Stately courtyards, magnificent cows, ripe cheeses, happy blueberry pickers and coal workers: Johann Schär's photographic documentation of an orderly and rather wealthy world at the beginning of the 20th century encapsulates a period like no other in Switzerland.
The depiction of opencast coal mining in Gondiswil and its surroundings, combined with aesthetically pleasing pictures, is unique in Switzerland. For the first time, the Kunsthaus Langenthalexternal link presents a comprehensive overview of Schär's work – the result of a spectacular find of thousands of glass negatives, prints, albums and postcards.
Johann Schär's photographs of rural Swiss life in the early 20th century are fascinating. Many things seem familiar, others very strange. Many of Schär's photographs contain little or no information that is not already known. All the same, they convey amazing life stories and a multitude of details about the people they depict.
Schär (1855-1938), a farmer known as "Dängi Hannes", began his photography career at around 1900. For almost 40 years, he documented the rural life of communities in the Oberaargau region in canton Bern, which had achieved modest prosperity through cheese and coal production.
In many of Schär's pictures, one can sense the sublime nature of the moment, the awareness of the camera and the photographer captured for eternity. Young women confidently pose in their Sunday clothing, at times with a visible dose of humour – such as when he depicts a young woman dressed in a man's suit or as a postman.