Werner Bischof • Photographer Profile • Magnum Photos

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"I felt compelled to venture forth and explore the true face of the world. Leading a satisfying life of plenty had blinded many of us to the immense hardships beyond our borders"

- Werner Bischof

b. 1916

d. 1954



Werner Bischof was born in Switzerland. He studied photography with Hans Finsler in his native Zurich at the School for Arts and Crafts, then opened a photography and advertising studio. In 1942, he became a freelancer for Du magazine, which published his first major photo essays in 1943. Bischof received international recognition after the publication of his 1945 reportage on the devastation caused by the Second World War.

In the years that followed, Bischof traveled in Italy and Greece for Swiss Relief, an organization dedicated to post-war reconstruction. In 1948, he photographed the Winter Olympics in St Moritz for LIFE magazine. After trips to Eastern Europe, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, he worked for Picture Post, The Observer, Illustrated, and Epoca. He was the first photographer to join Magnum with the founding members in 1949.

Disliking the ‘superficiality and sensationalism’ of the magazine business, he devoted much of his working life to looking for order and tranquility in traditional culture, something that did not endear him to picture editors looking for hot topical material. Nonetheless, he found himself sent to report on the famine in India by Life magazine (1951), and he went on to work in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Indochina. The images from these reportages were used in major picture magazines throughout the world.

In the autumn of 1953, Bischof created a series of expansively composed color photographs of the USA. The following year he traveled throughout Mexico and Panama, and then on to a remote part of Peru, where he was engaged in making a film. Tragically, Bischof died in a road accident in the Andes on 16 May 1954, only nine days before Magnum founder Robert Capa lost his life in Indochina.

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Selected works


The Photographs of Early Magnum Member Werner Bischof

Werner Bischof

A selection of photographs from the short-lived career of Swiss photographer Werner Bischof prior to his death in 1954

Open story

From the Magnum Shop

Most Recent

Theme | 15 Stories

The Body

Current Exhibition
Norwich, United Kingdom

The Body Observed

Magnum Photographers
Until Jun 30

Theory & Practice

The Stories Hidden in Magnum Distribution Vintage Prints: On View at Paris Photo

Magnum Photographers

Past Exhibition

Magnum Photos at Paris Photo 2018

Magnum Photographers
Until Nov 11, 2018


Werner Bischof: The Boy from Roermond

Werner Bischof


The Korean War: Behind the Battlefront

Werner Bischof

Past Exhibition
Kriens, Switzerland

Werner Bischof’s Point of View in Kriens

Werner Bischof
Until Nov 11, 2018

Past Exhibition
Geneva, Switzerland

Exil in Geneva

Magnum Photographers
Until Nov 25, 2018

Past Exhibition
Stavelot, Belgium

Magnum Contact Sheets in Belgium

Magnum Photographers
Until Dec 2, 2018

Theme | 20 Stories

Photobooks of 2017

Theme | 20 Stories

Expert Photographic Advice from Magnum

Past Exhibition
Venice, Italy

Werner Bischof’s Point of View

Werner Bischof
Until Feb 25, 2018

Past Exhibition
Shanghai, China

Magnum Photos at Photofairs Shanghai

Magnum Photographers
Until Sep 10, 2017

Past Exhibition
London, United Kingdom

Illuminating India

Magnum Photographers
Until Mar 31, 2018

Past Exhibition
New York, USA

Framing Community: Magnum Photos, 1947 – Present

Until Nov 26, 2017

Theme | 19 Stories

Behind the Image