But who is Paul Senn?
A Swiss photographer, a witness of his time, a sharp eye that testified during two decades, from 1930 to 1950, a tragic era where was put in place with fascism and Nazism, the matrix of the disaster to come. A humanist photographer, he later became a war reporter and witness of a post-war period, from which he drew the glimmers of hope with marvelous color photographs. In the 1930s, against the backdrop of economic crisis, social clashes and political violence, Swiss photographers, most notably Paul Senn, reported on the news, with Leica and Rolleiflex in hand, in a very dynamic illustrated press. . This is the golden age of photojournalism and Switzerland takes its place. We are far from Switzerland’s Epinal image of winter sports and majestic lakes, chocolate and wheels of cheese. Paul Senn, in the beginning, photographed the workers in the fields or the factory with empathy but also a workers’ demonstration repressed with guns by the police in Geneva. His reporting in the homes of abandoned children living in unworthy conditions is scandalous. He already traveled in Europe with a predilection for Spain where he goes several times before the outbreak of the civil war. He returned there under the bombs in 1937, tireless witness of the war and Spanish exile alongside his friends of Ayuda suiza. He also witnessed the exodus of the French army to Switzerland in June 1940 and internment camps under the Vichy regime, especially in Rivesaltes. He tracked the joy of Liberation and Reconstruction throughout the world, in France, Italy and the Americas, in which he travelled extensively from Canada to Mexico, focusing on the United States, whose dynamism and colors fascinated him.
In one hundred photos and fifteen reportages, this exhibition shows the diversity of the journalistic work of a Swiss reporter witness of his time, a lesson that shows photography is never neutral. The Paul Senn Archives, hundreds of thousands of negatives, are housed in the Bern Museum of Fine Arts.
Markus Schürpf, who administers the fund, has organized several exhibitions of this photographer and runs a gigantic database of Swiss photographers (photo.ch).
Paul Senn (1901-1953) – Swiss Photojournalist
from February 26 to April 28, 2019