A precocious and fertile pairing
By Françoise Jaunin
Lausanne’s love affair with photography started early. Beginning with its first exhibition in 1840, presented by a certain Compar, a “student of Daguerre”, this long union was made official by the opening of the Musée de l’Elysée in 1985. Since then, photography has spread the name of the city, and Lausanne has sent exhibitions and participated in the photographic debate all over the planet.
Famous and forgotten pioneers
The beginnings of photography in Lausanne are tied to a small group of pioneers. Here in particular we find the physicist Marc Secrétan, who published one of the first photographic works in Paris, the engraver Frédéric de Martens, who is among those who paved the way for mountain photography, and Adrien Constant de Rebeque, who, under the name Constant Delessert, was one of the most outstanding Swiss photographers of his time. But Martens and Delessert, as brilliant and famous as they were, went on to have a sad and undeserved posthumous fate: due to fire and the loss of their collections, they have nearly been forgotten.
Between decline and new life
Very quickly, photography broadened its horizons in Lausanne. André Schmid worked at the Canton hospital’s first radiology department, Rodolphe Archibald Reiss worked in forensics, and Pierre Gillard, private tutor to the last tsar, brought back a unique and poignant photographic diary from Russia. The Jongh family – Edouard, Francis and Gaston – ran a well-known studio in the city.
In the regional decline between 1930 and 1940, just two women brought a breath of fresh air to Lausanne: Germaine Martin, known for “New Photography”, and Gertrud Fehr, who opened a new creative school in Lausanne before leaving to teach at an arts and crafts school in Vevey and contributing enormously to its great reputation for excellence.
Although Henriette Grindat went her own way with surrealism, it was the press that dominated the middle of the century, with photojournalists like Pierre Izard and Yves Debraine. Long-term reporters, Luc Chessex scoured Latin American and Africa with his keen photographer’s eye, Monique Jacot and Simone Oppliger sensitively addressed social subjects, and Marcel Imsand worked in a humanist and regionalist vein.
Since 1985, the Musée de l’Elysée’s energy has led to emulation, interest in the pictures and huge popularity for photography, fuelled by events such as the seven “Night of the photo” celebrations in its gardens and the great “One hundred photographers from the East “ frescoes after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as the “See Switzerland from a fresh perspective” and “New itineraries” exhibitions related to the 700th anniversary of the Confederation.
An abundant and multi-faceted scene
With the 1990s and the decline of photojournalism, photography moved into galleries, museums and publishing houses, such as that of Jean Genoud, one of the best specialized printers in the world.
Head of the Ecole d’Art de Lausanne since 1995, Pierre Keller has emphasized new media: cinema, video and photography, where he promotes closer ties between documentary and artistic vocation, reality and interpretation.
Not connected to the ECAL, Mario del Curto and Yves Leresche give a contemporary feel to their many documentary projects. Magali Koenig embarks on an introspective and dreamlike voyage in black and white. Philippe Pache reinterprets the nude with a modest tenderness. Jean-Pascal Imsand, an exceptionally gifted talent who was lost too soon, carved out a personal path between fantastic photomontages and society’s tragic side. Olivier Christinat revisited and questioned art history and images from the press. In Anoush Abrar, Leo Fabrizio (two former students of ECAL) and Annaïk Lou Pitteloud, the next generation has some great, promising and already strong individual personalities.
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