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Alain Berset Through the Swiss president's eyes

Alain Berset ends his 12-month term as Swiss president at the end of 2018. Over the past year, he has been accompanied by the Fribourg photographer Nicolas Brodard, who has captured Berset’s unique viewpoint while in office. 

This year, Berset may be remembered by many for the photo of him seated on the New York sidewalk outside the United Nations headquarters reading his notes for the 73rd UN General Assembly. The down-to-earth image of Berset, became a global talking point on social media.  

man in suit sitting on ground

Mister fancy pants? No, sir! Swiss President Alain Berset takes a casual seat in New York.


Brodard took a different approach. He was interested in Berset's official job as president, not so much the individual. In each shot, he tried to point the camera in such a way as to mirror Berset’s view.  

His presidential perspective reveals a range of images, from his closest staff and “fans” to members of the press. Brodard’s work will be published in February in a book entitled "Conseiller fédéral" [Cabinet member] by Till Schaap Edition. 

Who is Alain Berset?

Berset (born in 1972) comes from a family of runners; he was a junior 800-metre champion. His political career was more of a sprint, however. After studying political science at university, at the age of 31 he became the youngest member of the Swiss Senate. 

In 2011, the Social Democrat was elected to the Federal Council (executive body). He has been home affairs minister since 2012 and is responsible for a wide range of issues including culture, health, equality and social security. 

The Swiss president is neither the head of state nor the head of government. The seven-person federal council is considered a collective ruling body. The president might be “primus inter pares” – the first among equals – but he or she doesn’t have any greater power than the rest of the cabinet.  

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The one-year presidency is a rotating position. The tasks of the presidentexternal link include chairing cabinet meetings and undertaking special representational duties. They give speeches at New Year and on Swiss National Day (August 1) which are broadcast on television and radio (and They also welcome the diplomatic corps – all foreign ambassadors to Switzerland – at a New Year’s reception.

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