A Tribute to Werner Bischof


27. 11. 2015 - 24. 1. 2016

The Swiss photographer Werner Bischof (1916–1954) studied photography with Hans Finsler and worked as an advertising and fashion photographer for several years. He built up his reputation after documenting Europe in the aftermath of World War II. In 1949 he joined MAGNUM Photos and continued to photograph for the magazines Life and Paris-Match. Werner Bischof was only 38 when he tragically died in the Peruvian mountains. During the last nine years of his life he produced a body of work of such sensitivity and yet intensity that it is considered a masterpiece of concerned photojournalism. His humanistic approach towards existential human issues combined with his artistic talents made him a classic of black and white photography.


Photographs from the opening of the exhibition

WERNER BISCHOF - biography

1916    Born on 26 April in Zurich. Childhood in Zurich, Kilchberg and Waldshut. His father is director of a pharmaceuticals factory and a keen amateur photographer. His mother dies prematurely in 1931.
1932    Enrols at the Kunstgewerbeschule Zürich where he studies in Hans Finsler’s newly established photography class, graduating in 1936.
1936    Opens Fotografik studio in Zurich. Works for advertising agency Amstutz & Herdeg. Receives a commission for the 1939 Swiss Expo.
1939    Goes to Paris to become a painter but returns to Switzerland when the war breaks out. Spends over two years doing military service.
1942    Photographer for the monthly magazine Du under Arnold Kübler. Publication of studio works – fashion, advertising, abstract photos. First major photo essays from 1943. Member of the Allianz group of artists.
1945    Begins a photographic documentation of post-war Europe commissioned by Schweizer Spende: Southern Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland. Starts using colour film.
1946    Travels in Germany, Italy and Greece. Meets his future wife Rosellina Mandel in Milan. Publishes his portfolio 24 Photos.
1947    Travels to Hungary and Romania.
1948    Travels to Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland and Norway. Completes photographic documentation of post-war Europe.
1949    Member of Magnum. Travels in Germany, Italy, Great Britain and France. Works for Picture Post, Illustrated, Observer, Life, Epoca and Du. Marries Rosellina Mandel.
1950    Designs the book Mutter und Kind for Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund. Further travels in Europe, including Iceland. Birth of his first son Marco.
1951    Spends six months in India. His report on the famine in Bihar for Life magazine brings international recognition. Visits Sikkim. Goes for one year to Japan. While there, makes short trips to Korea and Okinawa.
1952    In Tokyo with Rosellina, working for Life magazine. Travels via Hong Kong to Indochina for three months as war correspondent for Paris Match, returning via India and Ceylon.
1953    Back in Zurich, selects Asia photos for an exhibition and publication Menschen im Fernen Osten. Plans an extended journey through South America. Sails for New York. Spends four months documenting new highways in various US states.
1954    Drives from New York to Mexico City with Rosellina, then continues alone. Flies to Panama, Santiago de Chile and Lima reporting for Magnum and Life.
On 16 May Werner Bischof is killed when his vehicle plunges into a ravine in the Peruvian Andes. Nine days later his second son Daniel is born in Zurich.