vrijdag 4 november 2011

Ever­yo­ne just sees what cor­re­sponds to his being Gotthard Schuh Swiss Photobooks Photojournalism Photography

Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the Present

Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the Present is the first comprehensive overview of the major publications that influenced Swiss photography in the 20th century. Seventy historic photographic books are introduced alongside numerous images, interpreted by expert specialists. The selected works offer a framework for a fresh look at the development of photographic styles and forms of expression, from the beginnings of modern photographic books in the 1930s to their ascendance in the present day. In-depth summaries covering the various epochs as well as a bibliography complement the chronologically laid-out essays on the individual publications.

Gotthard Schuh – A Kind of Infatuation
Gott­hard Schuh (1897-1969) is re­gar­ded as one of the out­stan­ding pho­to­graph­ers of the 20th cen­tu­ry. Not only was he a pioneer of mo­dern pho­to­jour­na­lism, but he also de­ve­l­o­ped a per­so­nal style which may be de­scri­bed as “poe­tic rea­lism”. Schuh was aware of the fact that the pho­to­gra­phic view of the world is al­ways sub­jec­tive and that the pho­to­gra­pher needs to be­co­me com­ple­te­ly ab­sor­bed in a par­ti­cu­lar si­tua­ti­on in order to grasp it in­tui­tive­ly. Forty years after Schuh’s death, the Fo­to­stif­tung Schweiz in­spec­ted and repro­ces­sed the pho­to­gra­pher’s es­ta­te, which had been ent­rusted to its care. This re­tro­spec­tive ex­hi­bi­ti­on, which is ac­com­pa­nied by an ex­ten­si­ve mo­no­graph, prin­ci­pal­ly ack­now­led­ges the sub­jec­tive gaze that es­sen­ti­al­ly holds Schuh’s pic­to­ri­al cosmos to­ge­ther – what he him­s­elf cal­led “a kind of in­f­a­tua­ti­on”.
Miner, Winterslag, Belgium, 1937
© Fotostiftung Schweiz
The Cancan at the Tabarin, Paris, 1936
© Fotostiftung Schweiz
Sarna, Bali, 1938
© Fotostiftung Schweiz
From the “New Pho­to­gra­phy” to Re­por­ta­ge
Gott­hard Schuh was self-taught, like most pho­to­graph­ers of his ge­ne­ra­ti­on. He al­re­a­dy had a 13-ye­ar ca­re­er as an ar­tist be­hind him when, around 1930, he dis­co­ver­ed the ca­me­ra as a means of ex­pres­si­on, al­lo­wing him­s­elf to be swept along by the pre­vai­ling mood of a new be­gin­ning which en­ve­l­o­ped the “new pho­to­gra­phy”. Vi­su­al ef­fects and a char­ged com­po­si­ti­on play­ed an im­portant role in the first pho­to­graphs he pu­blis­hed. Schuh en­ga­ged above all with the sen­sa­ti­ons of the ever­y­day – see­mingly un­spec­ta­cu­lar sce­nes that are full of mys­te­ry and crea­te as much ten­si­on as the opening sen­tence of a story. This was also the ap­proach he took to pho­to­jour­na­lism, which un­der­went a dis­tinct mo­der­ni­sa­ti­on in the early 1930s. In Swit­z­er­land the Zür­cher Il­lus­trier­te (ZI) under Ar­nold Küb­ler set new stan­dards. As of 1932 Schuh, along with Hans Staub and Paul Senn, was among Küb­ler’s pri­zed re­por­ters.
In ad­di­ti­on to his pho­to­jour­na­lis­tic works in the nar­ro­wer sense of the term, Schuh re­pea­ted­ly took pho­to­graphs which be­tray­ed the eye and sen­si­bi­li­ty of the ear­lier pain­ter. Not long after be­co­m­ing in­vol­ved in pho­to­gra­phy, he dis­tan­ced him­s­elf from the avant-gar­de trends so as to de­ve­lop a sen­su­al pic­to­ri­al idiom of his own. He let him­s­elf be in­spi­red above all by the pul­sa­ting life of the Pa­ri­sian me­tro­po­lis. He cap­tu­red night and twi­light sce­nes, sought mo­ve­ment and flo­wing con­tours, im­mer­sed him­s­elf in fe­mi­ni­ne worlds, al­lo­wed him­s­elf be swept along by Eros. Street sce­nes were among his fa­vou­rite sub­jects, and his main in­te­rest was in the at­mo­s­phe­re, the emo­tio­nal ex­pres­si­on or the psy­cho­lo­gy of the mo­ment.
The Salvatation Army, Zurich, 1934
© Fotostiftung Schweiz
Schoolchildren near Perugia, 1929
© Fotostiftung Schweiz
The Jour­ney to Asia – and In­wards
In 1941, after about ten years at the pho­to­gra­phic front, Schuh aban­do­ned the hec­tic life of the re­por­ter to be­co­me the first pic­tu­re edi­tor for the Neue Zür­cher Zei­tung. To­ge­ther with Edwin Arnet, he crea­ted the NZZ sup­ple­ment Das Wo­chen­en­de, which quick­ly de­ve­l­o­ped into a well-re­spec­ted forum for pho­to­gra­phy. Here, in ad­di­ti­on to his own re­por­ta­ges, he could pre­sent the works not only of in­ter­na­tio­nal­ly re­now­ned pho­to­graph­ers, but also of young un­k­nown ta­lents. From then on, howe­ver, he chan­nel­led a si­gni­fi­cant part of his own pho­to­gra­phic work into il­lus­tra­ted books. The most fa­mous and suc­cess­ful, run­ning to 13 edi­ti­ons, was pu­blis­hed in 1941 under the title In­seln der Göt­ter. It con­tai­ned the fruits of an al­most 11-month jour­ney to Sin­g­a­po­re, Java, Su­ma­tra and Bali, which Schuh had un­der­ta­ken just be­fo­re the war. What on the sur­face could be seen as a mere es­cape to a pa­ra­di­se po­pu­la­ted by be­au­ti­ful women, turns out on clo­ser scru­ti­ny to also be a suc­cess­ful mix­tu­re of re­por­ta­ge and self-ob­ser­va­ti­on, a jour­ney in­wards.
A High Brahman prays with his Child, Bali, 1938
© Fotostiftung Schweiz
Boy Playing Marbles, Java, 1938
© Fotostiftung Schweiz
“Ever­yo­ne just sees what cor­re­sponds to his being”
In his book In­seln der Göt­ter Schuh so­me­ti­mes rated the poe­tic con­tent of his pho­to­graphs hig­her than their do­cu­men­ta­ry au­then­ti­ci­ty. Later too, he fre­quent­ly used the ca­me­ra to give ex­pres­si­on to his fan­ta­sies and emo­ti­ons – his con­vic­tion being that images of the ex­ter­nal world cor­re­spon­ded to in­ter­nal images: “Ever­yo­ne just de­picts what he sees, and ever­yo­ne just sees what cor­re­sponds to his being.” This credo is most evi­dent in the book Be­geg­nun­gen which Schuh pu­blis­hed in 1956 and in which he fre­e­ly and as­so­cia­tive­ly com­bi­nes older and more re­cent images to crea­te a new in­te­gral com­po­si­ti­on. With Be­geg­nun­gen Schuh pur­sued the ob­jec­tives of the ‘Kol­le­gi­um Schwei­ze­ri­scher Pho­to­gra­phen’, the Aca­de­my of Swiss Pho­to­graph­ers which he foun­ded to­ge­ther with Paul Senn, Wal­ter Läu­bli, Wer­ner Bi­schof und Jakob Tug­ge­ner. This loose group of out­stan­ding pho­to­graph­ers pro­pa­ga­ted a pho­to­gra­phy that shif­ted to the fore the aut­hor’s ‘si­gna­tu­re’ and ar­tis­tic com­po­si­ti­on. Wi­t­hin the Aca­de­my, Schuh stood out by the fact that his images were often the fruit of an act of pas­sio­na­te aban­don in which the tran­si­ti­ons bet­ween dream and rea­li­ty were fluid. His por­tra­yals of women and lo­vers are in­di­ca­ti­ve here. In the 1950s Schuh still fell back so­me­ti­mes on pic­to­ri­al ideas which had preoc­cu­p­ied him as a pain­ter in the 1920s. And he did not shy away from ar­ran­ging cer­tain sce­nes so as to ap­pro­xi­ma­te as clo­se­ly as pos­si­ble to his ideas. This enab­led him to achie­ve a ly­ri­cal rich­ness that has pre­ser­ved its va­li­di­ty to this very day.
Peter Pfrun­der

"Anyone who is incapable of empathising with events and situations to the extent that they feel love for them, at least for a moment, will not possess the power to reproduce them." (Gotthard Schuh)
"Dear Gotthard Schuh, when I look at your photographs I understand them as if I myself were there." (Robert Frank)
Gott­hard Schuh – A Kind of In­f­a­tua­ti­on. Ed. by Peter Pfrun­der in col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with Gil­les Mora. Texts by Peter Pfrun­der, Gil­les Mora, Mar­tin Gas­ser. 312 pp., 200 il­lus­tra­ti­ons
Steidl Ver­lag, Göt­tin­gen 2009.

Gotthard Schuh: Nuns in front of Leonardos's "Last Supper", Milan, 1955

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