Hundwil

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An explosion of green, meadows dotted with houses, barns and cows, the finest milk, an oversized church, and the occasional human being. This is Hundwil, the place where I grew up. These images are all taken just around the house. Here, twenty years ago, I was sitting on the doorstep, smoking cigarettes and dreaming of the world out there.

Once I moved out, my mother started sending me self-made calendars with seasonal variations of these images – the church in winter, the meadows in spring, the old pear tree in autumn, the barns and cows in summer. She asked me every year whether I really wanted yet another one. I did, and I carried them with me to India, Siberia, China and Tibet.

Whenever somebody was curious about the place I came from, I would show these pictures. I would explain that a good Brown Swiss would produce more than 100,000 kg of milk during her lifetime, that such cows would earn badges that peasants proudly displayed, that there were beauty pageants to celebrate their udders.

While I was living here I was blind for most of these things. It was not my world; my father was a priest, not a dairy farmer. But from afar it seemed obvious that the grass, the cows, the barns and milk was what made this place – its landscape, its culture and its people.

My mother continued to photograph the house and its surroundings until her old Zeiss Ikon Contaflex finally stopped working a couple of years ago. Whenever the light was good she would take a picture: to remember that this was a beautiful place, to see it despite its omnipresence, to transcend its immanence – one roll of film after another.

Now, I find myself doing the same.


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