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#Swisshistorypics A Swiss family dynasty captures photographic history

Over the course of a century the Zbinden family photographed the events in Schwarzenburg, a small commune near Bern. Three generations photographed portraits, groups or school classes, documented current events and captured the changes in everyday life in pictures.

The family business was founded around 1916 by Rudolf Zbinden. He died very young, so his brother Robert took over the “Photo Zbinden” business. At that time, a photographer’s work was completely different from that of today. He was called in whenever something was going on in the village – for folk festivals and weddings, but also for accidents and crimes. He was an indispensable help to the village policeman.

In 1975 Robert handed over the business to his two children, Ruth Clalüna Zbinden and Peter Zbinden. The siblings ran the business until the end of 2015, focusing on portraits, group and family pictures, nudes and photographs of couples. Press photographers took care of current affairs.

Portraits of couples

(Left) Rudolf Zbinden, with wife Lisi Schär, established himself as the village photographer. Photo taken around 1918; (right) Robert Zbinden and Nora Zbinden-Wirz in their photography business. 1947. 

(Rudolf & Robert Zbinden)

Documentation over 100 years

Between 1916 and 2016 around half a million pictures, or glass plates and negatives, were taken. Photo Zbinden has thus chronicled in an exemplary way the contemporary history of a region and the photographic history of Switzerland.

At the same time, the pictures tell the story of change and the history of photography. The needs and wishes of those portrayed have changed greatly over time, as have the creativity and style of staging of the photographers.

Rudolf Zbinden's studio

Rudolf Zbinden's studio, around 1920.

(Rudolf Zbinden)

All the photographic material will soon be handed over to the National Archives in Bern, after being shown at various exhibitions and the publication of an illustrated bookexternal link


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