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Photography Switzerland after sundown


By day, photographer Dominic Büttner works with light to capture the best shots for his clients. By night, however, he seeks out darker corners, as his Dreamscapes project shows.

Büttner, who works for various well-known Swiss companies and organisations, is until now the only photographer – along with his colleague Béatrice Devènes – to have twice take the official annual photo of the Swiss government.

When the sun sets, Büttner moves onto other things. He seeks out “non-places”, places we don’t even notice during the day. In darkness, he sets up his equipment, hits the automatic button, and walks off into his own picture, lamp in hand.

But of the photographer himself, all that we are left with is a ghost-like pair of boots. With these paintings of light, we are never sure if we are in a wonderful new land, or if we are in a nightmare.

Casting shadows

Büttner has also found dreamlike backdrops in Japan, Germany, and Italy. But his non-places are always that – non-places, where borders collapse and no image can really be attributed to a certain country.

In Switzerland, where most of his photos were taken, absolute darkness is almost only to be found in the high mountains. And even there, he has to improvise: once, by unscrewing the fuse of an annoying streetlamp (as a good Swiss citizen, of course, he put it back on when the photo was finished).

The photographer, from Basel but now living in Zurich, reckons that it’s important not to simply portray a clichéd picture of his country. And so, his silent shots tell of disappearance, of upheaval, of change; rocks after a landslide, submerged buildings after a flood, the interior of an abandoned country inn awaiting demolition.

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