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

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.



  • 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


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