(1916-1954 Switzerland) Helmhaus, CH-Zürich 11 February-17 April 2006 In the exhibition and book WernerBischofPictures we present one of the most important Swiss photographers of the twentieth century. Werner Bischof (1916-1954) is known as a master of black-and-white photography. At Helmhaus Zürich there are other sides of his work to be discovered: large, colourful, astonishingly topical photographs - a world unto itself between art and journalism. The last major Werner Bischof exhibition was held twenty years ago at the Kunsthaus Zurich. In the fifties and sixties, practically everyone grew up with his images of the flute player and the snowy Japanese landscape: these were the pictures that adorned bedrooms, classrooms and doctors' waiting rooms. For decades, these now world-famous icons of early photojournalism were ubiquitous. But mention the name Werner Bischof today and a young generation of cultivated art lovers will barely recognise it. The exhibition at Helmhaus Zürich has two aims. One is to introduce this younger generation to the fascinating work of Werner Bischof; the other is to show aspects of his work that are unfamiliar even to those who know Bischof well. Visitors to the Helmhaus now have the chance of discovering Bischof's colour photography, rarely shown and long out of print, and of enjoying the impact of his pictures in large format. Being able to put this new slant on his oeuvre owes much to the generosity of Marco Bischof, the first-born son of Rosellina and Werner Bischof, who has managed the Werner Bischof Estate since the death of his mother in 1986 with so much energy, courage and verve. It was Marco Bischof who was the driving force behind this project, undertaken in collaboration with Simon Maurer, director of Helmhaus Zürich, and designer Peter Zimmermann. The exhibition also highlights the context in which this outstanding photographic oeuvre was created. Born in Zurich on 26 April 1916, Werner Bischof learned his craft in the now legendary photographic class of Hans Finsler and Alfred Willimann, where he composed and photographed still lifes and produced experimental object photography of compelling beauty, as well as his first photo essays. While World War II raged on the shores of Switzerland's "island of neutrality", Bischof sought contrasting calm in the study of nature. As the war ended, so too did Werner Bischof's days in the studio. He left what he termed the ivory tower as soon as the borders were re-opened in 1945, and set off on his bicycle to Southern Germany. He was devastated by the sheer scale of the destruction that met his eyes. From then until 1949, he travelled the length and breadth of Europe, documenting life on the continent in the aftermath of war. Bischof was interested in the different approaches taken to reconstruction in different countries. What he had learned about object photography in the studio, he now applied outside in the field. In those early days of photojournalism, Bischof published his images of Europe in the leading magazines of the western world. Though a founding member of the legendary Magnum Photos in 1949, he always felt a certain ambivalence about the way photographs were used in the press. Although dependent on his photos being published, he was increasingly disturbed by the often lackadaisical and sometimes propagandistic treatment they received at the hands of picture editors. Werner Bischof was an early and quintessential victim of the art-versus-journalism dilemma, and, as a highly intelligent, sensitive individual, he knew all too well that it threatened to tear him apart. In 1951 Bischof left Europe and went to India for Life magazine. His report on the famine in Bihar brought him international recognition. Above and beyond the issue he had been commissioned to cover, he was interested in the relationship between tradition and modernity - a subject that would accompany him on all his travels through Asia. His studies of the culture and nature of Japan recall his early work. The photographs he took there were published in the last book that he compiled himself. However, war soon re-entered his life: the new, modern warfare of Korea and Indochina. After travelling the world for two years, Bischof returned to Zurich in 1952, but soon set out for the USA, where he earned his passage to South America with photographic commissions. In the New World, he created expansively composed colour photographs. He travelled via Central America to South America, in search of harmony between man and nature. He was killed in a road accident in the Andes on 16 May 1954. From his studio in Zurich Werner Bischof set a course that was to take him around the globe. His oeuvre, most of it created within the space of just ten years, addresses a wide range of issues. Bischof is best known as a photographer of people: he was a master of figural composition in motion, as in his photographs of children at play. But he was also a still life and landscape photographer. Movement and stillness, dynamics and contemplation, play and sleep, work and leisure stand side by side. And the most astonishing thing about Bischof, according to writer Claude Roy, is that he is as great an artist in the portrayal of happiness as he is in the expression of sorrow and pain. Bischof's gift of creating a sense of presence in his photographs reaches us through the decades. It is remarkable how topical his pictures still seem. Has the world changed less than we think? Or did Bischof instinctively photograph only things that do not become dated? Whatever the case, his take on photography - those bold yet never intrusive frames, that feeling for light, that unerring sense of the right moment - was clearly ahead of its time. It is therefore hardly surprising that, when we look at Bischof's photographs today, we still feel as though we were there ourselves. His gift of gaining people's confidence made him and his camera invisible. The result: WernerBischofPictures. Publication To coincide with the exhibition, the most comprehensive book to date on the oeuvre of Werner Bischof is being published by Benteli Verlag, Bern (German edition), and Steidl Verlag, Göttingen (English edition). In this book, WernerBischofBilder / WernerBischofPictures, Bischof's visual world unfolds on 464 pages with more than 350 large-format illustrations in which, for the first time, his colour photography is granted the status it deserves. The book contains many rarely published photographs and an informative text on the life and work of Werner Bischof. Edited and designed by Marco Bischof, Simon Maurer and Peter Zimmermann, the book is a joint collaboration between the Werner Bischof Estate and Helmhaus Zürich. Werner Bischof's photographs have always appealed to children - and not just because they were among his favourite subjects. For this reason, we felt it particularly appropriate to offer a range of educational activities to accompany the exhibition. One room at the Helmhaus has been set aside for our younger visitors, designed by Donat Bräm of the Pädagogische Hochschule Zürich. There will be an exhibition of children's drawings and writings inspired by selected photographs by Werner Bischof. A portfolio of teaching materials entitled Der zugewandte Blick. Werner Bischof, 36 Bilder, edited by Susan Gürber and Thomas Hermann, is being published by Pestalozzianum-Verlag, affiliated to the Pädagogische Hochschule Zürich, and will be available at the exhibition. The CD-ROM Werner Bischof/Leben und Werk eines Photographen (2003) by Marco Bischof and Carl Philabaum can also be consulted on-screen in the exhibition. We plan to provide guided tours for teaching staff wishing to receive educational back-up for visits to the exhibition with their classes. Finally, there will be a Children's Day on Sunday, 12 March, from 1 to 6 p.m., with a special fringe programme for children aged 5 and over, aimed at presenting an entertaining and captivating introduction to the world of Werner Bischof.