Tracings. Photography and Thought

The book is the first longterm appraisal of Schwartz’s photography. It examines the latent timeliness of the photographer’s key themes as well as the historicity that many of his images have accrued since they were created. Defining the position of his work «which is as firmly rooted in the history of photography as it is completely unrivalled in the contemporary photography scene» (Beat Wismer), the book is an autonomous volume of primary literature that ensures that four years of personal archival research become accessible for both a specialized and general public.

The book features mostly unpublished images taken between 1974 and 2021 which unite documentary photography and art – «images [which] contain a lesson in visual thinking» (Carolin Emcke). It positions Schwartz’s photography – concerned with political geography, the environment, and cultural history – in the wider history of the medium. It reveals ways of his artistic development and the intertwined connections of his books, projects and assignments, and it broadens the scope of the exhibition Tracings, held at the Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland (30.09.2023–04.02.2024).

Published at the occasion of the exhibition, the book contains six plate sections. They are conceived as a resonating space for the specific conditions, controversies, and phenomena of our maimed world whose unfolding over the decades the photographer has presciently been following.

The book hinges on the idea of image combination. 51 counterparts created specifically for the book are probed for their visible and associative connections to the images with which they have been paired. At issue are changes of meaning and motif, composition, iconography, and typology.

The counterparts supply a nexus of textures and shapes that makes for an intriguing interplay of semblance and semantics. Analogies and parallels surface as the distinct overlaps with the deceptive and the factual with the felt. The unrecognizable unfolds alongside the ostensibly familiar.

The back matter of the book includes commentaries, a tabula section with the publication history of each photograph as well as the footnotes of the texts.

The essays by Giovanna Calvenzi, Carolin Emcke, Fanni Fetzer and Beat Wismer, editor and guest curator, have been written for the book. They also speak of the occurance that a certain something, mechanically or unconsciously netted in a photographic frame at the instant in of its creation, emerges much later, and in retrospect appears to be still potent and declarative. The essays include reference illustrations by artists as diverse as Constantin Brancusi and John Thomson, Wols and Edward Weston.

What follows are excerpts from the essays included in the book

Carolin Emcke: The Void
«Daniel Schwartz’s quiet, refined artistry lies in his unerring eye for the right distance: he never gets too close, but nor is he ever too far removed. I can think of hardly any photographer as adept at calibrating distance.»

Beat Wismer: Tracings
«A publication on the history of Zurich’s Hochschule der Künste (University of the Arts) examines the importance of its famous alumni. Its discussion of the series of high-profile photographers who attended the photography course established in 1932 begins with Werner Bischof, who ‘traveled to every conceivable scene of human misery, creating the definitive icons of the human condition in the twentieth century’; it then moves on to René Burri, who ‘portrayed the world famous, and yet his lapidary trademark was “photographer of people”’; and it ends with Daniel Schwartz: ‘he travels the world, photographing and communicating elementary questions of human existence.’»

Fanni Fetzer, Kunstmuseum Luzern: Persistence
«It is almost an anti-reportage image, which does not report on the outside world but instead calls upon us to stop and take a closer look. With this photograph, Daniel Schwartz invites us to really look and trust in our own ability to read the image. […] It does not provide us with content as such, but it does offer us the possibility of bewilderment.»

Giovanna Calvenzi: The Anatomy of Books
«When Daniel Schwartz displays Sander’s austere portrait of a painter from 1927 alongside his own image of a group of Afghan security guards, are we to take this as a sly hint from the Swiss photographer? Or is he simply trying to tell the reader that his vision really does come from far away?»


Tracings. Photography and Thought
Thames & Hudson, London 2023
Edited by Beat Wismer
Contributions by Giovanna Calvenzi, Carolin Emcke and Fanni Fetzer
With over 140 photographs and illustrations
192 pp

View and download publisher’s press release

Oder the book
Thames & Hudson, London 2023
Bookshop UK


Black & White Photography, issue November 2023
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Exhibition 2023/2024

Kunstmuseum Luzern
30 September–4 February 2024


Kunst-Bulletin 12/2023
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swiss-architects.com, 9 November 2023
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Luzerner Zeitung, 4 October 2023
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SRF Swiss Radio and Television, 3 October 2023
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