A detour to Werner Bischof’s From Incas to Indios

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This post is to celebrate this year the 100th birthday of Swiss documentary photographer and photojournalist Werner Bischof (April 26th 1916, Zürich – May 16th 1954, Trujillo).

His parents wanted him to be a teacher, before he subscribed and successfully graduated in General Studies of Photography, with Hans Finsler at Zürich’s School of Applied Arts.

First, he worked as an independent photographer in advertising and fashion. As a photojournalist, he started to travel through Europe, documenting the post-conflict devastation. From 1949, he became a full member of Magnum Photos in New York City, as the first photographer to join after its foundation by Robert Capa. He decided to travel the world and in 1951 as a Life freelancing reporter in Asian countries.


In 1954 he flew for the American Fortune magazine to his final destination: Latin America, where his car fell off a cliff on a mountain road in the Peruvian Andes. He and his co-passengers were killed. One year after his deadly car accident, the Prix Nadar also posthumously awarded him for his book Japan (Simon & Schuster 1954).

wb-viThe photo-essay From Incas to Indios presents the native people of the Andean region of Peru and Bolivia, including secular and religious scenes of certain traditional villages, such as Cusco, in Peru and the old Incan citadel Machu Picchu. This publication is the result of efforts between Spanish historian Manuel Tuñón de Lara (1915-1997), and the photographers Robert Frank, Pierre Verger, and Werner Bischof. The latter died on November 16th, 1954 while he was working on the project. It was first published two years later (July 15th, 1956) by the well-known Robert Delpire Editions in Paris and Universe Books in New York City, after being printed by the Conzett & Huber Pictorial Service in Zurich, Bischof’s hometown.

Tuñón de Lara wrote the introduction and the captions. It contains 77 black and white photographs: Verger took 50 of them, Frank took 14 and Bischof took 13 plus an uncredited picture.


About the other contributors:



Manuel Tuñón de Lara (1915, Madrid – 1997, Lejona)
After law studies in Madrid, he joined several political youth unions, before he got interned during the Spanish Civil War in a concentration camp. Then, he became a professor of Spanish history and literature in Southwestern France. After Franco’s death, he came back to Spain, where he taught at several universities until his death.
wb-ixRobert Frank (1924, Zürich)
As a documentary photographer and filmmaker, he immigrated 1947 to New York City,   to escape the confines of his home country and family. From there, he traveled many times back to Europe or even Latin America, as a freelance journalist for several magazines, i. e. Fortune. He also termed the New York School of Photographers. He married then the artist Mary Lockspeiser, with whom he had two children, giving him a lot of inspiration during his entire career as a photographer.


wb-viiPierre Verger, alias Fatumbi (1902, Paris – 1996, Salvador de Bahia)
Dropping out school at 17, he started as a journalistic photographer and autodidact ethnographer and then devoted most of his life studying the diaspora phenomenon. He even became a professor at the Federal University and head curator of the non-profit Afro-Brazilian Museum of Bahia Like Bischof’s, his photographs can be found in Life. Moreover, his ethnographic contributions are still used in high education publications.


Many museums in the city of New York, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the MoMA, have Bischof in their collections. More recently, ICP worked with the George Eastman House, based in Rochester, New York, to remember Bischof’s work and received as well an important photographic collection about Concerned Photography from the former Riverside Museum.

Some treasures, to be found in Werner Bischof’s vertical files at ICP Archive:


Several publications about W. Bischof and his Concerned Photography were edited to remember his marking pictures, including ICP collaborating with Steidl Verlag. Staying in New York City, other books also have a close link to Switzerland. More recently, for his 100th birthday, two monographs are now in bookstores available.

Further literature, to be found at ICP Library:
– Bischof Marco and René Burri, Werner Bischof. 1916-1954. His Life and Work, London: Thames and Hudson, 1990.
– Cookman Claude, Werner Bischof 55, London / New York: Phaidon, 2001.
– Farova Anna, Werner Bischof, New York City: Grossman, 1966.
– Flüeler Niklaus, Werner Bischof, Garden City: Amphoto, 1973.
– Gasser Manuel, The World of Werner Bischof. A Photographer’s Odyssey, New York:   E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc, 1959.
I grandi fotografi. Werner Bischof, Milano: Fabbri, 1983.
Werner Bischof. 1916-1954, New York: Grossman, 1974.
Werner Bischof, London: Thames and Hudson, 1989.
Werner Bischof, Toulouse: Galerie municipale du Château d’Eau, 1984.
Werner Bischof. Kinder, Olten / München: Roven, 1960.
Werner Bischof. Querschnitt, Zürich: Peter Schifferli / Die Arche, 1961.
Werner Bischof. Welt des Menschen, Olten / München: Roven, 1961.



A big thanks for the Magnum Foundation, Jersey City (NJ) and its precious staff’s help.

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