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‘Unfamiliar Familiarities’ Where does Switzerland start – and end?

“Unfamiliar Familiarities” is the latest exhibition by the Swiss Foundation of Photography. 

Visitors to the exhibitionexternal link, currently on show in Lausanne, are presented with five completely different travel reports which go beyond easily accessible photography. Where does Switzerland start, and where does it end? The images range from very personal encounters to works that only use photography as an additional medium illustrating theoretical concepts. 

Images of the American photographer Shane Lavalette are displayed next to Theo Frei’s photographs which were taken for the 1939 Swiss National Exhibition. The interaction of these new and historic images is playful and results in a collection of mosaic pieces and impressions Lavalette was able to collect during his short stay in Switzerland. Frei’s images set the boundaries for Lavalette’s, however; it is not meant to be a reference to the Swiss photographer. Maybe it is more of a reference to the Swiss Foundation of Photography. 

The works of Simon Roberts from Britain are probably closest to the general idea of the exhibition. His large-scale images of viewing platforms crowded with tourists aim right at the heart of the tourism industry. 

Alinka Echeverria from Mexico, who lives in Britain, took her time and made an effort to meet young people who are at a critical point in their lives and are dealing with the current living conditions in Switzerland. Through her approach, she has created a tiny place in the exhibition that gives us a chance to look into Switzerland’s future.

Zhang Xiao is from China. In Switzerland for the first time, by following the course of the Rhine he tried to pin his images to a thread, which for some people might not reveal anything surprising about Switzerland. 

Eva Leitolf from Germany also follows a line on the map, in her case it’s the border. Where does Switzerland start, and where does it end? In photographic terms, this demarcation line becomes a metaphor that dissolves itself and the photography with it. Her projected images pass by in an endless loop of constructed panoramas taken along Switzerland’s border. 

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