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karlheinz weinberger
Karlheinz Weinberger: Swiss Rebels

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Weinberger’s passion, and the focus of this book, is the rebel youth of 1950s and ’60s Switzerland, who channeled American rock-’n’-roll culture and made it their own with their rolled-up jeans and denim jackets, bouffant hairdos, striped T-shirts and customized belts boasting images of Elvis and James Dean. Weinberger’s lusty, free-spirited and self-confident portraits posit the defiant attitude of youth as a response to the conservative postwar era. Swiss Rebels also includes homoerotic images of rockers, bikers, construction workers and athletes, many of whom occupy positions outside of social norms. This publication is the first to present an overview of Weinberger’s provocative oeuvre.

Born in 1921, Karlheinz Weinberger was a Swiss photographer whose work predominantly explored outsider cultures. Between 1943 and 1967 Weinberger published photos of male workers, sportsmen and bikers in the gay magazine Der Kreis under the pseudonym of Jim, taken from Hanns Eisler’s song “The Ballad of Jim.” In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s he concentrated on Swiss rock-’n’-roll youth, whom he photographed with both tenderness and a hint of irony. Weinberger placed little emphasis on exhibiting his work; his first comprehensive show took place only in 2000, six years before his death.

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Steidl (September 26, 2017)
  • Language: English

karlheinz weinberger

Karlheinz Weinberger, born June 10, 1921, in Zurich, worked, from 1955 to his retirement in 1986, as inventory manager for lighting products at Siemens-Albis. From 1952 to 1967, he regularly published photographs under the pseudonym “Jim” in the magazine Der Kreis [The Circle]. In the early sixties, he traveled to Italie. He was a freelanc photographer for sport magazines and covered as a roving reporter various sports events. After discovering the Young Rebels (“Halbstarken”) in 1958, Weinberger began depicting this first Swiss underground youth scene with a Rolleiflex 2.8n. Admirers of Elvis and James Dean, these kids and twenty-somethings disdained conformity, the mainstream, and wore jeans decorated according to personal taste with studs, badges, and huge belt buckles. After gaining access to this small but attention-grabbing fringe group, Weinberger kept his eye on it and photographed it. In time, members made their way to his home, where he sometimes gave them a place to crash, so that between 1959 and 1963, he made extraordinary images. However, the scene changed in 1963 and the cliques broke up. Many members went mainstream and left the scene, but some became rockers forming new cliques and “gangs.” Weinberger kept in touch with them, followed them to their camps, and was invited to their club events, rocker weddings, and – frequently – funerals. He reciprocated with invitations to his place. The men came mostly alone, finding in his pad a refuge from the police, girlfriends, and gang members, a retreat where they could let their hair down, where they drank, smoked, stripped, masturbated … and Weinberger photographed. Besides that, he listened to them, giving them sometimes advice and usually a warm meal, giving them a home. After retirement, Weinberger devoted himself full-time to these non-conformists, creating long portrait series that are of great intensity, indeed unique. This late and by far most extensive part of his work was still unknown when in 2000, Weinberger was discovered through his first museum exhibition and the associated publication. Almost overnight he become a star on the international scene of artistic and fashion photography. Karlheinz Weinberger died in 2006.

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