The village photographers

Weddings, confirmations, funerals, village parties, company photos, children’s photos, family photos, photos of accidents – spanning Rudolf, Robert, Ruth and Peter Zbinden, Photo Zbinden from the Bernese municipality of Schwarzenburg is a century-old professional photography dynasty that has seen and done it all. Comprising half a million images, the family’s body of work is a chronological record of how rapidly rural life in Switzerland has evolved. The Zbindens are those archetypical village photographers whose collection resembles a long-term anthropological study. Within their rural microcosm, the Zbindens have documented key changes with regard to the working world, daily family life, family ideals, and society as a whole.

No one can compare 1936 with 1976 – or 1976 with 2016 for that matter. But the Zbindens have been an enduring presence in Schwarzenburg – the ‘go-to’ documenters of a changing world. This journey has not been without its dramas. For example, when Robert Zbinden (alias ‘Fotoröbu’) captured on celluloid the blaze that consumed the Schwarzenburg short-wave radio transmitter in 1936, he was documenting a piece of history. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, Swiss in the ‘Fifth Switzerland’ were suddenly bereft of a radio signal from their home country. Even the familiar call sign fell silent.

Regardless of whether or not Schwarzenburg is on your radar, the recently published book showcasing a century of Zbinden photographs is a remarkable and quite fascinating historical record of a specific locality in Switzerland.



Photo Zbinden – Drei Generationen Fotografie in Schwarzenburg 1916–2016 (Photo Zbinden – Three generations of photography in Schwarzenburg 1916–2016). Stämpfli Verlag, Berne, 2019, ISBN 978-3-7272-6038-4, CHF 34.00


Comments (0)

Write new comment

Comments are approved within one to three days. The editorial team reserves the right not to publish discriminatory, racist, defamatory or inflammatory comments. Our detailed comment rules are available here.

Auslandschweizer Organisation
Alpenstrasse 26
3006 Bern, Schweiz

tel +41 31 356 61 10
fax +41 31 356 61 01