Bettina von Zwehl

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Bettina von Zwehl (born 1971[1]) is a German photographer who lives and works in London. She is known for her "subtle and unnerving"[2] portrait photography.


Von Zwehl was born in Munich and studied in London, receiving a BA in Photography from the London College of Printing and an MA in Fine Art Photography from the Royal College of Art, London.[3] She is a visiting lecturer at the University of the Arts London.[2]

She began making portraits as a student at the Royal College of Art, using a 19th-century methodology that she encountered as a photographer's assistant in Rome, working on 10" x 8" film with a large-plate camera.[2] Most of her work has been in the studio. Reviews of her early work often commented on its conceptual framing and the depiction of subjects in unusual physical or emotional circumstances, with an increased degree of vulnerability.[4] At the same time, she has also been interested in profile photography. Citing the influence of Renaissance painting, she calls the profile portrait "one of the most powerful ways of representing a person."[2]

In 2010 she was commissioned to take a series of outdoor portraits of athletes and paralympians preparing for the 2012 London Olympics.[5] Recently she has been invited to create works in reaction to the collections of several museums, including the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A),[2] the Holburne Museum[6] and the Freud Museum.[7] In 2014 she collaborated with her friend and fellow artist Sophy Rickett on a project reacting to an album from the Sir Benjamin Stone Archive at the Library of Birmingham.[8]

She was Artist in Residence for 6 months in 2011 at the V&A (2011)[2] and Artist in Residence for 5 months in 2013-2014 at the Freud Museum, where she created a permanent installation for the Anna Freud Room in response to the life and legacy of Anna Freud.[7]

Solo exhibitions (selected)[edit]

  • An Anatomy of Control, Lombard-Freid Fine Arts, New York (2000).[9]
  • Victoria Miro Gallery, The Project Space, London (2002).[10]
  • Lombard-Freid Fine Arts, New York (2004).[11]
  • The Photographers' Gallery, London (2005).[12]
  • Profiles III, Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood, London (2009).[13]
  • Road to 2012, Setting Out, Commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, London (2010).[14]
  • Made up Love Song, Purdy Hicks Gallery, London (2011).[15]
  • Ruby’s Room, Holburne Museum of Art, Bath (2013).[6]
  • Laments and Sospiri, Purdy Hicks Gallery, London (2014).[16]
  • Album 31 (collaboration with Sophy Rickett), Fotogaleriet, Oslo, Norway (2015)[17]
  • Invitation to Frequent the Shadows, The Freud Museum, London (2016)[18]

Group exhibitions (selected)[edit]



  • Bettina von Zwehl, Göttingen: Steidl / Brighton: Photoworks, 2007. With an essay by Darian Leader and interview with Charlotte Cotton. ISBN 978-3865212887.
  • Made Up Love Song, London: V&A Publishing, 2014. With an essay by David Chandler. ISBN 978-1851778225.

Anthologies and group exhibition catalogues[edit]


Von Zwehl's work is held in the following public collections:[3]


  1. ^ "Union List of Artist Names Online".
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Photography Resident: Bettina von Zwehl". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 2014-07-23.
  3. ^ a b "Resume: Bettina von Zwehl" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-07-23.
  4. ^ Smith, Roberta (September 15, 2000). "Art in Review: Bettina von Zwehl". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  5. ^ "Olympic exhibition opens at the National Portrait Gallery". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-07-23.
  6. ^ a b Barron, Katy. "Bettina Von Zwehl: Ruby's Room". Retrieved 2014-07-23.
  7. ^ a b "Bettina Von Zwehl installation at the Freud Museum". Retrieved 2014-07-23.
  8. ^ Padley, Gemma (1 May 2014). "Library of Birmingham opens its archive to photographers". British Journal of Photography. Retrieved 2014-07-23.
  9. ^ Smith, Roberta (September 15, 2000). "ART IN REVIEW; Bettina von Zwehl". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-10-12.
  10. ^ "Bettina von Zwehl". Victoria Miro Gallery. Archived from the original on 2014-10-12.
  11. ^ "Lombard Fried Projects". Retrieved 2014-10-12.
  12. ^ "Bettina von Zwehl Alina". Archived from the original on 2014-10-12.
  13. ^ "Past exhibitions and displays 2009". V&A Museum of Childhood. Retrieved 2014-10-12.
  14. ^ "Road to 2012: Setting Out". National Portrait Gallery. 2010. Archived from the original on 2014-10-12.
  15. ^ "Made Up Love Song by Bettina von Zwehl - picture prevew". The Independent. October 5, 2011. Archived from the original on 2012-04-06.
  16. ^ "Bettina von Zwehl". Purdy Hicks. Retrieved 2014-10-12.
  17. ^ "Album 31 - Sophy Rickett og Bettina von Zwehl". Fotogalleriet. Archived from the original on 2016-05-21. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  18. ^ "Exhibition – Bettina von Zwehl". The Freud Museum. Archived from the original on 2016-05-21. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  19. ^ "Facing History: Contemporary Portraiture". Victoria and Albert Museum. Archived from the original on 2015-08-03. Retrieved 21 May 2016.

External links[edit]