Werner Bischof


'Perfectly Imperfect': Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954)


As a photographer working for the agency Magnum Werner Bischof traveled intensively all around the world. In the summer of 1951, Werner Bischof was assigned to photograph the war in Korea. The journey took him to Japan, where American soldiers were sent on leave. Bischof completed his assignment in Korea but it was Japan that captivated him, so much so that he extended his stay by almost a year, pursuing his own interests and research alongside commissioned work. He devoted himself to the history of Japan in an attempt to explore the “depths of the Japanese soul”.


The well-know documentary photographer Kimura Ihei was Bischof’s tutor on the mysteries of Japanese culture. Together they visited temples and shrines and Kimura taught Bischof traditional Japanese art. They travelled through the cities and the countryside of Japan. Bischof was fascinated by the ability of the Japanese to skilfully negotiate between traditional and modern ways of life, between ancient rituals - such as the tea ceremonie - and the demands of a new technological civilisation. 


Bischof’s book Japan that was published in 1954 just after he died in a tragic car accident in Peru, has given countless westerners unprecedented insight into the then still unknown country.