Matthias Bruggmann

A haunted world where it never shows

“Formally, my previous work put the viewer in a position where they were asked to decide the nature of the work itself. A scientifically questionable analogy of this mechanism would be the observer effect in quantum physics, where the act of observing changes the nature of what is being observed. My Syrian work builds on this framework.

From a documentation perspective, it is, thus far and to the best of my knowledge, unique as the work, inside Syria, of a single Western photographer, in large part thanks to the assistance and hard work of some of the best independent experts on the conflict. Because of the nature of this conflict, I believe it is necessary to expand the geographical scope of the work.

At its core is an attempt at generating a sense of moral ambiguity. The design of this is to make the viewer uneasy by challenging their own moral assumptions, and thus attempt to bring, to Western viewers, a visceral comprehension of the intangible violence that underlies conflict. One of the means is by perverting the codes normally used in documentary photography to enhance identification with the subject. While perfectly conforming to accepted documentary norms, part of the work aims at eroding the viewer’s implicit faith in my own trustworthiness as a witness, and attempts to force a further reflexion on the nature of what is presented.”

Matthias Bruggmann, June 2017 © Catherine Leutenegger

Matthias Bruggmann, June 2017 © Catherine Leutenegger

“Matthias Bruggman’s project presented us with insights into the complexities and the lives on the line in the Syrian crisis. His work is brave, startling, compelling, raw and sometimes bizarre. We see images of the war in Syria in our news media everyday, but the direct yet layered and intricate nature of Matthias’s ways of working clearly has the potential to come together as a book that will, in some way, allow us to understand why Syria and its people have ended up in such a desperate situation.”

- Andrew Sanigar, Commissioning Editor, Thames & Hudson, London

"Matthias Bruggmann's project stands out strongly for its topic, approach and ambition. His project themed on the conflicts in Syria attempts to subvert the traditional approach of photojournalism and war photography; to ask questions about the complicated nature of photography in presenting reality, and the constantly shifting relationship between the viewer and images. On the other hand, it provokes us to think about issues that concerns today's world the most: conflicts, borders and humanity."

– Mimi Chun, Founder and Director, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong, membre du Jury

Next steps

Matthias Bruggmann receives CHF80,000. Half of this sum will go to the production of the project, and the other half to the publication of an accompanying book. He has to complete his work within one year. During this time, his progress will be followed by the Musée de l’Elysée. The publication of his book project is planned at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne in 2018.


1978, Swiss, born in Aix-en-Provence, France

Matthias Bruggmann is a Swiss photographer, born in Aix-en-Provence in 1978. He lives and works on his laptop. He is an alumni of the Vevey School of Photography. His work, which respects the arbitrary norms of photojournalism, tends towards the deconstruction of the norms of representation in the photography of the real, through the representation of complicated situations and places.

He has, amongst others, worked on and in Egypt, Haiti, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Libya. He was part of the curatorial team for We Are All Photographers Now! for the Musée de l’Elysée, and was one of the cofounders of the contemporary art space Standard/Deluxe in Lausanne.

His work is part of a number of private collections, as well as the public collections of the Frac Midi-Pyrénées and the Musée de l’Elysée.


  • 2015 Dévider le réel, Les Abattoirs – Frac Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse
  • 2012 Œuvres insoumises, Galerie Polaris, Paris
  • 2008 Jamais le même fleuve/Œuvres des collections de Michèle et Michel Auer, Isabelle Darrigrand, Freddy Danaës, Maison d’art Bernard Anthonioz, Nogent-sur-Marne, France
  • 2005 reGeneration : 50 photographes de demain,Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne


  • Time Magazine
  • National Geographic
  • The Sunday Times
  • Le Monde