When Swiss Fotostiftung in Winterthur and the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne approached young American photographer Shane Lavalette to contribute work to a group show titled “Unfamiliar Familiarities. Outside Views on Switzerland” in 2016, Lavalette started to research in the Winterthur archives. He came across contact sheets of a reportage by Theo Frey.
Swiss photographer Theo Frey (1908-1997) was a photo journalist and a documentarist. For the 1939 Swiss National Exhibition he visited and systematically photographed in twelve Swiss villages, aiming to tell a story of Switzerland at that moment in time.
“Following the footsteps of Frey’s journey from nearly eighty years earlier, I now traveled to the same twelve villages in order to find new images that explore the fabric of Switzerland today”, explains Shane Lavalette, “guided by chance encounters and my own meditations on the past, present, and future.”
“Within the archive at the Fotostiftung Schweiz, I uncovered unexpected connections between my own images and Frey’s, and was at once confronted with the weight of history. I considered the ways in which Frey’s photographs have different implications now than the day that they were made, and how the meaning of my own images will undoubtedly transform with age as well. Photographs, I realized, are much like mountains. Though we think of images as fixed and still, what we see in them is always shifting, however slowly, with time.”