Posts Tagged ‘Rene Burri


Exhibition: ‘The Memory of the Future. Photographic Dialogues between Past, Present and Future’ at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition dates: 25th May – 28th August 2016

Curator: Tatyana Franck, Musée de l’Elysée, assisted by Lydia Dorner and Emilie Delcambre

Artists: Takashi Arai / Israel Ariño / Anna Atkins / Patrick Bailly-Maître-Grand Pierre Cordier / Bernd and Hilla Becher / Martin Becka / Binh Danh /Jayne Hinds Bidaut John Dugdale / Jean-Gabriel Eynard / Joan Fontcuberta / Dennis Gabor / Loris Gréaud / JR Idris Khan / Laure Ledoux / Gustave Le Gray / Gabriel Lippmann / Vera Lutter / Christian Marclay / Mathew Brady / Vik Muniz / Oscar Muñoz / Eadweard Muybridge / France Scully Osterman and Mark Osterman Andreas / Andreas Müller-Pohle / Florio Puenter Benjamin Recordon / Dino Simonett / Jerry Spagnoli / Joni Sternbach / James Turrell Martial Verdier / Paul Vionnet / Pierre Wetzel / Victoria Will / Nancy Wilson-Pajic



3D Digitization of Jean-Gabriel Eynard. 'Charles et Mathilde Horngascher-Odier' 1845


3D Digitisation of Jean-Gabriel Eynard (Swiss, 1775-1863)
Charles and Mathilde Horngascher-Odier
© Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne



Gabriel Lippmann (colour photography) and Dennis Gabor (holograms). Eadweard Muybridge (movement) and Pierre Cordier (chemigrams). Daguerreotypes, calotypes, negatives on dry waxed paper, tintypes, ambrotypes, cyanotypes. Heliogravure, ferrotype, collage and carbon printing. 3D digitisations that “light up” the image from every angle.

What’s old is new again. Then and now, here and there. The memory of future past.


Many thankx to the Musée de l’Elysée for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


This exhibition is an odyssey into the history of photography where different eras are juxtaposed and where artists and their methods dialogue with each other. Through a selection of historic photographic processes and the works of contemporary artists, the spectator is encouraged to observe the influence of the past on today’s artistic creations. The exhibition The Memory of the Future proposes a three-pronged vision: that of the past with the works of the pioneers of photographic techniques, that of the present with contemporary works that revive this know-how, and that of the future with technologies that give a new perspective on the works of the past.

Through century-old processes such as daguerreotypes, calotypes, negatives on dry waxed paper, tintypes, ambrotypes, cyanotypes and including holograms, The Memory of the Future celebrates the founding fathers of photographic techniques by establishing a dialogue between them and contemporary artists. From Gabriel Lippmann to James Turrell, including Robert Cornelius and Oscar Muñoz, this exhibition brings together for the first time some one hundred works whose common thread is their ability to withstand time. The Memory of the Future also proposes a selection of works from the Musée de l’Elysée’s collections that have never before been presented to the public.

After having launched a campaign to digitise its photography books in 2014 – 1,500 books have been digitised as of this time – the Musée de l’Elysée continues to explore techniques to dematerialise its visual heritage in order to preserve and enhance it. Consistent with its ambition to not only preserve works of value but to prospect for new ones, the Musée de l’Elysée has undertaken a 3D digitisation project of its works using a prototype developed by the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). This technology of the future is presented in this exhibition in the form of a touch screen monitor.



Oscar Muñoz. 'Ante la Imagen' 2009


Oscar Muñoz (Colombian, b. 1951)
Ante la Imagen
© Oscar Muñoz, courtesy of the artist and Mor charpentier gallery



Oscar Muñoz’s work combines photography, engraving, drawing, installation, video and sculpture, defying all attempts at categorisation. Using non-conventional techniques, his work is a reflection on social concerns and addresses the themes of memory and forgetting, appearance and disappearance, loss and the insecurity of human life. In his work El Coleccionista, the artist uses a triple video projection to show a figure that is sorting, organising and grouping what appears to be personal archives. Oscar Muñoz evokes here the ability of images to be part of multiple narratives, from one image to another, from one context to another. These images propose multiple narrations that overlap and intermingle between the past and present, memory and time.

For Ante la Imagen, Muñoz uses the portrait of the chemist Robert Cornelius (1809-1893), known for having reduced the exposure time of the photographic process of the daguerreotype and for producing one of the first self-portraits, to demonstrate the effectiveness of his method. Muñoz reproduces this portrait by engraving it on a reflecting metallic surface, like a daguerreotype. With each manipulation, the viewer sees the portrait of Cornelius superimposed on his own. The work is composed and decomposed and questions the interior multiplicity of one and the same image. Muñoz replaces this frozen image by a constantly-changing one, vulnerable to deterioration under the effect of air, like life itself.


Gabriel Lippmann. 'Selfportrait' c. 1892


Gabriel Lippmann (Franco-Luxembourgish, 1845-1921)
c. 1892
© Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne



Professor of physics at the Sorbonne, a member of the French Academy of Sciences and author of many scientific works, the international renown of Gabriel Lippmann Is mainly due to his invention of colour photography using the interferential method. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1908.

In 1891, he presented his invention, which would revolutionise photography, to the public. Lippmann developed the “wave theory of light”, which held that light bodies vibrate (like sound) and that light is propagated by waves of different speeds. The variations in wavelengths lead to changes in colour. To prove the validity of his theory, Lippmann worked for five years to find a method that would fix these interferences. To do so, he developed a device that made it possible to place a special photographic plate (made of layers proportional to the wavelengths) in contact with a mercury mirror, a very complicated process. The sensitive layer of an average wavelength, green, for example, has 4,000 bright points per millimetre in its thickness, separated by dark intervals. The Musée de l’Elysée has the largest collection of Lippmann prisms in the world.


McDonnell Douglas Corp. / Spindler & Hoyer. 'Portrait of Dennis Gabor' 1975


McDonnell Douglas Corp. / Spindler & Hoyer
Portrait of Dennis Gabor
© Jonathan Ross Hologram Collection



Engineer and physicist, Dennis Gabor is known for having invented the hologram in 1947, for which he was awarded the Holweck prize in 1970, and then the Nobel Prize in physics in 1971. Fascinated by Abbé’s theory of the microscope and Gabriel Lippmann’s method of colour photography, he studied electron optics, which led him to propose the concept of holography that he referred to as “wavefront reconstruction” at the time. The initial project consisted of an electron microscope capable of visualising atom networks and the atoms themselves, but that was not put into practice until 20 years later, whereas the hologram as a photographic process would have to wait for the invention of the laser in the 1960s, the light source necessary for the hologram. Subsequently, Emmett Leith and Juris Upatnieks in the United States and Yuri Denisyuk in Russia contributed to the improvement of Gabor’s invention and presented three-dimensional holograms. Since then, holograms are widely know to the general public through advertising, the production of packaging materials and jewellery items.

The life-size version of the portrait of Gabor can be seen at the offices of the McDonnell Douglas Corporation in the United States, one of the first companies to have attempted to market the holograph. The reduced-size copy presented here was made several years later by Spindler & Hoyer, a German optical company.


Eadweard Muybridge. 'Animal Locomotion, Plate 597' 1887


Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904)
Animal Locomotion, Plate 597
© Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne


Christian Marclay. 'Memento (Survival of the Fittest)' 2008


Christian Marclay (American-Swiss, b. 1955)
Memento (Survival of the Fittest)
© Christian Marclay, courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York



A well-known filmmaker and multimedia artist, Christian Marclay made his mark on the contemporary art scene by combining the visual arts, film and musical culture. In 2007, he began a project that explores the interactions between sound and vision, as well as the manipulation and the conservation of different forms of recordings. He initiated a series together with the Graphicstudio, University of South Florida involving the use of two archaic recording systems – the cyanotype photography process and the audiotape.

He adopted and adapted the subject of the audiotape, which has become just about obsolete as a result of technological developments, and placed it at the center of his visual abstraction to capture the old soundtracks of hundreds of cassette tapes unfurled like so many streamers, using the cyanotype process. “We assume, because we’re able to capture sounds or images, that they will exist forever – when, in fact, obsolescence makes you feel the limit of those assumptions.” By combining these two mediums, the artist brilliantly explores the resonances between the past and present.


JR. 'UNFRAMED, Man Ray revu par JR, Femme aux cheveux longs, 1929, Vevey, Suisse' 2010


UNFRAMED, Man Ray revu par JR, Femme aux cheveux longs, 1929, Vevey, Suisse
© JR / Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne



JR has “the largest art gallery in the world”. Thanks to the technique of photo collage, he freely exhibits his work on walls worldwide, thus attracting the attention of those who rarely or never go to museums. His work is a mixture of art and action and deals with commitment, freedom, identity and limits. After finding a camera in the Paris Metro in 2001, he travelled throughout Europe to meet other people whose mode of artistic expression involved the use of the walls and façades that give form to our cities. After observing the people he met and listening to their message, JR pasted their portraits up in streets and basements and on the roof tops of Paris.

JR thus creates “pervasive art” that he puts up on buildings in the Paris suburbs, on walls in the Middle East, on broken bridges in Africa and in the favelas of Brazil. These artistic actions make no distinction between the actors and the spectators. JR’s approach presented here is a mixture of the reinterpretation and recontextualisation of the icons of the history of photography taken from the collections of the Musée de l’Elysée of Lausanne, which he applies to the façades of buildings in the city of Vevey. He thus crops and enlarges the photos of Robert Capa, Man Ray, Gilles Caron and Helen Levitt so that the city becomes a gigantic open-air museum.


Binh Danh. 'Sphinxes' (by Arthur Putnam, 1912) 2014


Binh Danh (American born Vietnam, b. 1979)
Sphinxes (by Arthur Putnam, 1912)
Artist and Haines Gallery courtesy, San Francisco
© Binh Danh



“Landscape is what defines me. When I am somewhere new or unfamiliar, I am constantly in dialogue with the past, present and my future self. When I am thinking about landscape, I am thinking about those who have stood on this land before me. Whoever they are, hopefully history recorded their makings on the land for me to study and contemplate.”

Born in Viet Nam, Binh Danh addresses themes of collective and personal memories, history, heritage and mortality. Known for printing his works on unconventional supports such as leaves or grass, he experiments with the photographic process of the daguerreotype in his most recent creations in order to document the history of the city of San Francisco.

Reminiscent of the work of photographic pioneers such as Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), Charles Marville (1813-1879) and Eugène Atget (1857-1927), Binh Danh explores the complexities of a constantly evolving city, from the first major expansion in recent years of Silicon Valley. He places San Francisco, cliché of the culture of technology and success, in another time space in order to incite the viewer to reflect on the rapid pace of changes in a city. By choosing the daguerreotype, the artist works on the reflecting surface of the process to incorporate the spectator into his work and to thus transform it into a shared experience.


Paul Vionnet. 'La cure d'Etoy' 1870


Paul Vionnet (Swiss, 1830-1914)
La cure d’Etoy
Tirage sur papier aristotype
13.4 × 17.8 cm
Collection iconographique vaudoise
© Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne



With the exhibition The Memory of the Future. Photographic Dialogues between Past, Present and Future, the Musée de l’Elysée encourages contemporary artists to take a close look at photography as a medium, innovates as it reveals a 3D digitization technology developed by a spin-off from Lausanne’s Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), and displays its unique visual heritage. 

The Memory of the Future. Photographic Dialogues between Past, Present and Future is the first exhibition that Director Tatyana Franck has curated at the Musée de l’Elysée. It opens up a dialogue between the work of the pioneers of photographic techniques (the past), those of contemporary artists that breathe new life into these skills (the present), and avant-garde technologies that update these early processes (the future). Works from the museum’s collections, contemporary artists and new technologies come face to face and join forces to give a brand new vision of the history of photography. The Memory of the Future aims to configure the present by reconfiguring the past in order to prefigure the future.


Techniques over time

First of all, early photographic processes such as ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, ferrotypes, cyanotypes, etc. are displayed next to works by contemporary artists who breathe life into them. The technical innovations of the past are fertile ground for contemporary art and design. The exhibition includes a waxed paper negative by Gustave Le Gray in dialogue with those by Martin Becka, while cyanotypes by Anna Atkins and Paul Vionnet converse with those by Christian Marclay, Nancy Wilson-Pajic and John Dugdale. Jean-Gabriel Eynard’s daguerreotypes from the museum’s collections are exhibited next to portraits by Takashi Arai and Patrick Bailly-Maître-Grand and landscapes by Binh Danh and Jerry Spagnoli. And as for contemporary ferrotypes, The Memory of the Future shows the work of Joni Sternbach and Jayne Hinds Bidaut as well as portraits taken by Victoria Will at the Sundance Independent Film Festival in 2014.

Works of two scientists who won a Nobel Prize and invented a photographic technique also have pride of place – a self portrait by Gabriel Lippmann (Nobel Prize in Physics in 1908) who invented color photography using the interferential method and a portrait of Dennis Gabor (Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971), the inventor of the holographic process, a photographic technique in relief – echoing a holographic picture by James Turrell, a contemporary artist primarily concerned with light. Lastly, and as a point of convergence for all these photographic processes to fix an image on to a support, the camera obscura is presented through the works of Florio Puenter, Dino Simonett and Vera Lutter. Loris Gréaud – an artist invited to present an original installation capturing the spirit of the Musée de l’Elysée by recording its shadows and light – also explores this technique.


Homage and metamorphosis

The exhibition also presents the “mise en abyme” of iconic pictures from the history of photography reinterpreted by contemporary artists whose works examine the very notion of time or memory.

The earliest photograph in history – by Nicéphore Niépce and dating back to 1826 – is thus transformed by Joan Fontcuberta (Googlegramme Niépce, 2005) using PhotoMosaïque freeware connected online to the Google search engine, and by Andreas Müller-Pohle (Digital Scores VI). The first photographic self portrait in history – by Robert Cornelius in 1839 – is reproduced on a series of mirrors by Oscar Muñoz in 2009 to examine the paradox of the aging of the photographic support, which is, however, supposed to record an image for eternity. While Pierre Cordier pays homage to Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic breaking down of movement, Idris Khan (who took part in the reGeneration exhibition in 2005) pays homage to the iconic photographs of Bernd and Hilla Becher.


Innovating to preserve and showcase

Having launched a campaign in 2014 to digitise its photography books – 1500 books have been scanned so far – the Musée de l’Elysée is continuing to explore techniques to dematerialise its visual heritage for conservation and promotion purposes. Launched in 2015 thanks to the Engagement Migros development fund, an ambitious three dimensional digitisation project puts the Musée de l’Elysée at the forefront of museum innovation.

A venue for exhibitions, conservation and now an experimentation, as part of the exhibition La Mémoire du futur the Musée de l’Elysée is proposing for the first time a space dedicated to the presentation of digitised virtual objects from its collections. This innovative project aims to introduce new collaborative and interactive experiences using the Museum’s collections to a wide range of audiences – whether they be photography enthusiasts, curators or researchers.

Thanks to the Engagement Migros development fund, Innovation partner of the Musée de l’Elysée, the public is invited to experimentally test the first 3D digitisations carried out in partnership with the start-up Artmyn, created at EPFL’s Audiovisual Communications Laboratory (LCAV) led by Martin Vetterli. It will thus be possible to look at the works in 3D with unprecedented precision, but above all, to make the different textures of which they are composed appear on screen by lighting up the digital replicas from any angle.

This new technology comes in the form of a scanner made up of a dome on which are fixed several small lamps of precisely-adjusted intensity that switch on and off in turn depending on each picture scanned. “We are returning to an ancient theory of vision that imagined the eye’s projection towards the world, allowing the spectator once again to become an actor in the photographic experience,” explains Martin Vetterli in the exhibition catalogue.

Preliminary work was carried out with the Collections Department to select the processes that would most benefit from this scanning technology – heliogravure, ambrotype, ferrotype, collage and carbon printing. The first results will be presented in the exhibition. A tactile device supplemented by a video tour of the work presents a collage by René Burri from the René Burri Foundation housed at the Musée de l’Elysée. Rendered in real time and very high resolution, the images that have been cut out and superimposed by the artist can be freely explored so that the visitor can appreciate the visual richness of the work. Visitor experience appraisal is an integral part of the project to optimise presentation techniques and create a digital experimentation area in the museum.

The active participation of visitors to the Museum is an essential step for this first test phase: the interactions and different perceptions of the benefits of the prototype presented will be taken into account for the purpose of developing teaching and learning tools that will subsequently be used to refine and expand the user’s experience and to develop a digital, educational discovery space within the exhibition areas.

Press release from the Musée de l’Elysée


Paul Vionnet. 'Lausanne, le pont Chauderon en construction' 1904


Paul Vionnet (Swiss, 1830-1914)
Lausanne, le pont Chauderon en construction
Tirage au gélatino-bromure d’argent
39.5 × 23.0cm
Collection iconographique vaudoise
© Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne



Paul Vionnet, a local photographic pioneer, is at the origin of the Iconographic Collection of the Canton of Vaud. This collection, devoted to the history of the Vaud, is at the very foundation of the creation of the Musée de l’Elysée in 1985 as a museum dedicated to the image. During his childhood, Paul Vionnet spent his vacations at his grandparents’ home in Aubonne and was a frequent visitor of Adrien Constant Delessert (1806-1876), a neighbour and renowned Vaud photographer. During his stays there in 1845, Delessert taught him photographic techniques and the calotype.

Fascinated by the sciences, nature and his canton, Paul Vionnet took it upon himself to collect the greatest number of iconographic documents possible concerning the history, landscapes and monuments of the region for the purpose of enriching the collection of the Historical Monuments Service in Lausanne. The documents that he was not able to acquire himself were reproduced using photography. Following in his father’s footsteps, he was ordained pastor in 1856, and assigned to Granges de Sainte-Croix, near Aubonne, and then to Pampigny in 1858. He nevertheless continued to take photographs, having since adopted the wet collodion technique, documenting landscapes and monuments during his free time.

He retired in 1896 and founded the Collection historiographique vaudoise that would house his documents. In 1903, Paul Vionnet bequeathed his private collection to the canton of Vaud, forming the fifth section of the Musée Cantonal des Antiquités. He was named assistant curator, and several years later, the municipality commissioned him to take the photographs for Lausanne à travers les âges.


Anna Atkins. 'Adiantum tenerum (Jamaica)' c. 1852


Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871)
Adiantum tenerum (Jamaica)
c. 1852
© Wilson Centre for Photography



A British photographer considered to be the first woman to create a photograph, Anna Atkins is also known to have published the first books on botany illustrated with cyanotypes. Passionately interested in science and art, she became a member of the Botanical Society of London in 1839 and realised that the photographic process could be used to obtain precise and detailed botanical images and to provide information at all levels of a society increasingly eager for knowledge.

Anna Atkins drew her inspiration from the inventor of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), and from a close family friend, John Herschel (1792-1871), a scientist known for the invention and the improvement of the cyanotype. She subsequently developed the process on her own that would allow her to obtain authentic and inexpensive photographic reproductions and that would make her part of the great tradition of her teachers. In 1843, she published her work, British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, the first volume of which preceded the famous work of Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, by several months. In 1853, she applied the same process to ferns and published Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns, a page of which is presented here.


Anonymous. 'Portrait of a young girl' 1860-1870


Portrait of a young girl
© Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne


John Dugdale. 'The Clandestine Mind' 1999


John Dugdale (American, b. 1960)
The Clandestine Mind
© The John Dugdale Studio


John Dugdale. 'Mourning Tulips' 1999


John Dugdale (American, b. 1960)
Mourning Tulips
© The John Dugdale Studio



John Dugdale’s interest in photography goes back to his childhood when he received his first camera at the age of 12 and dreamed of becoming one of the major photographers of the 20th century. After a brilliant career as a fashion photographer, the year 1993 marked the turning point in the life of the artist who lost his sight following a stroke and CMV retinitis. Dugdale nevertheless refused to give up photography and began to take an interest in 19th century photographic techniques, using his family and friends as assistants. He discovered the large format and decided to use the cyanotype process, considering it to be the most direct and the easiest to use.

In his blue works, he portrays his everyday life by reversing the roles. Dugdale poses with a simplistic spirituality that could appear to be in contradiction with the 21st century. Generally posing in the nude, he considers that “life is transient. Once you leave this world, you fly into the universe without clothes. I want people to learn you cannot protect yourself by hiding behind clothes.”

Thanks to its low toxicity, the use of this process allows him to be involved in the printing of his photographs. His sensitivity to historic techniques emphasises the poetry of his work and the transitory nature of time and place. In the hopes of sharing his experience and his healing, Dugdale creates a new body of art by “showing the beauty of life and how one should act around illness.”


Jerry Spagnoli. 'Glass 10/9/12' 2012


Jerry Spagnoli (American, b. 1956)
Glass 10/9/12
© Jerry Spagnoli



When the photographer Jerry Spagnoli discovered a daguerreotype at a flea market, he described it as the most perfect photograph he had ever seen, a discovery that would influence the rest of his work. After familiarising himself with the process in his studio in San Francisco, the artist experimented with it using equipment from the 19th century and studying the effects obtained in order to understand the technical aspects as well as the visual and expressive potential.

By studying the body and the roots of photographic imagination in his series Anatomical Studies, the portrait, objects and contemporary street scenes, events and non-events in his series The Last Great Daguerreian Survey of the Twentieth Century, Spagnoli attempts to highlight the qualities of the daguerreotype – uniqueness, richness of detail – through the four series presented here, in order to allow a contemporary public to rediscover its virtues. It is also a way for him to approach the optical essence of photography. “With other processes the material substrate of the image can be intrusive, but when you look at a daguerreotype, there is a transparency to the depiction as if you were looking through the lens itself.”


Vik Muniz. 'The Steerage (After Alfred Stieglitz)' 2000


Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961)
The Steerage (After Alfred Stieglitz)
from the Pictures of Chocolate series



Non-conformist reproductions of masterpieces, trompe-l’œil, ephemeral homages… It is difficult to put a label on the work of Vik Muniz. Starting off as a sculptor, he became widely known in 1997 as a result of his series Pictures of Chocolate, an example of which is presented here, and again in 2006 through his series Pictures of Junk and by his film Waste Land that was released in 2014. For the past 20 years, the artist, fascinated by the power of the image and optics, has transformed all sorts of unusual raw materials into works of art. He then uses photography to immortalise the works that he creates with these materials.

In Steerage after Alfred Stieglitz, Muniz uses chocolate as the medium to pay tribute to one of the modern pioneers of photography, Alfred Stieglitz. He involves the spectator and forces him to take a new look at a painting or a photograph that has been seen time and time again and that has become commonplace despite its beauty. Vik Muniz encourages the public to look at and to decipher his compositions, as well as to use their other senses to transform his flat reproductions into original and three-dimensional works.


Pierre Cordier. 'Photo-Chimigramme 17/6/76 I "Hommage à Muybridge 1972"' 1976


Pierre Cordier (Belgian, b. 1933)
Photo-Chimigramme 17/6/76 I “Hommage à Muybridge 1972”
© Pierre Cordier



Pierre Cordier is a Belgian artist known as the father of the chemigram and for its development as a means of artistic expression. In 1956, writing a dedication with nail polish on photographic paper to a young German woman, Pierre Cordier discovered what he later called the chemigram. This technique “combines the physics of painting (varnish, oil, wax) and the chemistry of photography (photosensitive emulsion, developer and fixer), without the use of a camera or enlarger, and in full light.”

He worked for 30 years as a lecturer on the history of photography at the École Nationale des Arts Visuels in Brussels. When he gave up photography in 1968 to devote himself exclusively to the chemigram, he wanted to pay tribute to the great photography pioneers – Muybridge in 1972 and Marey in 1975. The Homage to Muybridge presented here was inspired by Allan Porter, chief editor of the Swiss revue Camera, one of the most prominent revues in the history of photography. In the issue of Camera of October 1972, we can read: “Cordier used Muybridge’s famous sequence, The Horse in Motion, which he transformed in three different ways: 1. Still subject and mobile camera. 2. Mobile subject and still camera. 3. Subject and camera, both mobile. He then combined the three sequences into one and treated it according to the photochemigram process.”


Andreas Muller-Pohle. 'Digital scores V (after Nicephore Niepce)' 2001


Andreas Muller-Pohle (German, b. 1951)
Digital scores V (after Nicephore Niepce)
Inkjet print
10 7/8 in x 11 in; mat: 16 1/8 in x 20 1/8 in; paper: 12 1/8 in x 12 1/8 in



Andreas Müller-Pohle is one of the key figures involved in the ontological as well as the representational nature of photography. Since the 1990s, he has reflected on the radical changes in the essence of technical images. His first artistic project focused on questions of photographic perception and on the recycled photograph.

In the mid-1990s, Müller-Pohle began to explore the use of digital, genetic and political codes. He is one of the first artists to have broken down and translated the analog and the digital codes of images. In his series Digital Scores (after Nicéphore Niépce), he takes us back to the origin of analog photography by translating the photograph of Niépce, View from the Window at Le Gras (taken from a window of his house in 1826), into alphanumeric code. The complete binary transcription of this photograph is then distributed over eight panels.


Martin Becka. 'Le Parc' 2002


Martin Becka (Czech, b. 1956)
Le Parc
© Martin Becka



After studying photography, Martin Becka worked as a print developer for the Sepia Agency before becoming an independent news photographer. As of the beginning of the 1980s, he began doing research on the history of photography and the pre-industrial photographic processes that he incorporated into his personal creative work. By using traditional processes to photograph ultramodern cities like Dubai and business districts such as La Défense in Paris, the artist proposes a sort of “archeology of the present”, making the spectator reflect on the period in which he lives, the future, and the multiplication of images at a time when their reproducibility is unlimited. He sees photography as a means to “bend time in every possible direction.”

In his installation Le Parc (the André Citroën Public Park in Paris), Becka establishes a dialogue between the past and the present by paying homage to the photographic work of Alfred-Nicolas Normand (1822-1909) and the dry waxed paper negative process developed in 1851 by Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884). By choosing this century-old technique that requires an approach to work that is radically different from those currently in vogue, he is able to obtain negatives with a density adapted to a presentation by transparency and to create and control movement and unique atmospheres. Becka thus encourages the spectator to reflect on the notion of the photographic object.


Bernd and Hilla Becher. 'Gas Tank: Essen-Karnap D' 1973


Bernd and Hilla Becher
Gas Tank: Essen-Karnap D


Bernd And Hilla Becher. 'Gasbehälter bei Wuppertal (Gas tank near Wuppertal)' 1966


Bernd And Hilla Becher
Gasbehälter bei Wuppertal (Gas tank near Wuppertal)



Born during the period of industrial archeology, the Bechers’ work consists, in the words of Pierre Restany, “of an optical pilgrimage at the roots of the industrial world”. The couple proposes a way do see industrial architecture by taking an approach based on inventory methodology. Their work is a reflection on the creation of heritage and raises the question of the heritage value of industrial objects, which is inseparable from their artistic value.

With a focus on archiving and industrial memory, Bernd and Hilla Becher’s approach consists of establishing a detailed inventory and keeping track of industrial structures by photographing sites threatened by obsolescence and often abandoned. The series Gas Tanks includes nine photographs from the period between 1965 and 1973, taken according to the extremely stringent protocol that is characteristic of their work (frontal view, centring of the subject, mid-height, absence of light, etc.). The composition of each portrait is standardised and identical, with emphasis on the frontal aspect and the monumentality of industrial constructions classified according to their functionality and form.

Taking advantage of the extremely reproducible nature of the photograph, the Bechers reveal the massive diffusion and production of images that contribute to erasing our memories of their origins and their authors. In doing so, they observe a civilisation on the decline and highlight the production of an era, vestiges of the human imagination and life.


Idris Khan. 'Every ... Bernd and Hilla Becher Spherical Type Gasholder' One panel triptych, 2003


Idris Khan (British, b. 1978)
Every … Bernd and Hilla Becher Spherical Type Gasholder
One panel triptych, 2003
Lambda Digital C print mounted on aluminium
20½ x 26½ inches


Idris Khan. 'Every ... Bernd and Hilla Becher Prison Type Gasholder' 2004


Idris Khan (British, b. 1978)
Every … Bernd and Hilla Becher Prison Type Gasholder
Lambda Digital C print mounted on aluminium
80 × 65 inches



“I try to capture the essence of the building – something that’s been permanently imprinted in someone’s mind, like a memory.”

Idris Khan is fascinated by the photographic medium. Fuelled by images and influential theoretical essays on the history of photography, he re-appropriates the works that had an impact on him and subjects them to a series of transformations in order to see them from a different perspective. His work is a reflection on the passage of time, the accumulation of experiences and, as such, the decrease of unique moments. In his series Homage…, he presents rephotographed works, enlarged and superimposed in multiple layers. He uses digital tools to play with the opacity of the layers so as to strengthen the mystery of the original objects whose layering reveals new details. The work Homage to Bernd Becher shown here reproduces and compiles the photographs that correspond to the Bechers’ typology in order to celebrate the vestiges of these vanished industrial infrastructures.

Fascinated by the ability of the photographic medium to capture the soul as well as the body image, Idris Khan, in his series Rising Series… After Eadweard Muybridge “Human and Animal Locomotion”, pays homage to Muybridge’s early scientific experiments using the camera to sequentially record human and animal movement. Beyond the tribute paid to photography that is defined here as a compilation of knowledge, Idris Khan positions himself with respect to a medium laden with history and with a bright future ahead of it.


Victoria Will. 'Kristen Stewart' 2014


Victoria Will (American, b. 1980)
Kristen Stewart
© Victoria Will



Kristen Stewart poses for a tintype (wet collodion) portrait at The Collective and Gibson Lounge, during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)

Victoria Will began her career as a staff photographer for the New York Post. Specialized at the time in portraits and fashion, her photographs were disseminated worldwide by the magazines W, the New York Times and Vogue. When she was invited for the fourth time to the Sundance Film Festival, an American independent film festival, she decided to try something new and to replace her digital reflex camera with the century-old tintype process to make portraits of movie stars. Following her success, she renewed the experience in the following years and gradually improved this complex technique.

Overcoming the difficulties of the process, its sensitivity to time and the danger of the chemical products involved, the photographer successively made portraits in 7 to 8 minutes of actors such as Vincent Cassel, Robert Redford, Jennifer Connelly, Spike Lee and Ethan Hawke. “What I love about the process is how raw it is,” says Victoria. “We live in an age of glossy magazines and overly retouched skin. But there is no lying with tintypes. You can’t get rid of a few wrinkles like in Photoshop.”

Both the photographer and her public “appreciate the honesty of these photographs. Development leaves a lot of room for the unexpected: we discover a face that we thought was familiar while being the contrary of digital portraits. The stages in the darkroom contribute to the idea of creating something unique and refreshing.”



The Musée de l’Elysée
18, avenue de l’Elysée
CH - 1014 Lausanne
Phone: + 41 21 316 99 11

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Closed Monday, except for bank holidays

The Musée de l’Elysée website


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Exhibition: ‘Eyes Wide Open: 100 Years of Leica Photography’ at Deichtorhallen Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 24th October 2014 – 11th January 2015

Curator: Hans-Michael Koetzle



Oskar Barnack. 'Wetzlar Eisenmarkt' 1913


Oskar Barnack (Germany, 1879-1936)
Wetzlar Eisenmarkt
© Leica Camera AG



A photographic revolution. So much more than just photojournalism… and it has a nice sound as well.
“Indiscreet discretion” as the photographer F. C. Gundlach puts it. Some memorable photographs here.


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


Ernst Leitz. 'New York II' 1914


Ernst Leitz (German, 1843-1920)
New York II
© Leica Camera AG



Just a few months before the outbreak of the First World War, Ernst Leitz II travelled to the USA. While there, he was able to capture photos, using a second model of the “Liliput” camera developed by Oskar Barnack, which most certainly would be found in a history of street photography.


Oskar Barnack. 'Flood in Wetzlar' 1920


Oskar Barnack (Germany, 1879-1936)
Flood in Wetzlar
© Leica Camera AG



From around the time of 1914, Oskar Barnack must have carried a prototype camera with him, particularly during his travels – the camera first received the name Leica in 1925. Perhaps his most famous sequence of images, because it has been shown continually since, is the striking series of the floods in Wetzlar, Germany, in 1920


'Ur-Leica' 1914


© Leica Camera AG



Oskar Barnack invents the Ur-Leica

Designed by Oskar Barnack, the first functional prototype of a new camera for 35 mm perforated cinema film stock was completed in March 1914. The camera consisted of a metal housing, had a retractable lens and a focal plane shutter, which is not overlapped, however. A bolt-on lens cap that was swivelled during film transport, prevented incidental light. For the first time film advance and shutter cocking were connected to a camera – double exposures were excluded. The camera has gone down in the history of photography under the name Ur-Leica.


Ilse Bing. 'Self-portrait in Spiegeln' 1931


Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998)
Self-portrait in Spiegeln
© Leica Camera AG


Anton Stankowski. 'Greeting, Zurich, Rüdenplatz' 1932


Anton Stankowski (German, 1906-1998)
Greeting, Zurich, Rüdenplatz
© Stankowski-Stiftung


Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris' 1932


Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris


Alexander Rodchenko. 'Girl with Leica' 1934


Alexander Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Girl with Leica



Jewgenija Lemberg, shown here, was a lover of the photographer Alexander Rodchenko for quite some time. In 1992, a print of this photo brought in a tremendous 115,000 British pounds at a Christie’s auction in London. Alexander Rodchenko was continually capturing Jewgenija Lemberg in new, surprising and bold poses – until her death in a train accident. 


Heinrich Heidersberger. 'Laederstraede, Copenhagen' 1935


Heinrich Heidersberger (German, 1906-2006)
Laederstraede, Copenhagen
© Institut Heidersberger


Robert Capa. 'Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936' 1936


Robert Capa (Hungarian-American, 1913-1954)
Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936



At the age of 23 and equipped with his Leica, Robert Capa embedded himself in the Spanish Civil War while on assignment for the French press. On 5 September 1936, he managed to capture the perhaps most well-known war photo of the 20th century. 


Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Sunday on the banks of the River Marne' Juvisy, France 1938


Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Sunday on the banks of the River Marne
Juvisy, France 1938



This photo was taken two years after the large-scale strikes that ultimately led to a fundamental improvement in social conditions. Against this backdrop, the picnic in nature is also, above all, a political message – convincing in a formal, aesthetic way, and inherently consistent and suggestive at the same time.


Evgeny Khaldey (Russian, 1917-1997) 'The Flag of Victory' 1945


Evgeny Khaldey (Russian, 1917-1997)
The Flag of Victory
Gelatin silver print
© Collection Ernst Volland and Heinz Krimmer, Leica Camera AG



Although this scene was staged, it loses none of its impact as an image and in no way hampers the resounding global response that it has achieved. The Red Army prevailed – there’s nothing more to convey in such a harmonious picture.


Alfred Eisenstaedt. 'VJ Day, Times Square, NY, 14. August 1945'


Alfred Eisenstaedt (American, born Germany 1898-1995)
VJ Day, Times Square, NY, 14. August 1945
© Alfred Eisenstaedt, 2014



This photo appeared on the cover of Life magazine and grew to become one of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s most well-known images. “People tell me,” he once said, “that when I am in heaven they will remember this picture.”


W. Eugene Smith. 'Guardia Civil, Spain' 1950


W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918-1978)
Guardia Civil, Spain
Gelatin silver print
25.1 x 32.1 cm



W. Eugene Smith’s image of Guardia Civil is also a symbol of an imperious, backward Spain under the rule of Franco. For two months, W. Eugene Smith went scouting for a village and photographed it with the residents’ consent. What he shows us is a strange world: rural, archaic, as if on another planet. 


Inge Morath. 'London' 1950


Inge Morath (American, born Austria 1923-2002)



Inge Morath’s photo titled “London” is well spotted, clearly composed and yet complicated in its arrangement. It also tells of a structure of domination, of hierarchies and traditions which certainly were more stable in England than in other European countries. 


Franz Hubmann. 'Regular at the Café Hawelka, Vienna' 1956/57


Franz Hubmann (Austrian, 1914-2007)
Regular guest at the Café Hawelka, Vienna
© Franz Hubmann. Leica Camera AG



We shall never discover who the man is in this photo. Franz Hubmann, more or less while walking by the table, captured the guest gently balancing a cup with the tips of his fingers – viewed from above without the use of flash, without any hectic movement, and not at all staged.


Frank Horvat. 'Givenchy Hat For Jardin des Modes' 1958


Frank Horvat (French, 1928-2020)
Givenchy Hat For Jardin des Modes, Paris
Abzug 1995 / Haus der Photographie / Sammlung F.C. Gundlach Hamburg


F.C. Gundlach. 'Fashion reportage for 'Nino', Port of Hamburg' 1958


F.C. Gundlach (German, b. 1926)
Fashion reportage for ‘Nino’, Port of Hamburg
© F.C. Gundlach


Hans Silvester. 'Steel frame assembly' about the end of the 1950s


Hans Silvester (born Germany 1938)
Steel frame assembly
about the end of the 1950s
Silver gelatin, vintage print
© Hans Silvester / Leica AG




The exhibition EYES WIDE OPEN: 100 YEARS OF LEICA PHOTOGRAPHY illuminates across fourteen chapters various aspects of recent small-format photography, from journalistic strategies to documentary approaches and free artistic positions, spanning fourteen chapters. Among the artists whose work will be shown are Alexander Rodchenko, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Christer Strömholm, Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, William Klein, William Eggleston, René Burri, Thomas Hoepker and Bruce Gilden. Following its premiere in the House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg, the exhibition will travel to Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna and Munich.

Some 500 photographs, supplemented by documentary material, including journals, magazines, books, advertisements, brochures, camera prototypes and films, will recount the history of small-format photography from its beginnings to the present day. The exhibition, which is curated by Hans-Michael Koetzle, follows the course of technological change and photographic history.

According to an entry in the workshop records, by March 1914 at the latest, Oskar Barnack, who worked as an industrial designer at Ernst Leitz in Wetzlar, completed the first functional model of a small-format camera for 35mm cinema film. The introduction of the Leica (a combination of “Leitz” and “Camera”) which was delayed until 1925 due to the war, was not merely the invention of a new camera; the small, reliable and always-ready Leica, equipped with a high-performance lens specially engineered by Max Berek, marked a paradigm shift in photography. Not only did it offer amateur photographers, newcomers and emancipated women greater access to photography; the Leica, which could be easily carried in a coat pocket, also became a ubiquitous part of everyday life. The comparatively affordable small-format camera stimulated photographic experimentation and opened up new perspectives. In general, visual strategies for representing the world became more innovative, bold and dynamic. Without question, the Leica developed by Oskar Barnack and introduced by Ernst Leitz II in 1924 was something like photography’s answer to the phenomenological needs of a new, high-speed era.

The exhibition EYES WIDE OPEN: 100 YEARS OF LEICA PHOTOGRAPHY will attempt for the first time to offer a comprehensive overview of the change in photography brought about by the invention and introduction of the Leica. Rather than isolating the history of the camera or considering it for its own sake, it will examine the visual revolution sparked by the technological innovation of the Leica. The exhibition will take an art- and cultural-historical perspective in pursuit of the question of how the photographic gaze changed as a result of the Leica and the small-format picture, and what effects the miniaturisation of photography had on the work of amateurs, artists and photojournalists. Not least, it will also seek to determine what new subjects the camera addressed with its wide range of interchangeable lenses, and how these subjects were seen in a new light: a new way of perceiving the world through the Leica viewfinder.

Among the featured photographers are those who are internationally known for their work with Leica cameras as well as amateurs and artists who have not yet been widely associated with small-format photography, including Ilja Ehrenburg, Alfons Walde, Ben Shahn and George Grosz. Important loans, some of which have never been shown before, come from the factory archives of Leica Camera AG in Wetzlar, international collections and museums, as well as private lenders (Sammlung F. C. Gundlach, Sammlung Skrein, Sammlung WestLicht).

Press release from the Deichtorhallen Hamburg website


Robert Lebeck. 'The stolen sword, Belgian Congo Leopoldville' 1960


Robert Lebeck (German, 1929-2014)
The stolen sword, Belgian Congo Leopoldville
© Robert Lebeck/ Leica Camera AG



When a young Congolese man grabs the king’s sword from the backseat of an open-top car on 29 June 1960, Robert Lebeck manages to capture the image of his life. The photo became a metaphor for the end of the descending dominance by Europeans on the African continent. 


Christer Strömholm. 'Nana, Place Blanche, Paris' 1961


Christer Strömholm (Swedish, 1918-2002)
Nana, Place Blanche, Paris
© Christer Strömholm/Strömholm Estate, 2014


Ulrich Mack. 'Wild horses in Kenya' 1964


Ulrich Mack (German, b. 1934)
Wild horses in Kenya
© Ulrich Mack, Hamburg / Leica Camera AG



Ulrich Mack travelled to Africa to discover the continent as a reporter – a continent that had been battered by warmongers and massacres. But all this changed: as if in a state of ecstasy, Ulrich Mack photographed a herd of wild horses, virtually throwing himself down under the animals


Claude Dityvon. "L'homme à la chaise" [The man in the chair], Bd St. Michel, 21 May 1968


Claude Dityvon (French, 1937-2008)
“L’homme à la chaise” [The man in the chair], Bd St. Michel, 21 May 1968
© Chris Dityvon, Paris


Fred Herzog. 'Man with Bandage' 1968


Fred Herzog (German, 1930-2019)
Man with Bandage
Courtesy of Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
© Fred Herzog, 2014


Lee Friedlander. 'Mount Rushmore, South Dakota' 1969


Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Haus der Photographie / Sammlung F.C. Gundlach Hamburg


Nick Út: The Associated Press. 'Napalm attack in Vietnam' 1972


Nick Út (Vietnamese-American, b. 1951) : The Associated Press
Napalm attack in Vietnam
© Nick Út/AP/ Leica Camera AG


Eliott Erwitt. 'Felix, Gladys and Rover' New York City, 1974


Eliott Erwitt (American, born France 1928)
Felix, Gladys and Rover
New York City, 1974



Elliott Erwitt’s passion focused on dogs – for him, they were the incarnation of human beings, with fur and a tail. His photo titled “New York City” was taken for a shoe manufacturer. 


René Burri. 'San-Cristobál' 1976


René Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014)


Martine Franck. 'Swimming pool designed by Alain Capeilières' 1976


Martine Franck (British-Belgian, 1938-2012)
Swimming pool designed by Alain Capeilières


Wilfried Bauer. From the series "Hong Kong", 1985


Wilfried Bauer (German, 1944-2005)
From the series Hong Kong
Originally published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung # 307, 17.01.1986
© Nachlass Wilfried Bauer/Stiftung F.C. Gundlach


Rudi Meisel. 'Leningrad' 1987


Rudi Meisel (German, b. 1949)


Jeff Mermelstein. 'Sidewalk' 1995


Jeff Mermelstein (American, b. 1957)
© Jeff Mermelstein


Michael von Graffenried. From the series 'Night in Paradise', Thielle (Switzerland) 1998


Michael von Graffenried (Swiss, b. 1957)
From the series Night in Paradise, Thielle (Switzerland)
© Michael von Graffenried


Bruce Gilden: 'Untitled', from the series "GO", 2001


Bruce Gilden (American, b. 1946)
Untitled, from the series “GO”
© Bruce Gilden 2014/Magnum Photos



Bruce Gilden is an avid portrait photographer, without his photos ever appearing posed or staged. His image of humanity arises from the flow of life, the hectic everyday goings-on or – like in “Go” – the deep pit of violence, the Mafia and corruption. 


François Fontaine. 'Vertigo' from the 'Silenzio!' series 2012


François Fontaine (French, b. 1968)
Vertigo from the Silenzio! series


Julia Baier. From the series "Geschwebe," 2014


Julia Baier
From the series Geschwebe
© Julia Baier



Deichtorhallen Hamburg
House of Photography
Deichtorstr. 1-2
D – 20095 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm
Every first Thursday of the month 11am – 9pm

Deichtorhallen Hamburg website


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Exhibition: ‘Che Guevara: Images of revolution. From the Skrein Photo Collection’ at Museum de Moderne Rupertinum, Salzburg

Exhibition dates: 24th November 2012 – 3rd February 2013


Many thankx to the Museum de Moderne Rupertinum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Osvaldo Salas (Cuban, 1914-1992) 'Che fumano' [Che smoking] 1964


Osvaldo Salas (Cuban, 1914-1992)
Che fumano [Che smoking]
Gelatine-Silberprint, Vintage
40 x 50cm
aus der Skrein Photo Collection


Perfecto Romero. 'Miliz Campesinos' 1961


Perfecto Romero (Cuban, b. 1936)
Miliz Campesinos [Military peasants]
Gelatine-Silberprint, Vintage
30 x 40cm
aus der Skrein Photo Collection


Osvaldo Salas. 'Camilo beim Einzug in Havanna 8.1.1959' 1959


Osvaldo Salas (Cuban, 1914-1992)
Camilo beim Einzug in Havanna, 8.1.1959 [Camilo moving into Havana, 8.1.1959] (Camilo Cienfuegos)
Gelatine-Silberprint, Vintage
40 x 50cm
aus der Skrein Photo Collection


Alberto Korda. '1. Mai 1960, Volksverteidigungsarmee' 1960


Alberto Korda (Cuban, 1928-2001)
1. Mai 1960, Volksverteidigungsarmee [1. May 1960, People’s Defence Force]
s/w Fotografie
aus der Skrein Photo Collection
© VBK, Wien, 2012


René Burri. 'Che Guevara' 1963


René Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014)
Che Guevara
Kontaktbogen, Gelatine-Silberprint
22 x 34cm
aus der Skrein Photo Collection


Raúl Corrales. 'La Cabelleria' 1961


Raúl Corrales (Cuban, 1925-2006)
La Cabelleria [The Cavalry]



Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, who seized power in a military coup in 1952, ran a corrupt and dictatorial regime. This gave rise to the Cuban revolutionary movement that still continues today: In 1953 Fidel Castro and his loyal followers organised an armed attack on the Moncada Barracks, which was brutally quashed by the Batista regime.

M-26-7 is a reference to this failed attack which marks the beginning of the Cuban Revolution and became a symbol of the revolution for Castro’s followers. On 26th of July 1953 the protagonists of the revolution were arrested, Fidel and Raul Castro were sentenced to many years in prison and numerous combatants were executed. In 1955 Batista released Castro from prison, who went into exile in Mexico, where Che Guevara, an Argentine-born physician, joined his movement. In 1956 they returned to Cuba from Mexico with 82 fighters; they landed in the Granma Province, south of Havana which also became a synonym of the revolution, like the Sierra Maestra Mountains.

This is where the Skrein Collection begins: the preparation of the guerilla war, the recruitment of new fighters, including Camilo Cienfuegos, who formed the triumvirate of the revolution with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, or Celia Sánchez, one of the first women of the revolutionary movement. The activities of the revolutionists attracted many followers and enjoyed strong support among the population until victory was finally achieved with the Castro‘s triumphal entry in Havanna in 1959. This was followed by a phase of consolidation, during which Castro, Guevara and other revolutionaries assumed political offices and were appointed as ministers. After the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961, the USA imposed a total embargo on Cuba, thus contributing to the isolation of the Caribbean island and its political leadership.

The photographs from the Skrein Photo Collection cover the period from the end of the Batista-Regime to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both Cuban and foreign photographers were involved into political events as reporters, sympathisers, journalists and adventurers and spread the revolutionary ideology. Leading European photographers travelled into this troubled country in the midst of social upheavals and turned the leaders of the revolution into icons and symbols of a dissatisfied youth on the eve of the global 1968 movement world wide.

Austrian photographer Christian Skrein (*Vienna, 1945) began his career as an art, commercial and fashion photographer. He later became an enthusiastic and expert collector of photography and compiled comprehensive archives of snapshot photography and international press and art photography. For over 15 years now, he has focused on photographs of the Cuban Revolution and its protagonists. Today, his collection comprises more than 4,500 items, including several icons of the history of photography as well as numerous less spectacular photographs which document the political situation and social life in Cuba from the 1950s to the 1970s.

In 2011 the Getty Museum in Los Angeles selected a set of 60 photographs from the Skrein Collection for its first exhibition on the Cuban Revolution: the onslaught of visitors testified to the huge interest in this historical period and its profound and far-reaching impact on global politics and in the role of photography as mediator of pictures that create identity. The presentation of 150 photographs at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg offers visitors insights into this extensive specialised collection, but also shows the importance of photography and media for events and personalities. No other political event of this period was photographically documented as much as the Cuban Revolution; the pictures of its heroes were reproduced many thousands of times. The world famous photograph of Che Guevara by Alberto Korda is the most often reproduced photograph in the world, owing to a large-scale ideological and PR campaign initiated in 1967 by Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.


The myth of revolution – image pictures and iconic reception

Che Guevara was recognised as media star already during the revolution; his portrait adorned the walls of every government authority and factory building, every office and tobacco factory – he was omnipresent, an icon and role model and a crucial propaganda instrument of the political movement. The charismatic, eternally young revolutionary adorned public and private rooms as poster, photograph and icon, and the people identified themselves with their leader on a never-before-seen scale. Che united the revolution with the idea of social upheaval and personified a socialist future, a new man and a new country.

After the successful revolution the photographs of its heroes became a synonym of the new society; they were revered and distributed all over the country like pictures of saints. While the early iconic pictures of the revolution were made by Cuban photographers, who were part of the revolutionary movement, the Western world began to take notice of developments in Cuba in 1959. Leading European photographers travelled into this troubled country in the midst of social upheavals and turned the leaders of the revolution into icons and symbols of a dissatisfied youth on the eve of the global 1968 movement. Particularly the word famous portrait of Che Guevara as “guerrillero heroico” with beret and red star, photographed by Alberto Korda, is still regarded as an epitome of revolution and rebellion today and considered the most famous portrait of a person worldwide.


The photographic language of the revolution

Few photographs exist from the early years of the revolutionary movement against the Batista regime, and most of them were made by amateur photographers and travellers. They resemble the documentary photographic style of the 1930s which was popular in the United States and Europe at that time. Event photography, like the picture of Fidel Castro’s release from prison in 1955, retrospectively achieved iconic status and became the initial image of the revolution widely distributed in numerous reproductions, details and enlargements. The guerrilla fights in the Sierra Maestra are only documented in small incidental photographs made by sympathisers and fellow guerrillas with their own cameras.

Professional photographers discovered the “faces of the revolution” and their protagonists only in 1959. From then on countless portraits of Che Guevara, Fidel and Raúl Castro and their combatants were created. This is also the reason why so few photographs exist of Camilo Cienfuegos, who died in 1959, and of the authentic event of the triumphant entry into Havana on 8 January 1959, which were replaced by pictures of Fidel Castro’s famous speech. Photographers developed a photographic language with an epic style which was situated between documentation and homage and supported the political scope of the revolution. A photograph by Raúl Corrales became famous under the name “La Cabelleria”, even though the occasion (illegal entry into the premises of the American Fruit company) was not primarily heroic. The image created the identity of event and ideology and thus became a political statement.

The style of the photographers – from Alberto Korda to Liborio Noval and Osvaldo Salas, from Corrales to Tirso and Mayito – was characterised by a pictorial dramaturgy that was suitable for the media: strong contrasts, little internal drawing, silhouette-like figures against a discreet background – in other words the criteria of good news photography as it has been practiced since the 1940s. In addition, the photographers sympathising with and involved in the revolution had a feel and understanding for pathos and staging and paid attention to small details and scenes on the fringe of large events.”

Press release from the Museum de Moderne Rupertinum website


Alberto Korda. 'Siegesfeier nach der Schlacht in der Schweinebucht, Fidel Castro mit aufgemalter Flagge' 1961


Alberto Korda (Cuban, 1928-2001)
Siegesfeier nach der Schlacht in der Schweinebucht, Fidel Castro mit aufgemalter Flagge
[Victory celebration after the Battle in the Bay of Pigs, Fidel Castro with painted flag]

Gelatine-Silberprint, Vintage, Deckfarben
40 x 30 cm
aus der Skrein Photo Collection
© VBK, Wien, 2012


Carlos Morales. 'Siegreiche Revolution, 8.1.1959' 1959


Carlos Morales
Siegreiche Revolution, 8.1.1959 [Victorious Revolution, 8.1.1959]
Gelatine-Silberprint, Vintage
28 x 20 cm
aus der Skrein Photo Collection


Venancio Diaz. 'Volksparade anlässlich "La Coubre“,' 1960


Venancio Diaz (Cuban, 1916-2003)
Volksparade anlässlich “La Coubre” [People’s parade dedicated to “Coubre”]
Gelatine-Silberprint, Vintage
27 x 15cm
aus der Skrein Photo Collection


Anonymous photographer. 'Fidel Castro' c. 1970


Anonymous photographer
Fidel Castro
c. 1970
Gelatine-Silberprint, Vintage
33.5 x 28cm
aus der Skrein Photo Collection


Alberto Korda. 'Che Guevara' 1960


Alberto Korda (Cuban, 1928-2001)
Che Guevara
aus der Skrein Photo Collection
© VBK, Wien, 2012



Museum de Moderne Rupertinum
Weiner Philharmoniker Gasse 9
5020 Salzburg, Austria

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00am – 6.00pm
Wednesday: 10.00am – 8.00pm
Monday: closed

Museum de Moderne Rupertinum website


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Exhibition: ‘René Burri: A Retrospective’ at Flo Peters Gallery, Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 4th November 2009 – 15th January 2010


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




Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014) 'Tae Soe Dong, Sud Korea' 1961


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014)
Tae Soe Dong, Sud Korea
Gelatin silver print


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014) 'Bilbao, Spain' 1957


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014)
Bilbao, Spain
Gelatin silver print


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014) 'Training, Fort Lauderdale, Florida' 1966


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014)
Training, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Gelatin silver print


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014) 'Two Monks, Kyoto, Japan' 1961


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014)
Two Monks, Kyoto, Japan
Gelatin silver print


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014) 'Che Guevara, Havana' 1963


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014)
Che Guevara, Havana
Gelatin silver print


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014) 'Men On A Rooftop, Sao Paulo' 1960


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014)
Men On A Rooftop, Sao Paulo
Gelatin silver print



René Burri likes to see his career as a series of happy accidents, which is often just another way of editing out all the downtime and boring bits, the months of no work. But you have to admit it did start with a bang. There he was, 24 years old, mooching around in northern Spain, when he read in a newspaper that Picasso was expected at a bullfight in Nimes the next day. He drove through the night, checked into a hotel early the next morning – and to his surprise was ushered straight into Picasso’s bedroom.

A party was in full swing, and the artist was sitting up in bed, directing a small group of musicians and friends. He nodded at Burri – yes, he could take pictures – and the result is a wonderfully vivid sequence of portraits, Picasso laughing and clapping and betraying not the tiniest sign that a private party has just been interrupted. Burri, of course, took it as a sign from God: with luck like this, he was a born photographer.

So, right from the start, he has had a knack for being in the right place at the right time – and for not making a nuisance of himself once he gets there. He photographed Che Guevara in Havana in 1963, just a few months before the revolutionary disappeared from public life. He got stuck in a lift with President Nasser of Egypt, and took a funny picture of him laughing while a bodyguard looks on murderously.

Of course, for every picture Burri took, there was another he didn’t. He is now 71 and semi-retired (photographers never stop), and says that you could fill volumes with the stories he didn’t get, the places he didn’t go.

The first time he was commissioned to go to Cuba, in 1958 at the height of the revolution, he got drunk the night before he was due to fly, cried off, and went skiing at home in Switzerland instead. He once saw Greta Garbo coming down the road towards him in New York, wearing dark glasses, and at the very last moment put away his camera; she was just too forbidding. In the desert in Egypt, he saw the blackened hand of a corpse reaching up through the sand, and he didn’t take that picture, either. Burri believes in a notion of tact, or what he calls dignity.

Other people might call it cowardice, but he feels strongly that there are some lines you just don’t cross. “I have incredible respect for [war photographers] Don McCullin and Larry Burrows, but you pay a price. What does Don photograph now? Landscapes, pictures of flowers.” This is partly a moral position – photographers can get addicted to war, he says, and he met a lot of them in Vietnam – but it is also a simple instinct for self-preservation. Three of Burri’s great mentors at Magnum – Robert Capa, Werner Bischof, Chim (David Seymour) – lived dangerously and died young, and he always felt it was a tremendous waste of their talent.

For all that, Burri has seen a lot of war. Since joining Magnum in 1959, he has covered conflicts in Cambodia, Korea, Vietnam, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and China. He says he prefers to photograph the build-up to war, or its aftermath, rather than the violence itself. One of the first big projects he undertook was a portrait of postwar Germany, starting in the bleak mid-1950s and published in book form in 1962.

Of all his photographs, those that most nearly capture the atmosphere of combat are, in fact, of a training exercise in the Swiss Jura. Burri undertook compulsory military service in the 1950s, while still at art school, but with the permission of his training officer ended up shooting more film than anything else; he developed the pictures in his bath tub at the end of the day. At the age of 21, he came to see the camera as a way of removing himself from actual conflict; it also, he says, forced him to look for metaphors about battle, rather than relying on the action picture. (This is a rule of his – don’t be too literal. He once saw Castro standing in a doorway underneath a big exit sign, which was tempting for a second, but then just too obvious.)

Burri’s most powerful war pictures are the ones with no one in them. During the Six Day War between Egypt and Israel in 1967, he took a series of stark, graphic photographs, many of them from the air, which said something about the conflict that any single explosion or corpse might not have. In one, the wreckage of an Egyptian helicopter lies sprawled on a concrete landing pad, looking like a bug squashed on patio paving; in another, a burned-out convoy snakes through the desert like a collection of children’s toys left out in a sand pit.

A third photograph, an extreme close-up of a helmeted soldier with helicopters swarming at his shoulder like mosquitoes, taken in 1974, after the Yom Kippur war, has someone in it, it’s true, but he is silhouetted and faceless – an emblematic soldier, not a real one. In person, Burri is not a man given to big political statements, but on film he has captured the futility of war, the mess and wastefulness of human aggression.

Burri now lives in Paris, which is currently honouring him with a retrospective, and on the opening weekend he rushes around the gallery with his publisher, a TV director, several friends, his wife and 11-year-old son in tow. (He has grown-up children from his first marriage to Rosellina Bischof, who died in 1986.) He is every inch the European photojournalist – battered black fedora, cravat, a thick cloud of cigar smoke; when we move to a cafe to talk and the Americans at the next table complain about the cigar, he points out, in a very genial way, that the pollution is marginally worse outside.

At art school in Zurich, Burri was initially more interested in film. He had a rather off-putting photography teacher who started class with gymnastics and breathing exercises, and was a keen proponent of the “new objectivity” – there was an emphasis on still lifes and form, and what Burri refers to as “coffee cups in light.”

The American photographer Edward Steichen once came to the school looking for work he might include in an exhibition, The Family Of Man, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York – where were the pictures of people, he wanted to know, and left disappointed. It wasn’t until after he graduated that Burri felt free to pursue the more spontaneous, subjective kind of photography that Steichen had come looking for. “I suddenly had to chase after my pictures … Pictures are like taxis during rush hour – if you’re not fast enough, someone else will get there first.”

He started in Paris, as everyone did in the 1950s. Henri Cartier-Bresson had just published his influential book The Decisive Moment, and Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis were photographing the city’s streets and cafes. At Magnum, they took an interest in a story Burri had published about a school for deaf-mute children, selling it on to Life magazine. He was in – Cartier-Bresson approved, Capa was enthusiastic, so Burri became a part of the greatest photographers’ cooperative in the world.

For the next two decades, he travelled almost incessantly, working on commissions for the New York Times, Vogue, Paris-Match, Time, Der Stern. He has kept every boarding card and press pass; a cabinet in the Paris exhibition is full of them. But although Burri worked constantly throughout the 1950s and 1960s, his photographs were always considered the lesser part of a story; as far as magazine editors were concerned, it was the words that mattered. After Burri accompanied an American journalist on a two-hour interview with Che Guevara, Look magazine ran pages of dense text, cropping his extraordinary portraits and running them very small at the bottom of the page.

One of the chief pleasures of this retrospective stage in life, says Burri, is being able to go back through all that work and decide for himself what was important and what was not. In Phaidon’s new monograph of his work, the portrait of Che is not 2in square but blown up across two pages. He has hung magazine stories in the new exhibition, signing the uncredited ones in red crayon. And as well as the reportage, there are hundreds of portraits of artists and writers and architects – Patricia Highsmith, Alberto Giacometti, Le Corbusier – and of cities: Tokyo, Havana, New York in a blackout, Rio de Janeiro, São Paolo, Brasilia.

Burri fell in love with modern architecture as a student and went on to form close friendships with Le Corbusier, Luis Barragan and Oscar Niemeyer. Some of his best work draws on this innate feel for the form and volume of a building, and of a person’s place within it. A photograph called In The Ministry Of Health, Rio de Janeiro 1960, is so full of light and shadow, it looks at first like a street scene, two young women striding through thick bars of sunlight; in fact, the photograph was taken indoors, in the lobby of a building designed by two of Burri’s favourite architects, Niemeyer and Le Corbusier. Burri’s best known photograph, of four suited men crossing a rooftop in São Paolo, captures all the drama, glamour and vertigo of life in a giant city: the flat roof floats high above the street, dotted with tiny, improbable people.

When Burri left Zurich in the 1950s, he set out to discover the world and some sense of man’s smallness within it. Switzerland was landlocked, bordered by mountains; a camera was a way out. Even then, he worried about what he could do that was new – “when shutters rattle from morning to night in every corner of the world … when every continent is lit with the flash of cameras.” His job, he believes, has been to “trace the enormous social changes taking place in our age, conveying my thoughts and images of them.” And, more poetically, “to put the intensity that you yourself have experienced into the picture – otherwise it is just a document.” He retired from reporting once that intensity, that sense of the bigness of the world, was gone. In 1989, he went to Moscow to photograph Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, but so did 6,500 others, and in the scrum it seemed impossible to take a meaningful picture. He now prefers to paint and take pictures of his wife and son. Of course, he’d start all over again if the world ever became less crowded – if you could walk into Picasso’s bedroom at six in the morning, and be welcome.

Saturday February 7, 2004
The Guardian
Text on the Art Daily website [Online] Cited 19/05/2019


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014) 'Blackout New York' November 9, 1965

Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014) 'Blackout New York' November 9, 1965

Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014) 'Blackout New York' November 9, 1965

Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014) 'Blackout New York' November 9, 1965


Rene Burri (Swiss, 1933-2014)
Four photographs from the series Blackout New York
November 9, 1965
Gelatin silver print



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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, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr 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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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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