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Many Happy Returns, René Groebli!

October 8, 2022

9th October is the renowned Swiss photographer's 95th birthday. We congratulate him with a video portrait by the Swiss photographer Ulka Chauhan.
Groebli's very first photo essay Magic of the Tracks, raised the benchmark in 1949. Using a unique, subjective and poetic imagery, he draws together his experiences of a train ride – the dynamics, speed, smoke, tracks and landscapes. It is no coincidence that this series has cinematic qualities, as he completed training as a documentary cameraman after his studies of Photography with Hans Finsler at the Zurich School of Applied Arts. But it is his perhaps most famous series, The Eye of Love, created during his belated honeymoon with his wife Rita in 1953, that is one of the photographer's most subtle and, at the time, scandalous projects. Following a couple of years as a reportage photographer, Groebli established his own studio for commercial and industrial photography in the mid fifties. He specialised in colour photography, and, in addition to commissioned work, repeatedly found time for exciting, experimental pictures, so that, already back 1957, the American magazine Color Annual honoured him as a Master of Color. And, of course, he is a Master of the Leica, and so we are delighted to present this film portrait by the Swiss photographer, Ulka Chauhan, that was made last year, and that offers wonderful insight into the life and oeuvre of René Groebli.

LFI: How did you meet René Groebli?
Ulka Chauhan:
As a co-editor of the swissstreetcollective blog, I'd been looking to interview Swiss photographers whose work I admire. And René Groebli was at the top of my list. I've been a huge fan of his ever since I discovered his book, The Magic Eye. Having met him, I felt strongly that I couldn’t do justice to his work with a written interview alone. That was when the idea of a video portrait came about. I visited him a few times at his home in Zürich over the summer, before filming it in September, 2021.

Which of René's works fascinate you in particular?
I like the quiet and poetic eloquence of all of René’s works, which are frozen in time and move powerfully through it. In particular, his classic black and white images with purposeful grain, his trendy yet timeless op and pop art-inspired colour work, and his very intimate Eye of Love series from his honeymoon.

Do you see any connections to your own work?
There is vast gap between us in terms of time and space – René, with his internationally renowned career spanning over 6 decades of creating pioneering work, and I, who am relatively new to the medium, chronicling life between the two worlds of Mumbai and Zürich. His work is a tremendous source of inspiration for me.

Find out more about René Groebli on his website.
Ulrich Rüter
The video portrait was made together with Boas Wigger and Tobias Meyer (Videosolutions). It was filmed with a Cine camera with Leica M lenses.

Ulka Chauhan+-

ULK_2115 Final  16th Jan
© Tina Dehal

Born in Mumbai, Ulka Chauhan studied in India, Switzerland and the US and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a major in Finance and Economics. Her passion for photography was triggered by a photo workshop in 2019. Since then her work has been featured in Leica blogs, as well as in several online arts and humanities and photography websites. She has participated in group exhibitions in Zürich and Mumbai in 2019 and 2020, while upcoming exhibitions include the Venice Photo Lab and Treviso Photographic Festival. She is an active member of the Swiss Street Collective and a co-editor of its blog. Her book, Two Worlds, is an exploration that contrasts and connects the linear and structured world of Switzerland and the cyclical and chaotic world of India. More

René Groebli+-

From "Das Auge der Liebe"

Born in Zürich on 9 October, 1927, he began his training photography with Theo Vornow in 1944, then continued his photographic studies at the Arts & Crafts College in Zürich, before beginning an apprenticeship as cameraman for documentary films in 1946.

As of 1949, he was a photo reporter for various Swiss and international magazines. His first non-commissioned series Magie der Schiene was produced in 1949 by his own Turnus Publishing. He left photo journalism at the beginning of the fifties and began to build up a very successful career as an industrial and commercial photographer, supported by his wife Rita (1923–2013). Groebli’s experiments with colour photography in both free, artistic works, as well as in applied areas, are sensational and enjoy international acclaim. He withdrew from commercial photography at the end of the seventies. More


Many Happy Returns, René Groebli!