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Werner Bischof Out of an ‘ivory tower’ into the world

The Swiss photographer Werner Bischof would have turned 100 on April 26. A new book and two exhibitions look back on his work and a career which was cut short by a fatal car accident while on reportage in Peru in 1954. 

Bischof’s legacy stands out for its range. In addition to his photography there are diaries, sketches, lectures and a voluminous correspondence with his parents, his wife Rosellina, his friends and of course his former colleagues at Magnum Photos. 

At the beginning of his career, during the Second World War, Bischof worked in a studio – his ivory tower, as he later called it – until Arnold Kübler, a mentor, suggested he turn his gaze towards people. This resulted in Bischof exploring a war-ravaged Europe. 

The recently published photo album Perspectives starts with this journey that took Bischof to southern Germany, where the 29-year-old photographer was overwhelmed by what he saw. 

On his later trips, Bischof always endeavoured to retain his integrity and compassion and also to show the “other side” of conflict areas. This enabled him time after time to find a unique perspective. 

(All images: Copyright Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos or Werner Bischof Estate)

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