Our Town est le portrait photographique de New Bern réalisé par MICHAEL von GRAFFENRIED. New Bern est une petite ville de Caroline du Nord de 30 000 habitants, dont environ 55% de citoyens blancs et 33% de citoyens noirs. C‘est ici en 1710 que Christoph von Graffenried, émigré de Berne, en Suisse, a commencé à construire quelques maisons au confluent des rivières Neuse et Trent; la cité naissante a pris le nom de sa ville natale. Prises sur une période de 15 ans, les photos de Michael von Graffenried ne sont ni des compositions formelles ni des instantanés éphémères, mais des images patientes de la vie quotidienne. Elles se caractérisent par une empathie, une compréhension de ses sujets et l‘absence de jugement: une congrégation d‘église noire, de jeunes filles blanches s‘exerçant à la pratique du fusil; des hommes noirs échangeant de l‘argent dans la rue, un couple de blancs exhibant sa collection d‘armes à feu et admiratif d‘un trophée de la chasse – un grand ours en peluche; une strip-teaseuse noire s‘exhibant pour un homme blanc.
En juin 2020, à la suite du meurtre de George Floyd le 25 mai 2020, New Bern a connu la plus grande manifestation qu‘elle a jamais vue, parallèlement à de nombreuses démonstrations Black Lives Matter dans tout le pays. Pour la première fois la question raciale, les relations entre Noirs et Blancs s‘exprimait dans la ville. Our Town de Graffenried est à la fois un document sur la fierté d’une communauté et un appel empathique à une meilleure intégration et une plus large compréhension à un moment décisif de l’histoire.
Our Town is MICHAEL von GRAFFENRIED’s photographic portrait of New Bern, a small city in North Carolina with a population of 30,000, conspicuously composed of 55% white and 33% black citizens. It was here in 1710 that Christoph von Graffenried of Bern, Switzerland, first began building houses at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers; the fledgling town took on the name of his home city. Taken over a period of 15 years, Michael von Graffenried’s photos are neither overly formal compositions nor fleeting snapshots, but patient images of everyday life showing understanding and no judgment of his subjects: a black church congregation, young white girls at rifle practice; black men exchanging cash on the street, a white couple displaying their collection of firearms with the trophy of the hunt—a great stuffed bear—looking on; a black female stripper performing for a white man.
In June 2020, following the killing of George Floyd one year ago on Mai 25, 2020, the largest demonstration New Bern had ever seen took place, parallel to many Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country and marking the first time the issue of black-white race relations had been thus proclaimed in the city. Von Graffenried’s Our Town is a both a proud document of a community and an empathetic call for increased integration and understanding at a decisive moment in American history.
New Bern: The Portrait of a Small American Town -> Blind Magazine 18.05.2021
New Bern, portrait d’une petite ville américaine -> Blind Magazine 18.05.2021
Kratzen am Lack des American Dream -> Der Bund, 1. Mai 2021
“ …Graffenrieds images showed New Bern in an unflatering, even racist, light.“
Sun Journal, New Bern, NC – Thursday, September 27, 2007
«When Swiss Roots, an organization that offers Americans a chance to trace their Swiss history, approached me with the idea of going to New Bern, I first said no. New Bern, where Pepsi Cola was born, is a small town in North Carolina. It was founded by a family ancestor, Christoph von Graffenried, who had sailed for America in 1710, and I felt I’d worked enough on Switzerland for the time being. But on second thoughts, I decided I could use this family tie to open up the doors of this uneventful town. I went there several times over the year 2006. I wanted to hand America a looking-glass. A first selection of 33 panoramic pictures was shown in New Bern under the name “Our Town – an inside look at the United States today ». New Bern’s inhabitants did not like my version of their American life. Over the course of two months, local newspaper The Sun published eight articles without once publishing a picture, be it to announce the exhibition or to illustrate the debate over the project. I wonder if the freedom of the press in America is so obvious after all.»
Michael von Graffenried interviewed by US Cannel 12 on his starting project „Our Town, an inside look at the United States today“ in front of the Town Hall in New Bern, NC (2006)
Michael von Graffenried talks with Phil Knight on Channel 12 about his project „Our Town“ and the show in the Banks of the Arts in New Bern, NC (October 20, 2006)
As Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second city with its 12 million inhabitants, is now preparing to welcome the Olympic Games this summer after hosting the World Cup two years ago, and whereas the country is suffering from a political crisis linked to an important corruption scandal, the photographer captures the transformation of the metropolis and its population within its diversity.
„For quite some time now, Rio has been the negative example of social inequality. Will this city of millions end up as a modernized and peaceful winner after the Olympic Games? Or will one only have memories of a big international event ? Will nothing have otherwise changed ?“
Rio est une ville en plein bouleversement. En vue des Jeux, il ne suffit pas de construire des installations sportives, il faut équiper toute la ville et tenter de rapprocher les 12 millions d’habitants de la mégalopole. Transformation de quartiers, pacification des favelas, rêve ou réalité?
Le photographe Michael von Graffenried a posé, depuis deux ans, son regard sur Rio. Il le transmet dans un livre, Changing Rio, publié aux éditions Slatkine.
RTS Sport-Première, Samedi 14.05.2016, 19h03
All year long, the people of Munich look forward to the Oktoberfest. When the time has come, the city’s inhabitants, joined by tourists from all over the world, put on their Lederhosen and Dirndl dresses and gather on the Wiesn. With seven million litres of beer flowing at record speed, social boundaries are soon overstepped. The grass by the tents is used as urinals and becomes strewn with intoxicated corpses, while the police and medical teams try to keep up with sinking inhibition thresholds. Bierfest shines a light on the decadent side of what is probably the most famous folk festival, and celebrates its nostalgia and mass elirium in equal measure.
„I sometimes felt
as in a civil war“
Michael von Graffenried
Michael von Graffenried was born in Bern in 1957 and lives in Paris. He started out as a photojournalist and today works on long-time projects using different media. His photographs were exhibited in France, Switzerland, New York, Algier, Hong Kong and Beirut and are part of various international collections. He was the third Swiss photographer, after Robert Frank and René Burri, to receive the Dr.-Erich-Salomon-Prize of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (German Society of Photography).
Book Michael von Graffenried Bierfest — Book design by Michael von Graffenried and Gerhard Steidl 128 pages 11.6 x 9.4 inches / 29.5 x 24 cm 55 double-page panorama photographs Four – colour process Hardcover — Euro 38 / £ 28 / US$ 45 / CHF 35 ISBN 978-3-86930-680-3 Printed in Germany by Steidl
Bürgerkrieg, Flüchtlingskatastrophe, Drogenszene: Michael von Graffenried fotografiert mit einer Amateurkamera, die ihm erlaubt, sich den Menschen unbeobachtet zu nähern. Genau so hat er nun die Besucher der Wiesn fotografiert.
For four months artist Michael von Graffenried has been looking carefully at the Indian city of Varanasi (Banaras). He will display 20 panoramic works 6 by 3 meters on public billboards on a 125 meter long wall at Rathyatra Crossing, in the center of the city, from December 1, 2012.
He calls the project „On The Edge“ and hopes the images will trigger a response from the people of Varanasi.
Images detailing their daily life in a changing society: A woman who died the day after she was beaten by policemen with sticks, while the authorities have been on their way to tear down some slum huts along a street. In the eyes of the poor population this woman has now become a martyr. High society men and women celebrating the flag on a national holiday.A holy cow being rescued from the post-monsoon mud along the Ganges by strong men who are also struggling to free themselves from the grip of the mud. Shy young girls flirting with boys under the rain machine in the Waterpark. The Guru of Ayurveda welcoming guests at his home celebrating the birthday of Ayurveda. Thousands of women coming once a year to take a bath in Ganges water, worshipping the sun to raise their prospects of having children.
These and others, all daily realities intriguingly displayed by the artist like reflections to the people of Varanasi, variously described as ‘the city of light’ or ‘little India’.
Michael von Graffenried, ON THE EDGE
Public Billboard Installation on Rathryata Crossing
from December 1 to 31, 2012 presented by Kriti Gallery
Kriti Gallery for Contemporary Art
Raja Sir Motichand Roas
Varanasi – 221010 INDIA
Goddess Durga, 2012, Lambda print, 124,5 x 284,5 cm, Édition : 1/3
“The boy on the trunk is a pygmee from the Baka tribe. Because of industrial logging, his future in the equatorial forest is bleak. To explain my work, I often use the word “encounter”. I want to confront people who would never normally meet. For these encounters to take place, I try to photography people in “real” situations. I then transfer the images in the viewer’s environment, thus the panoramic format. The viewer can then delve directly into the event, and feels he is himself within the picture frame.
„Photography is the perfect excuse to enter the dream, this world where we do not belong.“
Albertine Bourget, January 2009 – in the book eye on africa
These 32 panoramic images, made over two one-month stays in Cameroon, were printed on publicity boards in five Swiss cities. It is my goal and my hope that the viewer will let himself plunge in the image and, maybe, reduce the distance and fear between the African and himself. Eye on Africa wants to show the diversiy and beauty of an African country, far from the poverty and violence usually associated with the African continent.”
Coucher de soleil sur l’océan Ekribi, la riviera du Cameroun, 2009, ink jet print, 125 x 284 cm, Édition : 1/3Wum, 2008, Lambda print, 125 x 284 cm, Édition : 1/3 Baka boy, 2009, Lambda print, 110 x 48 cm, Édition : 1/5
“In november 2009, when a majority of swiss voters backed a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets, i decided to stop showing my work in my home country, except for the swiss mosques that would be willing to host it. I will stand by my decision until the constitution starts respecting human rights again. By chance, ten days after the referendum, I saw the erection of a silver minaret in the famous brick lane, in the london east end neighbourhood where I had been living for several months.
„The artist overcame the obstacles of fear – not his – and Egyptians‘ automatic temptation to self-censor when he was finally able to exhibit his photographic tableaux in the most unconventional gallery: the rooftop of his building.“
Aida Nassar, The Daily Star Egypt, supplement of the International Herald Tribune, March 30, 2007
“ I went to Cairo on a three-month artist residency grant. I soon met a local gallerist, who expressed interest in my work. But he then called me to say that he had could not sleep at night and that he would lose the gallery if he showed my work. I first had a picture of the Birqash camel market printed on canvas sheet. When I came back with the other pictures, the woman in the shop asked me what the subject matter was. This is Cairo, I said, don’t you recognize your city ? She had her boss come in and look, and he refused to work on the pictures, telling me that, as press material, it must be subjected to official censorship. Naturally, the refusal, the self-censorship, is the result of the severe State censorship. But I can’t help seing in it a kind of hypocrisy as well. My images show nothing more than the city’s daily life, what each and everyone on its inhabitants see with their own eyes everyday. I finally found another printer, and decided to keep silent about my project, which was to show my pictures for a day on a rooftop in the heart of the city. In downtown Cairo, the poorest of the poor, many of them economic refugees from Southern Egypt, live in shacks on the rooftops. My upstairs “neighbours” immediately agreed to share their rooftop. About a hundred people showed up on the day. The Daily Star newspaper published a story about the exhibition a week later.”
The reporters of the Swiss Television TSR covered the rooftop exhibit of Michael von Graffenried in Downtown Cairo on March 23, 2007
«When Réseau Contact, a association that helps Bern’s drug addicts, approached me to do something about drug addicts, I had one condition : that the people I worked with would take responsibility for that reality. They would agree to show their faces and give their true identity. After four long months spent trying to win the confidence of the « scene », as the drug addicts are called in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, I decided to work with Astrid and Peter, because they were a couple. I had two stories to tell, the one about their relationship and the one with the drugs. I followed them for a year and a half, the deals, the prison, the prostitution… Once I had the pictures, I thought that they, too, had a right to see them, and I knew they would not be going to the museum. So I decided to show the pictures where I had taken them: in the streets. In 2005, thirty panoramic images, 106 x 50”, were shown on publicty billboards in Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano, Basel, Bern and Zurich, before being shown together in the Platzspitz park, Zurich’s former infamous “needlepark”. This project took me two years and a half, but, just as with my other work, I do not consider it finished. I kept in touch with Peter and Astrid. My entering their lives did not change it in any way. In November 2008, Astrid died of an overdose. She was 36.»
Astrid et Pierre 1, 2004, Gelatin silver print, 298 x 125 cm