Help the refugees

If you move around the world by choice, consider helping those forced from their homes by conflict. Donate to the UN Refugee Agency today.

Home News Rob Gnant, the ‘van Gogh’ of Swiss photography

Rob Gnant, the ‘van Gogh’ of Swiss photography

Published on 07/09/2019

Rob Gnant, a Swiss photographer with a knack for linking important social themes with a strong visual aesthetic, died in August leaving behind a legacy of over 200,000 negatives of his work. 

A key photographer of the post-war period in Switzerland, his work involved both reportage and portraits. Gnant also had a keen interest in documentary film, leading him to work as a cameraman for the documentary film “In the Fall” (A fleur d’eau), which won the short film category at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.

Gnant often shot in black and white and was influenced by his work in film, seen in the graininess and the quick-shot approach that gave movement to his still images. His stylistic approach to social stories earnt him the nickname in the industry, the “van Gogh of Swiss photography”.

He strove to capture the extraordinary and beautiful in everyday life by focussing on various working worlds, looking at society’s outsiders, or miners for example. The photographer was intrigued by controversial themes from that time – the contrast between city and country, the urbanisation of Switzerland and innovation after the war.

In an interview with the newspaper Tages-Anzeiger in 2015, Gnant said: “With me, people always knew when I photographed them. I was not a sniper.”