Philipp Mueller: 120 bpm

Relive the Swiss techno scene of the 90s in a new book published by Edition Patrick Frey

As the world continues to grapple with the pandemic, more so do we yearn for moments from the past, nightlife being one of them. Here in the UK, we had a blissful and somewhat wary few months reliving the sweaty, body-to-body movements only found in the dark and bassy depths of a club. But the potential for these nights to be put on hold, yet again, still looms. So for now, the easier days of dancing can be experienced in a more 2D (yet still utterly dynamic) form through the pages of Philipp Mueller’s latest book, 120 bpm – a comprehensive documentation of the rise of the Swiss techno scene in the 90s.

Published by Edition Patrick Frey, the Swiss photographer looks at the magnanimous impact that Switzerland’s techno scene has had on clubs, dance music and nightlife over the years. Rebellious and free, we see the dawn of Zürich’s street parades and the synonymous underground raves and parties, housed amongst warehouses or private venues. The flash-lit shots of party-goers are paired with archival clippings from rave magazines and fanzines, giving the book an almost allegorical feel and one that can stand the test of time. The book’s name, too, is given a musical stamp of approval as it denotes the average number of beats per minute on a club track, luring you in to the succinct and heart-racing photo sequences found within. Below, I chat to Philipp to find out more.

What inspired you to start working on a project about the Swiss techno scene?

I wasn’t part of a rave scene to begin with, and it didn’t start as a project. What you can discover in the photographs, which grow through the years, is that I was involved in the nightlife scene in Zürich, and that I got hired by independent magazines to cover parties, fashion shows and of course rave and techno events.

First, I have to tell you that all the material for this book was in my archive for a very long time. I almost forgot about it until I rediscovered it, picture by picture. This means I looked at them as if was seeing them for the first time. 

I pulled a presentation in a PDF together and started to show it to my friends in London, Paris and Zürich. I was testing if those photographs were of any interest for people outside of Switzerland. My friends were surprised of the vibrant scene in Zürich, they thought I took the pictures in London or Paris. They were even more surprised when I told them that the photographs are over 20 years’ old. My agent encouraged my to send it to Editions Patrick Frey, and I was pleased the publisher wanted to work together on this book.

Talk me through your photography featured in the book, what did you seek to include?

My photography always reflects on the zeitgeist of society. Therefore, the book shows my perspective of the 90s; it was a free time where everyone could express themselves. It includes photographs of my friends, models, drag queens, musicians, rave kids and other creatures of the night. 

You’ve also incorporated a mix of clippings from magazines and fanzines, what does this add to the narrative and structure of the work?

Those magazines were my first clients. They didn’t pay me, but the freedom in creativity was priceless. They are like a time capsule, representing what was going on in society and culture at this time. They formed the very foundation of my work until today.

Can you pick out a couple of favourite images and talk me through them?

The cover with the girl sticking her tongue out is my first choice. It has an iconic and rebellious touch. Then, a little further back in the book, there’s the gay couple shot (the guy with short hair and the guy/drag queen with long black hair). Love is love – that is it what it means. And there are so many more.

Any particular message you’re trying to convey in the work?

It was never meant to be a memory lane book. I hope I will inspire people to live free, be creative and tolerant.

What’s next for you?

I have 30 years’ worth of photography work from new wave and punk, shot in Paris and London, as well as parties, fashion and celebrities. Some stuff has never seen the light of day, such as Hugh Hefner’s birthday party in Paris and John Galliano’s legendary cardboard fashion for Dior, shot backstage to be precise. Maybe there will be another book….

All photography courtesy of the photographer

120 bpm is published by Edition Patrick Frey and available here


Anna Stüdeli’s new book looks at the subtle messaging of advertising and gives it a different (and erotic) meaning

Advertisements are everywhere, from the food we eat, the drinks we sip to the media we consume on our phones. It’s an industry that dates back years, appearing first through printed newspapers and magazines in the mid-19th century. A crescendo arose in the 20th century with the arrival of advanced technology, unleashing its manipulative and consumerist ways onto more immediate outlets such as radio, the internet and the television. And now, the world has become so distilled in advertising that consumers – the western population – see it everywhere. It’s normal life. In fact, most might think they’re immune to its powers and are aware of how much of it is marinaded in cliche. But what happens if these images are taken out of context and given a completely new meaning?

Anna Stüdeli is doing just that in her new book Primal, published by Edition Patrick Frey and featuring around 120 close-ups of advertising posters in Zürich. The selected imagery is pulled from the photographer’s mammoth archive of over 1,2000 photographs, each of which has been cropped and zoomed in order to give a refreshed narrative to the work. She first started work on the archive in 2014, with the idea for the book following suit in 2017: “It all began with an advertising poster that caught my eye,” she tells me. “It was this advertisement for a milk substitute or something similar with a big baby face on it, that had his little mouth opened. I was totally fascinated by its pornographic appearance once I focused on the detail of the image and freed it from its content.” Paving the way for further exploration, this initial image sparked an interest and thus inspired Anna to continue photographing for the following four years, with an educational gap in-between while she studied media and film science at University of Zürich, and a photography course at Zürich School of Fine Arts.

“With Primal,” she continues, “I wanted to show a different and broader view on lust to the very homogenise image the advertisement industry confronts us with. I wanted to show eroticism in its whole, as something between lust and repulsion, something that originates in the combination of the two. Something that goes way deeper than the superficiality of today’s advertisement and which is deeply rooted in us – its primal. My book shows my interest in looking beneath the surface of things, into the depth, the hidden, the forbidden. If you take a closer look behind the shiny surface, it is all there: hair, wrinkles, holes and dirty fingernails.”

While finding inspiration for the project, Anna would take to the streets to consume everything she could in her surroundings – the moments from daily life and the advertisements that simultaneously bombard it. Or even ruin it, despite the modern day oblivion. Anna also shoots everything in analogue so that the minute details can rise to the surface with prominence: the dirt or raindrops sprinkled onto the posters, as well as the layers between the glue and sheets of paper. After time, though, the analogue prints were replaced with digital, but this doesn’t deviate from the bizarre intricacies placed onto the work. “Now, in 2021, only very few of those still exist in Zürich,” adds Anna. “So in that sense, my project is almost a historic documentation of a fast growing digitalisation of our world.”

Describing her favourite imagery from the book, Anna reverts back to the debut image once again: the one of the child’s mouth. “As explained before, it’s the first one I took. It shows how even a child’s mouth can be erotic, once you remove it from its content. If you know that it is a child’s mouth and you feel attracted to it, you feel caught in the act; you might feel disgusted with yourself. These are the emotions I am interested to evoke in the viewer.” Another image of a boy’s head looking upwards provokes a similar response as it depicts a movement of a head, “which looks like he was moaning with lust”. The up-close view magnifies the imperfections of the image – the crease, the marks on his face – and thrashes the stereotypical illusion of perfection often seen in advertising. 

Anna continues to choose another prominent photo, this time of an ice skater – picked for similar reasons mentioned prior. “I was shocked by the very obvious erotic posture of this ice skater and surprised that its makers maybe didn’t realise it. The ice skater is shown performing what might be a common pose but she is depicted as if her ice skates were about to ram into her vagina.”

Anna’s work with Primal illuminates our ever-increasing dependency on the digital world, and also our numbness to its effects. Advertisements are all around us, and Anna wants you to be more conscious and to concurrently repurpose its messaging for the better – “In the subtlest [of advertising] there lies a danger, because it has the potential to shape what we perceive as normal in this world,” she notes. “I feel tough, that in the last few years, there has been an effort to make advertisements more diverse, when it comes to race for example, which is obviously positive. But that doesn’t change its general impact on us.”

Zenker, by Yana Wernicke and Jonas Feige

A new book published by Edition Patrick Frey looks at the life and legacy of Georg August Zenker, a German botanist and gardener 

der Bipindihof bei Nacht

Botany, by definition, is the study of plant life and biology. And those who take up the title of a botanist therefore seek to understand the science of this field, studying all sorts from flowers and fruits to plants, fungi and algae. Some of the earliest moments in botany hark back to herbalism and humanity’s efforts (and success) to identify medicinal, edible and poisonous plants, while later times ensued a western desire to collect and preserve botanicals for science, technology and knowledge. It also has a rich history in colonialism, too, where in the early modern world, botanical science was vital to the economy, and the environment was harvested and exploited for monetary gain. 

Georg August Zenker is a widely known name in the natural sphere. A German gardener and naturalist, he worked at the botanical gardens in Leipzig and Naples before travelling as a researcher to Africa in 1886 on behalf of the Italian government. He was also a colonial servant, put in charge of the Sibange Farm, and later worked as a preparator – responsible for the installation and de-installation of museum exhibitions – at Yaoundé Station in Cameroon, during which he would collect and cultivate native plants. According to the paper Zenker, Georg August (1855-1922), he was the only European on the Yaoundé Station, and he was cut off from outside contact due to hostilities between tribes of the Botanga coast and those of the hinterland (a German word for a settlement behind a coast or shoreline). In 1895, he quit the colonial service to return to Germany, but it wasn’t long until he returned back to Cameroon as a private citizen, founded a plantation and colonial-style house in Bipindi and grew coffee, cacao and rubber. In 1922, he passed away from problems with his kidneys.

Zenker left behind a legacy in the natural world (some of which is controversial), and his time spent in Cameroon involved collecting botanical, zoological and ethnographic items, which were then transported back to the western world in a number of Museums, mostly in Germany. He gained wide recognition for his work, and various African plant species were named after him, such as Agelaea zenkeri G. Schellenb., the Anthericum zenkeri Engl. and the Diplazium zenkeri Hieron. But it’s not just the fauna and species that bare his name years after his passing; he’s known to have lived a polygamous life at the station with several African women, some of whom had his children.

And now, his name and life has become the subject of a new book Zenker, created by two Berlin-based photographers Yana Wernicke and Jonas Feige, and published by Edition Patrick Frey. Looking at the history and repercussions of the German botanist and gardener, the project came about following an enduring interest in the topic. Yana, for example, had visited Cameroon for several months after school, which is where she became aware of Gorg and thought to focus her graduation project on his story while they were both still studying photography. “In 2013, we went to Cameroon and met the Zenker family for the first time,” says Yana. “We quickly realised that the story was too intricate and complex for a graduation project.” In 2016, the duo had visited the Zenker family once again in Bipindi and decided to take things further. “We were fascinated by Zenker and the contradictions both within his person as well as his actions. We were curious to visit his villa and meet his descendants, who still proudly carry the Zenker family name.”

Proceeding to photograph Gorg’s family in parts of Cameroon, Belgium and Germany, Zenker compiles real-time imagery of the present day along with interviews with his descendants, a biography of Zenker, as well as materials from Berlin museums and letters that Zenker had sent to Paul Matschie between 1896 and 1920 – Paul is the director of the mammals department at the Berlin Zoological Museum and one of the main purchasers of Zenker’s collections. “These letters near perfectly cover Zenker’s time at the Bipindihof, from its construction up until Zenker’s death there in 1922,” explains Jonas. “In the book, they are interspersed with out photographs from present day Bipindihof, paralleling two narratives that share the same place but have happened at very different times.”

Portrait of Jinior Zenkers

In terms of the museum tables specifically, this archival addition illustrates the many items he preserved over the years, some of which bare his title and can be viewed in museums today. In Zenker, these tables only depict a fraction of the work that Zenker had collected: “The lists raise many important questions about colonial booty, provenance, restitution and ownership,” notes Yana. Recent times have addressed these questions in the many, with the likes of Jonathan Jones penning in the Guardian how British museums “cannot any longer coldly keep hold of artistic treasures that were acquired in dubious circumstances a long time ago.” These lists in Zenker are not exhaustive yet still remain astonishingly large, depicting not only the collection (or smuggling) of plants and species taken from their native habitats, but also the killing of animals to then be prepped and sent off to be cased in museums. It’s a reminder of this period in time, detailing the extent to which colonialism and its violent, wealth and knowledge-craving ways were perpetuated throughout Europe.

Other pages of the book are more illusive than factual; there’s a photograph which apparently shows Zenker posing with a group of Cameroonian businessmen. “Most of the photographs we knew of Zenker were of the typical colonialist sort, depicting him, as the superior human being to the Cameroonian workers surrounding him,” adds Jonas. “We were fascinated by this image because it seemed to subvert those depictions of power. We later learned that the man in the photograph might not actually be Georg AUgust Zenker, but that this might be wishful thinking on the part of the Zenker family. In the book, we included the photograph regardless and contrasted with other photographs of Zenker so that the viewers themselves might decide to enjoy the fact that this question might not be answerable or that a definitive answer might not actually be desirable.”

This picture in some ways sets the tone for the entirety of the project. It may or may not be a picture of Zenker, and it leans onto the idea that there’s still so many unanswered questions about him, his legacy and the work he occupied. Not to mention the fact that colonial history is so intrenched in the timeline of botany that it begs to question where we would be without it (for the better?), and that the aftermath of its antics are still being felt today. “Having worked on this project for a number of years and still wanting to look into every detail of the story, we realised at some point that we would never be able to understand everything,” shares Yana. “In fact, some of the enigmas and paradoxes we encountered are now an integral part of the project. In many ways, the book is about highlighting the many open questions rather than giving definitive answers.”

“Germany’s colonial history has not received a lot of attention in the past,” concludes Yana. “Up until a few years ago, most Germans would not have known that Cameroon was once a German colony and we are glad to see that the discourse on these matters has reached a new level in the last few years. With our project, we hope to bring attention to the fact that there are still very real consequences of German colonialism and that these consequences need to be examined in detail and in all their complexity.”

Portrait of Ndzie Marie-Thérèse Zenkers