20 January 2020

Dreamlike Scenarios in the Canton of Valais

20 January 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

The poetic and immersive photographs forming Eva Lauterlein's body of work disclose a parallel universe formed of a silent balance between human presence and the natural landscapes of Switzerland.

The images in The Legend act on us like the story of a dream, an uncertain journey in which benevolent or hostile animals, men, women guide us in turn. Around us, landscapes: a stony cliff, a fire so close to the water, the wind in the trees... no one is in a hurry. Our steps mark an open time, because that is how images are formed: to the rhythm of our march.

The setting of this dreamlike hike is a Canton of Valais reinvented by photographer Eva Lauterlein. The shadow of the disaster hangs over it, that of Gondo in October 2000, but there is also the wonderful, that of the leaning trees of Martigny or the tutelary apparitions - the nocturnal raptors and the quiet horse. Further along our journey, they are indigenous people, because there is no place, here as elsewhere, that is not inhabited: by the one who has seen his house washed away by the mud, by the one who begins his adult life there. All this - them men, animals and things - once photographed, seems to belong to another side of the world. And it is in this opposite of clichés, in this opposite of a Valais locked in its valleys and disproportionately exotic, that the enchanted banality that welcomes La légende is deposited.

At the beginning, in the center and at the end of the series, there are sleepers. One tells stories (Céline Zufferey) and the others create images (Olivier Lovey and Sébastien Agnetti). And because they are asleep, we are also inside their sleep, carried more freely than we expected in the wealth of a canton. Landscape, fauna, geology: everything is described by precise captions that accompany the images. But where we wanted to know more, these descriptions make fun of us and trap us in an incessant geography and time. Far from establishing facts, they open more than they close the possibilities and combinatorics of the narrative of which our gaze, with the photographer, and why not with the subjects of the images, becomes the co-author.

Sleepers, guides, totems, things called things, a walk in the wind, by the river. A few flowers... it is through all its constituent elements that La légende impregnates us without our knowledge with a Valais that is both awaited and mysterious. This familiar Valais, because it is like so many places, a plural territory through which happy and tragic stories pass, populated by beings as diverse and interesting as we ourselves look at them. And yet this same Valais, which we do not recognize, which is foreign to us, because any place other than ourselves, any other person than here, is always and again to be discovered, told and invented.

Pictures by Eva Lauterlein & Text by David Gagnebin-de Bons.


Eva Lauterlein is a Swiss/German photographer born in Lausanne and currently based in Vevey. She graduated in 2003 from the Advanced Training in Photography, School of Applied Arts in Vevey under the direction of Radu Stern. Since September 2018, she has been studying at HEAD/Geneva to obtain a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts. Find her on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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