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Werner Gadliger Snapshots from the ‘grand theatre of life’

Werner Gadliger, born near Bern in 1950, completed his photography apprenticeship by the late 1960s and then went on to work in several different occupations. In the mid-1970s he was a photographer for the Schweizer Verkehrszentrale (now Switzerland Tourism) and worked as an aerial photographer in Austria, England and Switzerland. Many of the pictures shown here come from this period.

“I don’t photograph people to expose them, but to capture their uniqueness,” wrote Gadliger in the short preface to his book “Encounters”, which he self-published in 1979, with a run of 1,000 copies.

The pictures shown are reproductions of the book’s original mock-up. Gadliger produced short picture stories, which were neatly arranged in blocks of four images over a double-page spread. At first glance, they look like ordinary scenes, featuring outsiders and characters whom Gadliger had met in Switzerland and during his travels through Europe. They include shop window mannequins, posing punks, street musicians, beggars, drinkers, men sleeping in a waiting room and a sick man in an anonymous hospital.

“For me pictures are like theatre photos from the grand theatre of life. Every person is his own main character,” Gadliger has said.

Every few years we are confronted with revivals of former times whether it be fashion, or more commonly music. If you dance to the hits of the 1980s, time stands still temporarily. Images like Gadlinger’s show us how much our lives have changed and how time marches on inexorably.

Gadliger’s publication is long out of print. But the original copies can be seen at the Fotostiftung Schweizexternal link in Winterthur until the end of January 2017.

(Pictures: Werner Gadliger, Text: Thomas Kern,

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