Theo Frey – Photographs

1 March to 24 August 2008


Flühli, Entlebuch, 1947
© Fotostiftung Schweiz

Kitchen, Fluhli, Entlebuch, 1947
© Fotostiftung Schweiz

Theo Frey (1908 - 1997) is often mentioned in the same breath with the classics of Swiss feature photography - Hans Staub, Gotthard Schuh, and Paul Senn. However, his oeuvre is less well known than the works of this first, somewhat older generation of photojournalists. On the one hand this is due to the fact that, until today, it was only insufficiently made available and accessible, on the other one probably also to Frey's un­pretentious style: his carefully structured, factual features and documentaries are less based on fleeting and dramatic snapshots than on a sharp eye for the inconspicuous - for the everyday life that shapes people. Theo Frey's photographs express his social com­mitment and a deep sympathy for the lives of ordinary people. His main works were created in the late 1930s and 1940s and largely dedicated to rural life in Switzerland. From the 1950s, he put his work above all in the service of relief organizations, while his work as a journalist took a back seat.

Flying school for subofficers, Dubendorf, 1942
© Swiss Federal Archives Bern

Dancers, Geneva,
© Fotostiftung Schweiz

Theo Frey's photographic estate comprises about 100,000 negatives and hundreds of prints. In 1989, the Swiss Confederation acquired Frey's archive and in 2006 it was given as a permanent loan to the Fotostiftung Schweiz, where it has since been taken care of and systematically studied. In the exhibition organized on the occasion of the photographer's 100th birthday the results of these endeavours will be presented. Apart from known works - like the stories on 12 Swiss villages done for the 1939 Swiss National Exhibition, images of Alpine farmers' families, and the photographs documenting the legendary "Rütlirapport” of 25 July 1940 - there will be numerous hitherto unpublished photographs to be discovered.

Peter Pfrunder

Sponsored by KEYSTONE

Publication of the exhibition (in German):
Peter Pfrunder (Hg.): Theo Frey, Fotografien. With contributions by Martin Gasser, Klaus Merz, Sabine Münzenmaier and Peter Pfrunder. Limmat Verlag. Zürich 2008. 240 pages, 200 photographs.