Description

Werner Bischof was given the assignment of photographing the war in Korea in 1951. The job took him through Japan, a country that won his heart. Bischof stayed in Japan for almost a year, discovering the country’s beauty and purity of design and ritual that must have reminded him of his early studio days.

His time in Japan undoubtedly marks a high point in Bischof’s oeuvre. The subject matter and the photographer’s sensitive, considered approach complement each other perfectly. Kabuki theatre and striptease, temples and advertising, meditation and mobility all rub shoulders in Bischof’s photographs of Japan. Pictured here, silk drying in Kyoto.

 

Only work done in depth, with total commitment, and fought for with the whole heart, can have any value

Werner Bischof
© Werner Bischof | Magnum Photos

Werner Bischof was born in Switzerland in 1916. 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 the years that followed, Bischof traveled in Italy and Greece for Swiss Relief, an organization dedicated to post-war reconstruction. 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. Despite this he worked on commission in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Indochina. In 1953, he traveled throughout Mexico and Panama, and then on to a remote part of Peru, where he was engaged in making a film. Tragically, Wernor Bischof died in a road accident in the Andes on 16 May 1954.

© Werner Bischof | Magnum Photos

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