From 1943 to 1944, photographer Emil Brunner shot over 1,700 portraits of young children who lived in mountain villages in southeastern Switzerland.This content was published on August 22, 2020 - 11:00
- Deutsch Bergkinder – Porträts während des Zweiten Weltkriegs
- Español Niños de montaña durante la II Guerra Mundial
- 中文 瑞士东部的山区儿童
- عربي صور من الحرب العالمية الثانية لأطفال المناطق الجبلية شرق سويسرا
- Français L'histoire en portraits: les petits montagnards des années 40 dans l'objectif d'Emil Brunner
- 日本語 第二次世界大戦中のスイスの山の子供たち
- Italiano Piccoli montanari, ritratti della Seconda guerra mondiale
Brunner (1908-1995), who travelled the world as a press photographer in the 1930s and 1940s, was restricted in his movements during the Second World War. The keen mountaineer therefore decided to explore the Graubünden mountains. It was on his hikes, when he often passed through the same villages, that he decided to take pictures of the youngsters.
But Brunner didn't simply chance upon the children. And he didn’t want to try to recreate an idealised "Heidi-like world”. Instead, the photographer asked the children to stand in front of neutral backgrounds, often alone, looking straight into the camera from a close distance. This technique made the subtle differences between the children all the more obvious.
Brunner’s evocative images are rich in emotions. And people who know the area and history can often distinguish between children from different mountain villages or families, based on their facial features, hairstyle or clothes.
Today, this way of working would be referred to as conceptual photography. But Brunner was probably not aware of this at the time. His project was simply titled, "Mountain Children". He didn't write their names on the negatives; he simply noted the village where they lived and stored the negatives in a box.
This long-term, incredibly elaborate photographic project represents an impressive historic inventory of an entire region.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the photographs were taken in the 'Survelva' part of the Upper Engadine, not the Surselva, which is a long valley to the west of the Engadine.
Surselva photo exhibitions
Three cultural institutions in the Surselva region currently have exhibitions running until the end of May 2021 showing the life and work of people living in the mountains in the first half of the 20th century. The photos by Emil Brunner are also on display there.End of insertion