press release

In 1996 archives of photographs of considerable size by press photographer Emil Brunner were discovered in a Swiss chalet. The archives consisted of over 1700 portraits of children, of which Kunsthal Rotterdam will present a broad selection. The photographs, in black and white, which include vintage prints as well, have been taken in the area of Bündner Oberlands in 1943-44. A complete generation from this mountainous area uninhibitedly looks into Brunner's camera. These young faces, seemingly amiable as they are, reflect rural life in Swiss mountainous villages during the war years.

Touching Expressions Trun, Sedrun, Rabius and Vals are some of twelve Swiss villages where Brunner took portraits of young inhabitants in 1943-44. The youngest generation of an entire society living in relative seclusion during the war years is thus brought to life. The children, from toddlers to teenagers, all stare straight into the photographer's lens, some in anticipation and others more serious, simply happy or a bit naughty. The expressions on their faces are touching. Almost without exception, all pictures have been taken frontally, covering the subjects up to the waist and have been taken from close by. The surroundings in which these children find themselves can hardly be observed, as a result of which minor details become true eye-catchers: floral patterns on dresses and jackets, a pin in someone's hair, skin on which the mountain sun has clearly left its marks. In the course of two years photo journalist Emil Brunner applied himself diligently to his task of registering a complete generation of children from the Swiss mountains. He numbered and arranged his photographs per village. The names and ages of the children were not written down, causing the public to be left in confusion as to what the nature of the relationships between the children exactly is. Are they brothers, family members or just fellow inhabitants of the same village?

Publication Previously the catalogue ‘Tausend Blicke, Kinderporträts von Emil Brunner aus Bündner Oberland 1943/44' was published by the Swiss publisher Limmat.

Emil Brunner
Children of the Swiss mountains