How did you get started as a photographer?
I wanted to do something creative from the beginning, but needed to find the ideal medium through which to express myself. Fired by the short-lived notion of becoming a writer, I first studied French literature in Paris, followed by English literature in London. On my way to university in London, however, I used to pass a renowned violin maker’s studio. My love for music and my fascination with his artistic profession prompted me to apply for an internship. I soon realized that I was not reaching the expected fulfillment with manual work, alone.
I then completed a four-year apprenticeship as a photographer and attended arts college. In this period I learned how to produce something that had grown from myself. In photography I discovered an exciting means to combine intellect, manual dexterity and a distinct artistic visual language.
In 1986, I set up my own studio in Zurich and for ten years specialized in fashion and editorial photography for some of the leading European fashion ad campaigns and magazines. Later my interest shifted from fashion to advertising photography. Throughout my professional career personal art projects have formed a vital part of my vision.
What sets you apart as a commercial photographer?
Unlike some people, I believe that all designs are evolved closely with the clients - I do not use standard solutions or a socalled repetitive style. Most of our projects break down into identifiable stages, each stage being seen as a two way creative process between the client and the photographer. I take generally a rather conceptual approach to each project, in my search for the perfect image that will get a message across. I look for a coherent, individual means to pinpoint and visualize the key issue of any given assignment. Importantly, I am reliable and meet the agreed targets and budget on time. With years of experience, I work with a variety of camera types and lightening approaches, to best suit the intended look. My penchant for experimentation with new techniques is ever evolving and covers nowadays a wide spectrum from advertising, portraits, animals, interiors to aerial photography.
Where do you draw the line between commissioned and artistic work?
My commissioned work is equal in quality to my artistic output; it has been made with the same commitment and high claim to perfection. If it had not been for my success as a commercial photographer, I would never have been able to carry out and finance my artistic work in quite the same way. Both fields profit from each other and inspire each other. Furthermore, I have had the wonderful opportunity of working for clients who granted me great freedom to realize my visions.
After all these years, I am still fascinated by the possibilities photography can offer – both in an artistic and a commercial context. I conceive and construct sets, staging a chosen topic like a theatre director: I do not wait around for the decisive moment to happen, but effect and form it to my clients and my personal liking.
How do you find your topics and how do you go about creating an artistic work?
The subject matter may stem from a sudden flash of enlightenment or an idea matured over a period of time. I read the newspaper every day and engage with what I read, both intellectually and emotionally. I analyze different points of view and become deeply involved with various topics. The “Battlefields” project dominated years of my life and as a subject matter developed into a deeply personal commitment.
I try to visualize and address the bigger picture of a selected topic. I consider the theme of my work in the context of history, time and space, essentially revealing my curiosity and a consciousness about the period I live in.
Cinematography and music play a central role in my life and greatly influence my approach to photography. “Blossoms and Beauty” was largely inspired by the compositional structure of a symphony and characterized by the sweeping movement of a theme and its variations.
Why do you choose to work in series?
I address big topics that to my mind can only be evolved by way of series. The central argument gains momentum when it fills an entire show. Though each image represents an independent unit, put together, the whole series conveys the full picture and the different elements of the narrative finally come together. Each work series is accompanied by a publication that serves to further put across my vision and my concern.
In advertising, by contrast, I mostly work in single images. Though, I do have this dream of developing an advertising campaign with a company over a longer period, sticking to a theme, capturing people’s attention and developing a narrative.
Peter speaks German, English, French and Spanish
Awards / Associations
Peter Hebeisen has won numerous prizes with all relevant national and international creative competitions over the last 25 years.
(Cannes Lions, ADC Switzerland, ADC New York, The Selection, photographer of the year, PDN Annual Award New York)
Member of the Swiss Art Directors Club
Juror at the Swiss Poster Award
Reviewer at the Selection, Zurich
VfG (Swiss Association of Photographers) Founder, Past President
2014 20th Century European Battlefields (Hatje Cantz, Publisher)
1997 Blossoms & Beauty (Catalogue, Neidhart&Schön, Publisher)
1994 Feindbilder, Refugees in Europe (Benteli Publisher)
2014 Solo exhibition, Gallery Claude und Fabian Walter, Zurich
2011 Solo exhibition, Solo exhibition, Gallery 291, San Francisco
2009 Group exhibition, Gallery Claude und Fabian Walter, Zurich
2008 Solo exhibition, Gallery Claude und Fabian Walter, Zurich
2007 Group exhibition, Gallery Esther Woerdehoff Paris
2000 Solo exhibition, Gallery Château Henry-Pierre, France
1998 Solo exhibition, Gallery Mangisch Zurich
1998 Solo exhibition, Schloss Wolfenbüttel
1997 Solo exhibition, Gallery Fer du Moulin Paris
1997 Solo exhibition, Gallery Deichtorhallen Hamburg
1997 Solo exhibition, Haus der Demokratie, Berlin
1996 Solo exhibition, Augustanahaus, Augsburg
1996 Solo exhibition, Cityhall Rotenburg
1996 Solo exhibition, Univeristätsbibliothek Freiburg i.B.
1996 Solo exhibition, Gallery Podewil Berlin
1996 Solo exhibition, Gallery Dampfzentrale Berne
1995 Solo exhibition, Cityhall Zurich
1986-Present Artist-photographer, lives and works in Zurich
1984-1986 Photo assistant, Zurich, Paris, Milan
1981-1984 Apprenticeship as a photographer, Berne
1980-1981 Sculpture Class URN, Nevada
1979-1981 Photo assistant, New York
1979-1981 Travels through North and Central America
1977-1978 Apprentice violin maker
1977-1978 University of Westminster London (English Literature)
1976-1977 Sorbonne Paris (French Literature)