Inside the Middle Kingdom: Photography by Walter Bosshard

The oldest Swiss photography foundation Fotostiftung Schweiz is running a one of a kind display that juxtaposes the works of Walter Bosshard with his friend Robert Capa during their days as photo-reporters in China. The show Walter Bosshard/Robert Capa - The race for China is already up for viewing in Winterthur.

Walter Bosshard: Soldier hit by a bullet (staged scene), China, 1938 © Fotostiftung Schweiz / Archiv für Zeitgeschichte

Bosshard was a Swiss photojournalist whose early worked involved covering the political and military affairs in Southeast Asia and China. He was commissioned for an eight-month expedition from the Münchner Illustrierte Presse and the then-leading Berlin Dephot photo agency to cover the independence movement. By 1931, Bosshard was assigned in China to cover the war against the Japanese. Exhibition curator Peter Pfrunder had put Bosshard's role as a correspondent into detail:

“Bosshard followed the developments in the Sino-Japanese war from close quarters. He took photographs on the front and was committed to informing his readership, but he also took portraits of the most important politicians, generals, and warlords; not only on the Chinese side but the Japanese side too. He was among the first to report on the great Japanese offensive of 1937, which saw the Japanese capture, one after the other, the major cities of Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai.”
Walter Bosshard: Chinese Air Force, double exposure, around 1930 © Fotostiftung Schweiz / Archiv für Zeitgeschichte; Walter Bosshard: Soldiers of the Nationalist Army playing in their spare time, China, 1938 © Fotostiftung Schweiz / Archiv für Zeitgeschichte; Robert Capa: Wounded soldiers, Tai'erzhuang, Xuzhou front, China, April 1938 © International Center of Photography / Magnum Photos

The most significant year for Bosshard was 1938 when he visited Mao Zedong, who was gathering forces against the Japanese. Through Bosshard’s photographs, the Western media got to keep in tabs on China as there were only a few people who followed and portrayed the Japanese occupation. Much of Bosshard's success was due to his nature of being a smart networker, using his great familiarity with the local situation. His Swiss colleague Archibald Steele wrote of Bosshard in 1937:

"Despite censorship, bureaucratic obstacles and stubborn officials, Bosshard, the photojournalist who works for Ullstein, succeeds in practicing his trade without falling out with the Japanese, Manchurian or Chinese officials. These days, you need to be a diplomat to be successful with a camera as a correspondent and artist… All the bigwigs in Asia know Bosshard; diplomats, statesmen and the military, because he loves taking their portraits in their private surroundings.”
Walter Bosshard: Song Meiling, the influential wife of Tschiang Kai-shek, Hankou, 1938 © Fotostiftung Schweiz / Archiv für Zeitgeschichte; Walter Bosshard: A ferry is pulled through the mud banks of Wei He, between Xi'an and Pingliang, China, 1933 © Fotostiftung Schweiz / Archiv für Zeitgeschichte; Robert Capa: Crowds watching the air battle between Japanese and Chinese planes over Hankou, China, April 29, 1938 © International Center of Photography / Magnum Photos; Walter Bosshard: Japanese bombing of a railway line, Hankou, 1938 © Fotostiftung Schweiz / Archiv für Zeitgeschichte

Bosshard's fame receded in the postwar years as he concentrated more on writing. He retired from journalism altogether after an accident in Korea, 1953, and the once famous war photographer fell into obscurity. HIs oeuvre is being displayed along with Robert Capa's works until 10 February 2019.

written by cielsan on 2018-10-18 #news #documentary-photography #walter-bosshard

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