Thursday, March 22, 2007

Swiss role

Yesterday I told a colleague that I'd ordered a book of photographs of the Swiss police force. She looked at me as if I was mad and I could see her point. But perhaps if she'd known more about the background to the photos and seen some of the pictures she might have changed her mind.

Arnold Odermatt is an amateur photographer who served with the Swiss Police for 40 years and liked to combine his professional life with his private hobby, taking hundreds of photos, many of which are now widely acknowledged as masterpieces. Last year a retrospective was published entitled On Duty.


There are some superb pictures of Volkswagens that have met an untimely end on Switzerland's mountainous roads, but the most striking photos are the ones that capture the mundanity of daily life.





Not all of Odermatt's photos are reportage. Some, like the picture below, were staged as part of a recruitment drive when local elders expressed concern that the young had no interest in joining the police. It is these pictures in particular that have a surreal quality about them.


And here we can see Odermatt reconstructing an accident scene that from earlier in his career:


But Odermatt's photography isn't all uniforms and mangled vehicles. Here is a stunning black and white photo that he took in the 1960s.


On Duty definitely isn't available from all good bookshops. It's £45 and even with staff discount, I probably shouldn't buy it.

6 comments:

Ms Baroque said...

These are amazing! Thanks.

misty unsworth said...

This post reminds me of sitting on a slow train looking out of the window and into people's homes. Catching glimpses of the mundane, sometimes unexpected. Knowing what you see has far more meaning wrapped up in it than you could ever attribute as the train chugs on to the next set of windows, and the next...

Steerforth said...

That's it in a nutshell.

By the way, I bought the book and it's even better than I'd hoped.

Ms Baroque said...

Except that the amazing thing in these pictures is the light, and you hardly ever see things lit like that in real life. Maybe in Switzerland. And the wonderful sixties photographic colours.

Steerforth said...

Yes, the colours are pure Kodakchrome.

Poplar Reader said...

That last B&W image of the women on the shore of the lake is wonderfully composed. Wish I could take pictures like that.