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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

Swiss Press Photo 2008

The Käfigturm – the city prison of Bern for several hundred years until 1897 – is now a pretty unique centre for events and exhibitions. The current exhibition on show is a collection of photographs selected for the Swiss Press Photo Award for 2008, which opened recently as a free exhibition and runs until 10th October. (Monday–Friday 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. until 4 p.m..) I took advantage of the adjacent tram stop and went to see the photos this lunchtime, where I was (as usual) alone amongst the three levels of the exhibition, spotlit and quiet within the upper floors of the ancient tower.

The photos are the usual mix of social statement, reportage and documentary, many of which serve to record special moments during the range of the annual award. The photo above by Tomas Wüthrich, of the orange mass of Dutch football supporters crowded into Bern’s nearby Parliament Square during the Euro ’08 championships, was one of the images which stood out for me. (Click through to Tomas’ website to see the true colours; this poor iPhone reproduction does it no justice.) In the image, which has been heavily used in the press and in documenting the championships in books and journals since last year, it’s not just the colour which makes a good photograph, but the level of detail which shows a mass of people all interacting and taking part in a common event. The football in the front of the photograph is a touch of brilliance; telling the viewer why these people are here in an obvious yet subtle way.

There are a range of photos which are provocative and some which are, perhaps, less than exciting. But such is the way of all exhibitions. One pair of images which do interest me are those of retired national football trainer Köbi Kuhn, which were taken in documentary style of his day-to-day life when the photographer accompanied him for around five months. Unfortunately, I forgot to note down the name of the photographer, so I’ll have to blog about them another time.

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