Ester Vonplon – Wingbeat
In her artistic practice, Swiss photographer Ester Vonplon (b. 1980) focuses on the natural world around her. She is less interested in how human activity is affecting the landscape, in ways that are becoming increasingly evident, than in the places that are – apparently – still intact and pristine. Aware of the fragility of these ecosystems, she wants to capture nature in photographs before it disappears (perhaps imminently) as a result of climatic change and human intervention. In light of this, she describes her pictures as memento mori, an illustration of the vulnerability of nature and thus also its transience.
For her current series, the artist works in different locations in the Swiss canton of Grisons: in the Uaul Scatlè, a primeval spruce forest surrounded by steep rocky ledges, in the Val Curciusa, a high valley in the Alps, and in the Ognas da Pardiala wetlands. Vonplon documents the landscapes and natural discoveries she makes there using different methods that she has developed in recent years.
The ongoing body of work Flügelschlag comprises photograms of plants, animals, fungi and stones: to capture her images, the photographer relies on Cellofix paper, which was produced in Germany in the early part of the 20th century and was prized at the time for its quality and durability. The paper that Vonplon uses had been stored for over a century in lightproof cardboard boxes, where it was forgotten about. Now, thanks to long exposure times, Vonplon’s collection of nondescript finds leaves its traces on the light-sensitive paper after lengthy exposure times.
Vonplon’s series Ognas da Pardiala documents the protected wetlands of the same name in the Surselva region, which she records using a large-format analogue camera. She travels with it alone in rough terrain – a challenging undertaking as the camera is heavy and unwieldy. As she creates the images for the series, Vonplon’s focus is on precise observation and attentive documentation of what she finds.
While Vonplon’s work invites the viewer to reflect on the relationship between humans and the environment and on the impact of their actions on nature, her long-term observations also reveal nature as seemingly indifferent to humans and their existence.
This exhibition project was developed within the framework of Photographic Encounters, a biennial format with which Fotomuseum Winterthur and Christoph Merian Verlag accompany a photographer or artist in the realisation of an exhibition and a publication, thereby supporting the production and presentation of a long-term photographic project. Ester Vonplon was selected for the second edition.
The Photographic Encounters format was initiated by the Christoph Merian Foundation, enabled by the Geissmann Scholarship for Photography.