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Swiss photographer honoured in New York

A. Schwarzenbach, Montgomery 1938 (Swiss Institute)

An exhibition of pictures by Swiss photographer, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, has opened at the Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art in New York.

Schwarzenbach died tragically young at 34 from a bicycle accident after a life marred by drugs and scandal.

She is best known in Switzerland as a novelist and travel writer but she also photographed her journeys, which took her to Europe, the Middle East and the USA during politically troubled times.

The Dark Years

In Annemarie Schwarzenbach, The Dark Years 1937-8, the Institute has collected over 50 of her pictures which show the rise of fascism in Eastern Europe and the depression years in the USA.

The display, curated by Barbara Lorey de Lacharriere, is a first for the Institute, which normally promotes modern Swiss art and artists.

It aims to heighten the profile of Schwarzenbach, who is largely unknown outside the German-speaking world.

"We wanted to introduce this artist, known mainly in Europe, to the American public," Institute spokeswoman Gabrielle Giattino told swissinfo.

Born to a rich Zurich family in 1908, Schwarzenbach packed a great deal into her short life, working as author, journalist and photographer after studies in Zurich and Paris.

She started travelling in 1933, but by this time had already had her first experience with morphine, an addiction which would mar her later life.

Her visits to the USA during the period 1936-1938 with her friend, the photographer Barbara Hamilton-Wright, marked a turning point in her photographic career.

American Depression

She arrived at time when America was undergoing great social and economic upheaval with the Depression, widespread strikes and President Roosevelt's New Deal solution.

Travelling first to the industrial region of the northeast, she produced many striking photographs depicting the misery and suffering of those affected.

These experiences also led her to support the American factory workers struggle to form unions.

Her quest for the Other America later took her to the South, where she documented the racism and discrimination still rife in those areas.

Accompanying these pictures in the exhibition, are photographs observing the rise in fascism in eastern Europe on the eve of the Second World War, taken during a trip in 1937.

A tragic life

But despite her rich life, Schwarzenbach battled a drug addition and depression and attempted suicide several times.

Although she married French diplomat Claude Clarac, she also had a number of what were considered scandalous love affairs at the time.

Her life was tragically cut short after a bicycle accident. She died several weeks later and was buried in Zurich.

The exhibition runs until the end of August and has been supported, among others, by the Swiss Consulate in New York. All the photographs are on loan from the Swiss Literary Archive in Bern.

Anna Luisa Ferro Mäder and Isobel Johnson

Schwarzenbach summary

An exhibition has opened in New York showing works by Swiss photographer, Annemarie Schwarzenbach.

Schwarzenbach is also well-known in Switzerland for her novels and travel writing.

The exhibition features photos taken on her travels to the USA and East Europe just before the Second World War.

Schwarzenbach had a difficult life that was cut short aged 34 after a tragic bicycle accident.

The exhibition aims to raise international awareness of Schwarzenbach.

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