Although the race for technical improvements started in the cultural centres, the heavy cameras were soon also taken to the villages and the countryside, into remote valleys and up the mountains. In Switzerland, the emerging tourism industry played a key role in the new photography trade. Not only the interest in spectacular landscapes, but also the growing demand for portraits, early industrialisation and major technical projects all contributed to the medium’s boom.
This first overview of 19th-century Swiss photography sheds light on the pioneers’ outstanding achievements, as well as on special aspects called for by society, such as early mugshot photography. It also examines interactions between visual techniques that existed at the same time, including painting and printmaking. Thanks to research in countless archives and collections all over the country, hitherto little-known visual material has been unearthed. The selection shown here takes into account not only photography’s aesthetic qualities, but also its specific uses.
A co-production realised by Fotostiftung Schweiz (Winterthur), Museo d‘arte della Svizzera italiana (MASI, Lugano) and Photo Elysée (Lausanne).