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Karlheinz Weinberger Rebel chic: a Swiss view of a post-war generation

In the late 1950s Swiss photographer Karlheinz Weinberger focused his camera on Switzerland’s postwar generation of misfits and young rebels, whose heroes included Elvis and James Dean.

It had been barely a decade since the end of the Second World War and the youth of Switzerland were dissatisfied with the conservative values of the day. Their influences came from America. Imports in the form of rock’n’roll, blue jeans, James Dean and Elvis, put pay to their disillusionment, and they created a subculture and gang-like identity of their own. They could now walk and talk like their American heroes.

Zurich-born Karlheinz Weinberger (1921-2006) began taking photographs as a teenager and joined the "Bund der Naturfreunde photography club" (Association of the friends of nature photography club) to improve his technique. In the 1940s he joined the now well-known Zurich underground gay club “Der Kreisexternal link” (The Circle) and began to publish his photos in its magazine under the pseudonym of Jim.

Weinberger was fascinated with how this generation was rebelling; he felt an affinity with marginalised people and wanted to document how they dressed and behaved. 

"Karlheinz Weinberger oder die Ballade von Jim" (Karlheinz Weinberger or the ballads of Jim), an exhibition of his entire works, is being shown at 'Photobasteiexternal link' in Zurich until December 23.

All photos are by Karlheinz Weinberger, courtesy Galerie Esther Woerdehoffexternal link, Paris.