Although Switzerland is comparatively small, there are more world-famous clichés about it than about most countries: chocolate, watches, banks, cheese, Heidi and the mountains, to name just a few. Among these idealized Swiss images is the romantic wooden mountain hut - the Châlet - with open log fires and a rustic interior, embedded in high mountains and surrounded by virgin snow.
The German photographer Patrick Lambertz utilizes this cliché with his photo series Châlets. Fully aware that Switzerland is, of course, much more varied and more contradictory than the stereotypes suggest, he has quite deliberately adopted the topic of the romanticized Châlet: “The word Châlet, in its original sense, described nothing but a barrack or shack. And barrack is generally associated with an old hut or an old building. With this ambiguity of Châlets in mind, I have spent a couple of years searching for suitable photographic objects in the winter time. On my trips through a Switzerland often glossed-over by such stereotypes, I came across a kind of parallel universe - the “Châlets” far away from the glamorous world of the idealized image. That was the starting point of this series, an actual typology of overlooked Swiss houses.”
The roots of the work of Patrick Lambertz can be found in the history of photography, in the works of the Dusseldorf photographic school and the ‘New Objectivity’ movement. The photographic series of half-timbered houses realized by Bernd and Hilla Becher at the end of the 1950s was as much a godfather as the serial typology of photographer Candida Höfer. And even the strictly formal photographic art of Karl Blossfeldt echoesin the perspective of Patrick Lambertz. In the process of photographing the most diverse Châlets, he consciously decided to photograph them in an abstract, minimalist winter landscape. Presented this way, the Châlets stand out from a ‘Switzerland apart’ as the artist calls it. “The buildings become the leadactor on the stage of the minimalistic winter landscape,so they can no longer be overlooked. Freed from any distraction in the surroundings, the photographs release the very own charm and individual character of each of these objects.”
Text: Thomas Borowski