After being proclaimed a French invention in 1839 in Paris, photography quickly conquered all of Europe. Although the race for technical improvements began in the cultural centers, heavy cameras soon appeared in villages and the countryside, in remote valleys and in the mountains. In Switzerland, the emerging tourism industry played a key role in the new photography market. In addition to the interest in spectacular landscapes, the growing demand for portraits, early industrialization and large-scale technical projects all contributed to the growth of this medium.
This first overview of Swiss photography in the 19th century sheds light on the outstanding achievements of the pioneers, as well as the various uses of the medium, such as early investigative photography. In addition, the exhibition examines the interactions between painting, engraving and printmaking. Through research in countless archives and collections in all parts of the country, previously little known photographic material was discovered. The selection presented here takes not only the esthetic quality into account, but the specific ways in which photography was used as well. Nearly 60 public and private lenders have contributed works from their collections to provide an overview of the f irst 50 years of photography in Switzerland.
The exhibition is divided into seven sections: The f irst two deal with the emergence of a completely new medium. How was photography able to establish itself in relation to conventional visual techniques? In what period were images fixed on silver-coated copper plates? When and where were prints made on paper? The five other sections are about the influence of tourism, the importance of portrait photography, commercial aspects, artistic approaches and the representation of progress.
A co-production of Fotostiftung Schweiz, Wintherthur, Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana (MASI), Lugano, and Photo Elysée, Lausanne.
Exhibition curators: Martin Gasser and Sylvie Henguely