Michael von Graffenried is what one might call a global photographer. He has projects from all over the world, slowly translating different worlds and lives into photographs. From Bern, Switzerland, he started out taking candid photos of the Swiss Parliament. His first major global work is from Algeria, where he went to document the civil war with a panoramic camera held at his waist. He has also taken photos in Egypt, India, New York, Germany, and many more. He works between Bern, Paris, and Brooklyn.
AR: You’ve done a lot of work with candid photos. What do you think is the advantage of that when you’re in a foreign country?
MVG: I don’t think it has to do with the foreign country, I think that the human being is different if he knows that he’s being photographed than if he doesn’t know that he’s being photographed. People behave differently when they know. Today, when you take up a camera, everyone knows it’s there. I like the real situation. People act differently, without the interference of the photographer. You have to be quick, and you have to be discreet. The best thing is not to put the camera in front of your eye, because then if even if they see the camera, they could think it’s at rest. That’s why the camera is only on the belly, because people can’t imagine that you could shoot blindly. With the rise of the digital camera and cameras on phones, shooting blindly is more common. But in 1991 and in Algeria, nobody thought I could shoot like that.