Aila Özvegyi

From heroic staging to sober representation?

Photographs by Ernst Brunner from his military service with anti-aircraft battery 311


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The Lucerne photographer and farmhouse researcher Ernst Brunner served in an anti-aircraft unit of the Swiss Army during the Second World War. At this time, he took about 700 photographs that do not fit into the picture of a rural Switzerland that Brunner so often showed and produced in other photographs. Brunner, as a photojournalist, was dependent on selling his pictures to the media. The censorship mechanisms and the visual language of the magazines of the time influenced the photographic practice of the photojournalists. During his military service, Brunner took photographs several times on individual occasions, varied the perspective, image detail and visible objects, waited for certain lighting conditions and ‘sought’ the perfect moment. Frequent visualizations and changes in his military images can be made visible with the help of comparative photographic analysis. While he often staged ‘stout-hearted’ soldiers in his first three terms of service, his visual messages changed towards the end of the war to a rather sober visual language in which the coexistence of the military and civilian population is in focus. He also wrote two military diaries which permit the contextualization of the photographs and provide an insight into Brunner’s period of service.

historical photography, Second World War, Swiss military, diary, photojournalist, Ernst Brunner