Elisaveta Dvorakk (Berlin/Marburg): Photographic (De-)Constructions of Nations and Nationalisms. Annemarie Schwarzenbach’s Image Reports 1937/38 as a Material Photo-Historical Challenge

The paper examines the photographic strategies of Annemarie Schwarzenbach (1908-1942) in the context of her trip as a photojournalist to Sweden in June 1937. The analysis is based on a photo-historical reconstruction of selected image reports’ drafts on the ore extraction and cooperative movement in Sweden. The focus is on the relationship between Schwarzenbach’s photographs intended to be published in the Swiss illustrated press, her activism in the anti- fascist movement, and political discourses on journalistic travel photography in the context of National Socialism.

The photographs by the mountaineer Lorenz Saladin (1896-1936) served Schwarzenbach in part as a model and are included in the discussion of her image strategies. The motivic, compositional, and formal-aesthetic elements of the photographs from Sweden are compared with contemporary photographic reports from the Nordic countries and the dominant colonizing visual rhetoric of the illustrated press in Switzerland in the 1930s.

The role of Schwarzenbach’s political activism in the anti-fascist movement is elaborated as a perspective for the analysis of the photographic imagery. It can be assumed that Schwarzenbach hoped for a peaceful exclusion of national socialist ideology prior to the “Anschluss” of Austria on March 12, 1938. Through her journalistic travel photography and planned image reports, she aimed to explore alternative ways of nation-building through photography. In particular, Sweden was documented and analyzed photographically by Schwarzenbach due to its balance between centralization and regional autonomies.

Using Schwarzenbach’s photographs and drafts of image reports from Sweden in 1937, this paper asks how certain photographic strategies produce a context-specific political aesthetic of the documentary and also deploy it beyond propaganda.