Monday, 14 December 2009

Werner Bischof at the centro cultural ;Borges

An unexpected opportunity to see an exhibition of the Swiss photographer, who was 23 when WW2 broke out. His early images are tender and lyrical, which changes as soon as the war ended and he was commissioned to travel and photograph. He managed to continue to make extraordinary images of dreadful devastation; the ruins of the Reichstag, refugee children staring out into an uncertain future, Red Cross labels round their necks, the aftermath of Hiroshima. Later he joined Magnum and continued to travel. He photographed the Bihar famine in 1951: his image of a starving mother and her child has always summed up that colossal natural disaster for me. He traveled extensively, particularly in the Andes: his photos of the people of Cuzco are extraordinary. & it was in the Andes that he died in a car crash in 1954. A brief and and amazingly creative life.

Photography does people especially well, and particularly when someone has an eye for images that can speak to us. Ten years of world history will always remain present in his images. A lot of the pictures are in black and white, which makes them particularly beautiful simply because gelatin silver prints are amazing to look at, and mono intensifies, focuses, the image too. Colour prints are dye-based, which makes a 'thin' surface by contrast with the rich blacks and silvery whites of gelatin silver prints. Too bad the technology, which is admittedly messy and time-consuming, is being forgotten now that dye-based inkjet prints are so quick and easy to make. But it's always the human eye that makes photos, not the technology.

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