Peter Werner Häberlin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Peter Werner Häberlin (May 25, 1912 – July 9, 1953) was a Swiss photographer noted for his picture series made on treks across Saharan Africa between 1949 and 1952.

Biography[edit]

Peter Häberlin was born in 1912 in Kreuzlingen near Konstanz on Lake Constance (the Obersee Bodensee) and grew up in Singen, in Germany, just across the Swiss border. From 1928-1931 he took up an apprenticeship with a pastry chef in Berneck, Switzerland, at the eastern end of Lake Constance.

Travel[edit]

At 21 years old Häberlin set out from his home in Canton Thurgau to walk to Africa and from 1932 to 1934 journeyed on foot from Switzerland to Italy stopping at Capri and Positano, before proceeding on to Palermo, where he embarked on a ship to Tunisia and Algeria where he saw the desert and stopped at the oasis of Biskra before heading farther south to the city of Touggourt. In Constantine, Algeria, Häberlin worked in the famous Pâtisserie Viennoise to restore his travel funds. He returned via Morocco and Gibraltar and subsequently made other trips in Europe during which, in 1935 in Stockholm, he attempted to meet the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin, who was known for his explorations of Asia, also in large desert areas, reported in his books published since the nineteenth century that were read avidly by Häberlin.[1]

Photographer[edit]

In 1938/9 Häberlin studied sculpture and photography at the Hansischen Hochschule, Hamburg until WW2 forced him out of Germany. He then enrolled in photography at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zürich from 1940 to 1943 where he studied under Hans Finsler, a major proponent of Neue Sachlichkeit. After his graduation Häberlin's work was published in Atlantis and Du. In 1948 he married Jolita Coughlin, an American student (whose portrait was taken by Edward Weston, and is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).

Häberlin undertook four extensive tours of North Africa over 1949-1952, often retracing his previous journeys, on the established caravan routes, on foot, by bicycle and on transport, crossing the Saharan desert until he reached North Cameroon. He photographed the peoples and architecture[2] in locations including Colomb-Béchar (now Béchar), northern Algeria, in El Golea, central-northern Algeria, in a Tuareg camp near the Hoggar mountains, French Sudan (now Mali), Salah, central Algeria, northern Sahara, and Ghardaia cemetery, northern Algeria.[3]

Häberlin made scant written documentation of his journeys, and what biographical detail there is about him during this period is gleaned from his few letters home to his wife Jolita,[1] and from the photographs themselves.

Recognition[edit]

His frank, full-face photograph of a young woman with braided hair and decorative cicatrices on her cheeks and nose, taken in bright desert sunlight, is typical of his work in Northern Africa; made out of his curiosity about a timeless, unspoilt culture. It was selected by curator Edward Steichen for the world-touring Museum of Modern Art  exhibition The Family of Man, seen by 9 million visitors and published in a catalogue which has sold 4 million copies and has never been out of print.[4] An Associated Press report of the time[5] suggests that the picture may have been amongst those torn down in Moscow by the Nigerian student Theophilus Neokonkwo while The Family of Man was being exhibited there at its last venue in 1959. His actions were in a protest at colonialist attitudes to black races[6]

Death and legacy[edit]

Shortly after returning from his last trip, Häberlin died in a tragic accident in Zürich in 1953, in the midst of his preparations for a new expedition to Mexico. His estate was bequeathed to the Fotostiftung Switzerland, Winterthur.

Some of his photographs were published posthumously in 1956 in the book Yallah,[7] completed by Häberlin’s father with the help of the American author Paul Bowles and with a foreword by Bowles who in 1933 also trekked through the Algerian Sahara to Tunisia.[8] The New Yorker in a 1957 review reported that it was the work “of one of the great photographers of our times, capable of showing, as only art can, what would otherwise have remained hidden”, and other reviewers discern a poetic dimension to pictures that in other contexts would be documentary.[9] Without the book, Häberlin would likely have remained unknown.[1]

Publications[edit]

  • Borellini, Alessia, (editor of compilation.); Haeberlin, Peter W., 1912-1953. Photographs. Selections; Museo delle culture (Lugano, Switzerland) (host institution.) (2012), Sahara : Peter W. Häberlin : fotografie, 1949-1952 (Prima edizione ed.), [Firenze] Giunti, ISBN 978-88-09-78138-2CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Stiftung für die Photographie (Switzerland); Pfrunder, Peter; Gasser, Martin, 1955-; Imboden, Martin, 1893-1935 (2006), Martin Imboden, Wilhelm Felber, Peter W. Häberlin, Martin Glaus, Gerda Meyerhof, Doris Quarella, Hugo Jaeggi : vergessen & verkannt : aus der Sammlung der Fotostiftung Schweiz, Limmat, ISBN 978-3-85791-512-3CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Bowles, Paul; Haeberlin, Peter W., 1912-1953, (illus.) (1956), Yallah, ManesseCS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)

Exhibitions[edit]

  • Peter W. Häberlin: Sahara. Fotografie 1949-1952, Museo di Roma in Trastevere, Rome, February 2, 2017 – March 12, 2017
  • Vergessen & verkannt. Sieben Positionen aus der Sammlung ('Forgotten & misjudged: seven perspectives from the collection'), Wilhelm Felber, Martin Glaus, Peter W. Häberlin, Martin Imboden, Hugo Jaeggi, Gerda Meyerhof, Doris Quarella. Fotostiftung Schweiz Grüzenstr. 45, 8400 Winterthur, 3 June 3 – August 20, 2006.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Borellini, Alessia, (editor of compilation.); Haeberlin, Peter W., 1912-1953. Photographs. Selections; Museo delle culture (Lugano, Switzerland) (host institution.) (2012), Sahara : Peter W. Häberlin : fotografie, 1949-1952 (Prima edizione ed.), [Firenze] Giunti, ISBN 978-88-09-78138-2CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Rudofsky, Bernard; Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) (1964), Architecture without architects : a short introduction to non-pedigreed architecture, Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-385-07487-2
  3. ^ Captions from Bowles, Paul; Haeberlin, Peter W., 1912-1953, (illus.) (1956), Yallah, ManesseCS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Steichen, Edward; Steichen, Edward, 1879-1973, (organizer.); Sandburg, Carl, 1878-1967, (writer of foreword.); Norman, Dorothy, 1905-1997, (writer of added text.); Lionni, Leo, 1910-1999, (book designer.); Mason, Jerry, (editor.); Stoller, Ezra, (photographer.); Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) (1955). The family of man : the photographic exhibition. Published for the Museum of Modern Art by Simon and Schuster in collaboration with the Maco Magazine Corporation.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "Student Arrested for Slashing Photographs in THE FAMILY OF MAN in Moscow." The Associated Press report read: “Moscow, August 6, All. A medical student from Nigeria has been arrested by Soviet Police for slashing four photographs in the U.S. Exhibition. The Nigerian was arrested Wednesday after he cut up pictures from the photographic series, 'The Family of Man’ which he clearly disliked. One picture showed an African dance. Another was a large tattooed face. A third was a hunter holding up a deer. The fourth showed African lips drinking water from a gourd. Exhibition officials withdrew the damaged pictures and said an effort will be made to restore them.”
  6. ^ Kaplan, Louis (2005), American exposures : photography and community in the twentieth century, University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 978-0-8166-4569-5
  7. ^ Bowles, Paul; Haeberlin, Peter W., 1912-1953, (illus.) (1956), Yallah, Manesse, retrieved 24 September 2018CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Hout, Syrine C. (2000). Grains of Utopia: The Desert as Literary Oasis in Paul Bowles's The Sheltering Sky and Wilfred Thesiger's Arabian Sands(*).(Critical Essay). Utopian Studies, 11(2), 112-136.
  9. ^ Metcalf, P. (1982). 'A Journey in Search of Bowles'. In Review of Contemporary Fiction, 2(3), 32.
  10. ^ Stiftung für die Photographie (Switzerland); Pfrunder, Peter; Gasser, Martin, 1955-; Imboden, Martin, 1893-1935 (2006), Martin Imboden, Wilhelm Felber, Peter W. Häberlin, Martin Glaus, Gerda Meyerhof, Doris Quarella, Hugo Jaeggi : vergessen & verkannt : aus der Sammlung der Fotostiftung Schweiz, Limmat, ISBN 978-3-85791-512-3CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)