I joined another Zoom artist’s talk series, this time from the Auckland Festival of Photography. The speaker was Marco Bischof, son of Magnum photographer, Werner Bischof joining the Zoom session from Switzerland at 3:00 am. Marco was talking about the Unseen exhibition which is on display in Auckland, photographs by his father which have not often been exhibited.
Bischof spent most of the time relating his father’s photographic journey/life story, from documenting Europe post WWII via a bike trip. He was approached to join Magnum and went on to do work in India, photographing the famine there. Those photos were later published in Life magazine. He was quite fascinated with the east, had a deep love of Japanese culture, and was best known for his post-war humanist photography. He was not a war photographer and was more interested in documenting how the effects of war on the civilian population and he did this in Korea. His photography took him on to Hong Kong, Indochina (Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia). In 1953 he went to the US to find new photographic expressions and was introduced to colour. This changed the way he made photographs, introducing movement and out of focus work into his repertoire. He embarked on a road trip across the States and made Bold New Roads which was a document of the new highways in the US. Later he bought a jeep and drove from New York to Mexico, continuing to Panama (where he photographed the canal), on to Chile and then to Peru. In Peru he met up with a geologist from Switzerland who invited him to take photographs of a gold mine high up in the Andes. Sadly Bischof never reached the mine as the car that he and the geologist were traveling in went over a steep abyss, killing all occupants.
His mother took over Bischof’s archive, which was very well organized and ran the Magnum office for a while in Switzerland. She was quite influential in the photography world as well, and had friends like Cornell Capa. Capa went on to found the ICP and Rosalina Bischof founded the Foundation of Photography in Switzerland in the 1970’s.
Bischof took over managing his father’s archive in 1986 when his mother passed away and he is also President of Magnum Paris.
Unfortunately Bischof did not show any of his father’s work during the talk, which would have made the experience a little richer I feel. I’m not sure why he didn’t show the work, but I’ll go and take a deeper look at his work once I’ve got my assessment submission out of the way. I asked during the Q&A if there were any photographers who influenced Bischof’s work, but his son was of the opinion that he was mainly influenced by painters, although that was dependent on the period. He was also influenced a little by the New Objectivity, various documentarians, admired the work of Cartier-Bresson, Ernst Haas, Robert Capa and Eliot Erwitt.
Auckland Festival of Photography (2020) [Talking Culture: Marco Bischof (Switzerland)]. At: https://www.photographyfestival.org.nz/programme/detail.cfm?exhibition_id=2499&exhibition_date=1-jun-2020 (Accessed 26/05/2020).