations of European royalty, military generals, wealthy patrons, and the public alike with his mastery of the most whimsical mode of travel ever invented – the gas balloon. During the course of his storied aviation career, Spelterini flew his balloons over the Swiss Alps, across the Egyptian pyramids, and past the ziggurats of the Middle East, taking breathtaking photographs of landscapes and cities from the sky.

On Spelterini’s first ballooning ventures, he ferried aristocrats between Vienna, Bucharest, Athens, and other European capitals, on flights that became so famous that they were soon jam-packed with an international press corps looking for the next sensational story. Later in his life, Spelterini was the first aeronaut to succeed in the hazardous passage over the Swiss Alps, a trip then thought impossible. Eventually, he decided to bring his camera on every voyage in order to document the full panorama of international vistas he encountered.

Text from Amazon


Eduard Spelterini and the Spectacle of Images: The Colored Slides of the Pioneer Balloonist. Verlag Scheidegger and Spiess; Bilingual edition August 15, 2010, presents a selection of around eighty of Spelterini’s never-before-published colored slides, offering readers an altogether new look at the spectacular work of this pioneer of photography and aviation.

Eduard Spelterini – Photographs of a Pioneer Balloonist. Verlag Scheidegger and Spiess; Bilingual edition December 30, 2007 is the first book after 80 years to present these images of his journeys, reproduced directly from the artist’s original glass negatives. Contextualized by essays that explore both Spelterini’s life and his photographic work, the photographs featured in this volume capture the heady mix of danger and discovery that defined the early years of international air travel when balloons ruled the skies.


Walter Mittelholzer. 'Alpenflug' Orell Füssli, Zurich/Leipzig 1928


Walter Mittelholzer (Swiss, 1894-1937)
Alpenflug (cover)
Orell Füssli, Zurich/Leipzig


Jakob Tuggener. 'Fabrik' (cover) Rotapfel Verlag, Erlenbach-Zurich 1943


Jakob Tuggener (Swiss, 1904-1988)
Fabrik (cover)
Rotapfel Verlag, Erlenbach-Zurich



Jakob Tuggener’s Fabrik, published in Zurich in 1943, is a milestone in the history of the photography book. Its 72 images, in the expressionist aesthetic of a silent movie, impart a skeptical view of technological progress: at the time the Swiss military industry was producing weapons for World War II. Tuggener, who was born in 1904, had an uncompromisingly critical view of the military-industrial complex that did not suit his era. His images of rural life and high-society parties had been easy to sell, but Fabrik found no publisher. And when the book did come out, it was not a commercial success. Copies were sold at a loss and some are believed to have been pulped. Now this seminal work, which has since become a sought-after classic, is being reissued with a contemporary afterword. In his lifetime, Tuggener’s work appeared – at Robert Frank’s suggestion – in Edward Steichen’s Post-War European Photography and in The Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, The Family of Man, in whose catalogue it remains in print. Tuggener’s death in 1988 left an immense catalogue of his life’s work, much of which has yet to be shown: more than 60 maquettes, thousands of photographs, drawings, watercolors, oil paintings and silent films.The Family of Man,

Book description on Amazon. The book has been republished by Steidl in January, 2012. The classics never go out of fashion!


Andri Pol. 'Grüezi' Kontrast Verlag, Zurich 2006


Andri Pol (Swiss, b. 1961)
Kontrast Verlag, Zurich



Fotostiftung Schweiz
Grüzenstrasse 45
CH-8400 Winterthur (Zürich)
Phone: +41 52 234 10 30

Opening hours:
Daily 11am – 6pm
Wednesday 11am – 8pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotostiftung Schweiz website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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