Jean-Claude Biver is one of the most impactful leaders of the modern Swiss Haute Horlogerie landscape. Biver's leadership in the Swiss watch industry has been credited as "single handedly saving the industry from the quartz movement.” He has formed and shaped brands like Blancpain, Omega, Hublot, TAG Heuer and has been president of the LVMH’s watchmaking division. In 2022, he launched together with his youngest son his own luxury watch manufacture called JC Biver.
There are not so many creative agencies left that maintain an aesthetically driven, holistic approach, i.e. pay consequential attention to image, typeface, content, spaces, colours, shapes, materials, etc. One of them is the design studio founded by Charles Blunier. He takes risks in a field where there is no right or wrong answer. And as a result, he has landed nifty clients like Ferrari, The Dolder Grand, Baur au Lac, the Kunsthaus Zürich and UBS. In 2020, he also founded his own high-gloss "Studio Magazin."
Charles Blunier was born in Olten, Switzerland. After his apprenticeship as a retoucher and lithographer, he turned entirely to art and graphic design. After various exhibitions and projects, he moved to Zurich in 1996 and got into advertising. He has been working as an art director for various ad agencies up until 2011, when he founded his own company.
He lives with his wife and daughter near Zurich.
It is probably no coincidence that the Bindella family businesses owe their success to humble Italian family values, besides the gifted skills of Rudi Bindella, of course, who, in third generation, has transformed it into one of the largest and independent restaurant operators in Switzerland, with over 40 ristoranti (e.g. Cantinetta Antinori, Conti, Kornhauskeller, Ornellaia, Terrasse, Santa Lucia, Spaghetti Factory), 1'300 employees and a winery in Montepulciano in Italy.
Bindella gives all his spaces a soul. Not only does he spend hours choreographing and perfecting the lighting for morning, noon and evening in summer and winter, but he also composes newsletters himself and writes down his business philosophy in his poetic style (which he hands out to the entire staff) and exemplifies it daily in one of his ristoranti. He says "Only a warm-hearted, attentive, caring personality can hope to be a perfect host." And boss, I might add.
Rudi Bindella has surprised me with his authentic, generous kindness and it shall be my example from now on. He has learned a long time ago that it is important to be satisfied with what you do. "That you are happy with what is, and not chase after something else - that is quite essential. There's a reason why the word ‘zufrieden’ contains ‘Frieden’," he explains. "To be at peace with yourself, so that you can say ‘Thank you’ that this moment can be the way it is now... that's important! And I actually can do that every day."
Rudi Bindella has five children and lives with his wife in Zurich.
My favourite column as a teenager was Martin Suter's weekly essay in the newspaper “Weltwoche” entitled "Business Class". Mr. Suter is a former advertising copywriter and creative director and has written almost eight hundred of these satirical columns that take managers and would-be managers for a ride. He started to fully concentrate on his writing career in 1991 and achieved his break-through with his novel "Small World" in 1997. Since then, he has published more than 20 books and has won several awards.
Together with DCM and Martin Suter, I created some promo photographs for André Schäfer’s documentary “Everything about Martin Suter. Everything but the truth”. Mr. Suter has an impeccable appearance. He is discreet, soft-spoken, gracious. When you feel closely, you can see the invisible cracks. As Leonard Cohen said, that is where the light gets in.
Martin Suter lives with his family in Zurich.
When Oprah Winfrey interviewed Meghan and Prince Harry in 2021, I was mostly intrigued by the looks of Oprah, especially her glasses. They had the most interesting shape and colour and seemed just made for her face. I found out a little bit later that those glasses were designed by a really cool Swiss guy named Sven Götti.
Sven laid out his first collection in the late nineties when he was still a young optician. Its success fuelled his uncompromising commitment to innovation in eyewear and he has gone on to win multiple design awards. From its headquarter in Wadenswil, a small tree-lined town on the shores of Lake Zurich, Götti sells today some 100'000 pairs of high-end glasses across 40 countries. And yes, the frames worn by Oprah were designed by Sven himself especially for the US television personality.
Sven lives with his wife, one daughter and one dog in Zurich.
Rapper Stress was born Andres Andrekson in Tallinn, Estonia in 1977 and came to Switzerland at the age of 12 with his mother and sister. He lived in Lausanne and discovered hip hop through the music of Gang Starr, EPMD and IAM.
Although his music teacher at the time advised him against singing, he tried his hand at just that. He was part of the hip-hop formation Double Pact and advanced to one of the most successful Swiss musicians with his solo career. To date, Stress has produced four No. 1 albums and tops the list of Swiss Music Awards winners with nine awards. He just released his eighth album 'Libertad' and is on tour throughout 2022.
You might think that rappers are all tough guys. But Stress is a very sensitive, humble and conscientious guy who processes information deeply and is concerned about achieving excellence in everything he does. I very much appreciated the time I spent with him at his home just outside of Zurich.
I met Felix Fischer in 1999 when I was living in New York. Felix has moved to the city some years before and was already an established hair stylist. He knew 'everything' and his spacious apartment was a favourite hangout. Over the course of a quarter century, Felix has become one of the most sought-after celebrity stylists, shaping the hairstyles of women Cate Blanchet, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Lopez.
Fischer's passion and dedication to the arts began at an early age, when he was trained as a classical ballet dancer and had to commit to hard work, technique and focus on details. A subsequent knee injury and his mother's wish for him to become a hairdresser moved Felix onto a new stage. He attributes now much of his success as a hair stylist to his intense and disciplined childhood years.
Since I read 'The stutterer' in a summer holyday, I was a huge fan of Charles Lewinsky, an acclaimed Swiss author and screenwriter. The novel is a book about the power of language, both philosophical and playful. Because of a 'writerly carelessness', Mr. Stärkle, a stutterer who trusts entirely in the power of the written word, is put into jail. Using letters and invented stories, he tries to win over the people who have a say over his life behind bars. I was super excited to meet the master brain behind this dark comedy. The meeting turned out to be one of the most peculiar I have ever had. Could I have guessed that?
Charles greets me in front of his house wearing a jogging suit. While he gives me about one minute to photograph his hands, he writes on a computer keyboard, his working tool: "Taking pictures is stupid". And that was it. Totally immune to my charm, he went back inside and didn't let me take his portrait, because I didn’t mention it beforehand. My mistake. His answer to the question "What makes you creative", on the other hand, I like very much.
Charles lives with his wife, a graphic artist, in Zurich.
Anna is part of a very illustrious Zurich family, which cannot simply be left out at this point. Father Dieter, industrialist, conceptual artist and frontman of the electronic music group "Yello" and mother Monique, founder of the silk printing company "en soie" undoubtedly brought home all kinds of influences that formed the creative matrix of their children's upbringing. Perhaps that is why Anna seems very self-confident and independent. Since 2013, she has been Creative Director at the family business, which she develops and manages together with her sisters Eleonore and Sophie. "en soie" is a good example that local design can not only be relevant, but also trendy.
Anna has three daughters and lives with her family in Zurich.
Three times "Chef of the Year" 19 Gault Millau points, 2 Michelin stars - an unprecedented success for a female chef in Switzerland or anywhere else. Tanja Grandits is at the very top and dominates a male domain with a lot of subtlety, joy, team spirit, herbs from her own garden and her visual idea of monochrome plating. "It must be simple, not complicated, imaginative, not conventional, harmonious, not strained". The "Stucki" in Basel, Switzerland, is an exceptional restaurant, run by an exceptional chef, destined for an exceptional experience and worth every detour.
Tanja has a daughter and lives on the second floor of her restaurant "Stucki".
Marc Forster was introduced to me by my dear friend Florian in 2010 during a weekend in the Swiss mountains. When asked for useful tips for my own creative career, he said: "You just have to work hard for at least ten years - then maybe you'll have a career".
Now I meet Marc again, almost ten years later, on the morning of Christmas Eve 2019, at the Restaurant Terrasse in Zurich, an hour before opening time. Marc is sensitive, fresh, focused, interested. I wanted to know how he can be sure his creative decisions are right when working with Hollywood greats like Sean Pean? It may sound like a silly question, but it's about leaving room for someone else knowing something you don't. His simple but succinct answer: "Through meticulous preparation." What a great answer! We all hope for miracles, but who is going to do your work if not you?
Marc Forster is a Swiss-German film director, producer and screenwriter. He is best known for directing the feature films Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, Stranger than Fiction, The Kite Runner, Quantum of Solace, World War Z, Christopher Robin, and the upcoming Thomas & Friends film. He is a BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Independent Spirit Award nominee.
As a food scout, Richard Kägi is on the hunt for the culinary extraordinary around the world. A gifted cook himself, he develops recipes for one of the largest retailer of the best products in Switzerland. Kägi writes columns for newspapers, organizes tavolatas and gives an insight into his exciting life as a food scout on his blog. Richi knows everything about good food, good drinks and a good life.
If you have ever been to the ‘Bleichi’ district in St. Gallen in Switzerland, you most certainly have engaged with Carlos’ work - the open-air city lounge that he designed with multimedia artist Pipilotti Rist. The great Red Square is furnished with sofas, chairs, tables, couches and a Porsche, which are all covered in a bright red carpet of plastic granulate. It’s a big surreal playground in the middle of a business district and seems a perfect metaphor for his handwritten answer on creativity. On the photograph with his hands, you see a model of something he just built for every kid’s favourite place, the Children’s Zoo of Circus Knie. Carlos Martinez was born in Widnau in 1967. After his apprenticeship as a structural draftsman, he studied architecture in St. Gallen from 1988 to 1992. He works and lives with his family in Berneck.
I met Lisa in the late 90ies where she would stand-in as a fearless model in one of my first photoshoots. Lisa has come a long way since then, as a formidable actress, writer and Emmy nominated director. Always curious, always asking questions and always listening. I am so proud to count her among my friends and can’t wait to share time together again soon.
Lisa Brühlmann is a director, writer and actor, best known for Blue My Mind (2017) and Killing Eve (2019). She was born and raised in Zurich, Switzerland. Before becoming a director, she was acting in numerous film and TV productions. Brühlmann has been nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy for her work on Killing Eve.
When Philipp Keel, artist and publisher of Diogenes Verlag, came to Los Angeles in 2015, he invited all of his friends, as was his custom, for cocktails at The Tower Bar on Sunset Boulevard. That’s where I met Johnny Lane, American painter and the possible reincarnation of James Dean. We connected instantly and to this day, I wish I was as cool as Johnny.
John Lane was born outside Boston, Massachusetts, in 1970. He spent his youth making rock music and strange drawings, before studying painting at Rhode Island School Of Design. His paintings are in the style of les Fauves, emphasizing strong colour and line over the realistic. John Lane is married, has a daughter and lives and works in Southern California.
I have the chance to meet Renzo Cotarella during his collaboration with the Gaggenau Sommelier Award 2018 in Zurich. He is chief enologist and CEO at Marchesi Antinori, the family owned company that has been producing wine since 1385, and that was amongst the first wineries to bring Cabernet Sauvignon to Italy in the 1930s, leading to the creation of the “Super Tuscan” wines. Renzo is a passionate man and travels frequently to his teams of winemakers and viticulturists in Italy, Chile and the U.S. He doesn’t believe in centralizing operations nor in creating fine wines via Skype in order to maximize profits. “Ultimately, it’s only about the quality of the product, its soul and identity. We are a family owned business. That makes things sometimes more complicated but at the end of the day, much more simple”.
I meet Alfredo Häberli in his studio, where he has thousands of small and colourful objects neatly lined up on racks and walls. There is even a beautiful skiff hanging from the ceiling; a gift from him to himself. When I propose to photograph his hands with one of his creations, he chooses a small yellow leather elephant. And by doing so, reveals that amongst all his works, he likes children’s toys the most. Why? Because children give an immediate feedback on whether something is good or bad.
I had the pleasure to work with Laurence on several occasions and every time she would tell me how difficult it is for her to be photographed. And even now, as I meet her again at Dior’s to photograph her hands, she tells me that I should have rather picked someone else, someone more beautiful and more creative than her. But to me, Ms. Nicolas is all that and much more. She developed and established a serious ‘Fine Jewellery’ and ‘Timepieces’ division at Dior within the last fifteen years and has been appointed executive vice president, global managing director of jewellery and watches at Sotheby’s in 2018. I admire that despite all her achievements, she remained the sensitive and humble girl who once grew up in Africa.
I meet Walter Steiger in his showroom on Avenue Matignon in Paris. He is in high spirits, as he always is, wearing a black sweater with black pants and his signature glasses he designed himself with the thick black frame. He talks about his beginnings and confesses that the only reason he became a shoe designer was because he was so very bad at school and did not have any other options. He laughs when he says this but wants me to believe it by repeating it three times. Walter left his home country at the age of twenty to live in Paris and later London. He tells me that he always had a ‘very good life’, an ‘easy life’, a life that he enjoyed very much. I like to believe that by deciding to spend his time on things he loved and cared about, his life was not a struggle, but a pleasant and creative journey through the great decades of the 20th century.
Walter Steiger was born on February 7th, 1942 in Geneva, eldest son of Walter Steiger Senior, a talented shoemaker, specialized in ski boots. He expressed an interest in art and design and started working with his father at a very young age. In 1958, he became an apprentice at the prestigious house of Molnar Bottier to learn the traditional techniques. Walter moved to Paris in 1962 to work for Bally Design and relocated one year later to ‘Swinging London’ where he designed for Mary Quant and collaborated with Helmut Newton, Lady Rendelsham, Vogue, Harper’s and Michelangelo Antonioni for his iconic film "Blow Up".
In 1967, Steiger returned to Paris to present his first collection. Its success led him to collaborate with Ungaro, Nina Ricci, Sonia Rykiel, Maison Chloé, Calvin Klein, Claude Montana, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Kenzo, Alaïa, Karl Lagerfeld, Akris and Victoria Beckham.
Walter Steiger's aesthetic sensibility has mainly been influenced by the “Swinging London” of the 1960’s which contributed to his constant desire for novelty and modernism, and lead him to search for the most effortlessly elegant designs. His artistic philosophy consists in researching the most harmonious proportions in a shoe to produce iconic timeless creations.
Walter Steiger is widowed, has two sons, one daughter and lives in Ferrara, Italy.
I have the pleasure to meet Otto Drögsler during a lunch with Joachim Schirrmacher, director of the German Fashion Industry Foundation SDBI in Munich. We were both invited to be part of the jury for the European Fashion Award. Otto is an authetic, kind man, precise, full of palpable experience and refreshingly young at heart. He knew that he wanted to be a fashion designer from an early age on and his parents, not opposing his decision at all, only said that he unfortunately will be on his own, since they couldn’t help him with any expertise, knowledge or network in this area. And so Otto did. He became one of the best students of the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and studied under Jil Sander and Karl Lagerfeld, who thought him to emphasize the back of a dress, because “one must gaze after a woman when she leaves the room”.
Otto Drögsler was born on October 13th, 1957, in Vienna, Austria. He studied fashion design at the Hochschule für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna under supervision of Jil Sander and Karl Lagerfeld. He was one of the best students of his class and won a scholarship with Dietmar Sterling in Paris in 1982. He was hired on the spot, when he showed his portfolio to a German manufacturer of suits. He has since then worked for brands such as Chloé, Escada, Toni Gard and lastly eleven years for René Lezard before founding, together with his partner, their own label “ODEEH” in 2009. He is considered now one of the best designer in Germany.
Otto Drögsler lives with his partner Jörg Ehrlich in Giebelstadt, Germany.
It is a sunny day in Santa Monica, as I wait in the office of music uber-producer David Foster. It is of moderate size, but big enough to host a beautiful grand piano. The walls display some of the award-winnings records he was involved in and I try to imagine the endless creative orgasms he has lived through. David enters the room, wearing a black sweater and blazer with zippers. He is ready to get started and I go right ahead with photographing his hands while he plays the piano. I ask him if I could take his portrait and he sits on the floor, just beside the window and looks straight into camera, without any fear, but with complete dedication and concentration. David only gave me five minutes for the whole shoot, but he gave them to me with 100%.
David Foster was born on November 1st, 1949 in Victoria, British Columbia, the son of Maurice Foster, a maintenance yard superintendent, and Eleanor May Vantreight, a homemaker. He began experimenting with the piano at the age of five and enrolled 1963, at the age of 13, in the University of Washington music program.
Foster’s professional career started in 1971, when he became a keyboardist for Eirik Wangberg’s band Skylark. Foster’s impressive keyboard skills were noticed by many and helped him record with extremely popular artists such as John Lennon and Rod Stewart. In 1973, Foster shot to prominence when his band’s single “Wildflower” edged out a place in the Top Ten Ratings.
David Foster is a musical genius and his biography is just too long to recite here. He has been a producer for musicians including Chaka Khan, Alice Cooper, Christina Aguilera, Andrea Bocelli, Toni Braxton, Michael Bublé, Chicago, Natalie Cole, Celine Dion, Kenny G, Josh Groban, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Lopez, Kenny Rogers, Seal, Rod Stewart, Donna Summer, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand and many more. In his phenomenal career, he amassed sixteen Grammy Awards amidst forty-seven nominations. He also has a Hollywood Walk of Fame star near the Capitol Records Building.
David Foster has been married four times, has five biological daughters and seven grandchildren and lives in Los Angeles.
It is a beautiful fall afternoon as I walk through a big wooden door into a charming courtyard in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, not far from the river Seine. As I ring the only bell on the front door, a small dog squeezes through the opening door to greet me joyfully. As I lift my head, I see Mr. Liaigre in a crisp white shirt, smiling at me and asking me inside. I have been to his house a few years ago for a portrait session for the magazine “Madame Figaro” and it seems to me that only small things have changed. The rooms have a holistic presence and Mr. Liaigre has the invaluable ability to make you feel everything he does as an interior designer without speaking a word. The photo of his hands is taken with a painting of his own as a backdrop. As we say good-bye, we both agree that ultimately in a creative process only one-thing matters: Beauty.
Christian Liaigre, son of a veterinarian, was born in 1943 in the Vendée region of France. Christian grew up on his parent’s farm where they bred horses, a detail that has had a substantial influence in his work. At the age of 17, he attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he met Alberto Giacometti who introduced him to the works of Brancusi. By the early 60’s he returned to Vendée where he worked on his parent’s farm – perhaps re-opening his eyes to the beauty of country living. In the early 1970’s, Liaigre returned to Paris where he worked as a design director at Nobilis Fontan. Eventually, he left Nobilis, as they would not allow him to show his own furniture, and opened his own Parisian design studio in 1985.
Twenty-seven years and an impressive client-list later, Christian Liaigre is one of today’s most sought after designers. A master of luxury interiors, his works include The Mercer hotel in New York, many high profile homes, a gorgeous furniture line, and even a few yachts. The boy, who once tended horses on that small farm in Vendée, is now a man of great influence and inspiration in the world of design.
Christian Liaigre was married, has one son and lives in Paris.
I await Farida in my studio where I prepared everything to photograph her hands. She arrives on time with her impeccable looks. Her fresh energy fills the room and I instantly feel all her qualities as a muse. She is not afraid, ready to trust, to inspire, to try, to engage and get things done. I am immensely happy that she agreed so effortlessly to be part of my series and there is no doubt in my mind that she is not a creative person, although she has a slightly more modest opinion about herself. Farida rules and anyone who is lucky enough to meet her will be enchanted.
Born in Vénissieux to Algerian parents, Farida Khelfa grew up in the Lyon suburbs surrounded by eight brothers and sisters. Aspiring to a different kind of life, she ran away to Paris at the age of 16. In the capital, she made several encounters. Christian Louboutin became her best friend. Together, they went out at night to party at the famous Palace.
Her personality, her allure, her silhouette and her beauty, far removed from the aesthetics of her era, defined her as a young woman whom nobody could ignore. In 1979, Jean Paul Gaultier noticed her and asked her to partake in his fashion show. This first catwalk experience jump-started her modeling career. After that, she was often present on the podiums of the most talented designers of that generation: Jean-Paul Gaultier, Azzedine Alaïa, Thierry Mugler… She incarnated a spirit and a look that hinted rebel while also encapsulating the desire for diversity that was the rage of that era.
Meanwhile she worked at the Bains-Douches, where she met photographer Jean-Paul Goude who considered her his muse. The photographs they produced together quickly became legendary. Inspired by all these experiences, Farida involved herself in the cinema as early as 1985. Her career as an actress and a model ended in 1995 when she decided to join Azzedine Alaïa’s design studio. In 2002, she became the head of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Haute Couture salons.
In 2004, Farida became once again independent. She went back to the world of cinema. She was filmed by Alain Robbe-Grillet, Julian Schnabel, Cédric Klapisch and Catherine Breillat… As with fashion, where she worked first as a model, then with designers, in 2010 she switched from actress to film direction. Her first documentary showcased the success story of Jean Paul Gaultier. Others followed, featuring subjects as divergent as the artistic youth of Tunisia before the revolution or the French presidential campaign of 2012. In May 2012, Farida Khelfa became the House of Schiaparelli’s ambassador.
Farida is married to French businessman Henry Seydoux, has two sons and lives in Paris.
I fly to Berlin to be part of a mentoring program for fashion school graduates in connection with the European Fashion Award. Assigned together with Thomas to a group of students, I discover his fresh and sincere energy, his warmth and sense of tact – and his little energetic nod, when he talks. I had the opportunity to meet him again several times since then and I recall two things he said. His first mantra is to give consumers products they never knew they wanted. His second mantra concerns his own well-being. A simple phrase that still implies a lot of self-responsibility towards your own happiness: Don’t be a victim.
Raised as a child in the Swiss Alps, Steinbrück relocated to Paris to pursue schooling in fashion and design. He graduated from the prestigious fashion school “Studio Bercot” and earned a Master’s from the world-renowned “Ecole De La Chambre Syndicale De La Couture Parisienne” in Paris. Following graduation, he immediately began working as the assistant designer to the late Gianfranco Ferré for the house of “Christian Dior”. In the mid Nineties, Thomas Steinbrück relocated from Paris to New York and worked with Geoffrey Beene and his collaborator Albert Elbaz.
In 1998, Thomas created his own fashion label. As a winner of the Fall 2000 Moët & Chandon Designer Debut Award, Steinbrück gained an international reputation. The “Thomas Steinbruck” line was sold in over 50 doors worldwide including such prestigious retailers as Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom’s and Saks 5th Avenue. In 2001, the German Car Manufacturer BMW signed him exclusively as their Fashion and Style Consultant.
In 2002, Thomas Steinbrück became a faculty member and the Chair of Fashion, Merchandising, Textiles and Design at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania as well as an Assistant Professor for Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design in New York. He was the teacher and mentor to such emerging talents like Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough (Proenza Schouler) and Alexander Wang to name a few.
In 2005, he launched the new “Kenneth Cole New York” collection and created a new brand identity for the men’s and women’s division. In 2008, Thomas Steinbrück relocated to Paris to become the Vice President of Collections for the prestigious Couture House of “Elie Saab”. In 2011, Thomas Steinbrück became the Creative Director for the “Porsche Design Group”. “Reebok” appointed him creative director in October 2016, tasking him with leading the brand into uncharted territory.
Thomas currently lives in Boston, MA.
I am portraying different artists for “Universal Music France” and Melody Gardot is supposed to be one of them. On the day of the shooting, the release coordinator calls and tells me that Melody does not want to be photographed. Period! Instead of sitting around, I decide to go to the recording studio and meet with Melody, whom I have never met before. After being introduced to each other, I show her one of my recent portraits of Gregory Porter. She likes it so much that she wants to take pictures at once. However, since the label called the shooting off, there is no equipment and assistant ready. Fortunately, we could reschedule and meet again a few days later for a tiny 15minutes that will mark the beginning of a wonderful friendship.
Melody Gardot was born in New Jersey and was brought up by her grandparents. Her grandmother was a Polish immigrant. Her mother, a photographer, travelled often, so they had few possessions and lived out of suitcases. Melody started music lessons at the age of nine and began playing piano in Philadelphia bars at the age of sixteen. In 2003, she was injured in a bicycle accident and was confined to a hospital bed for a year. During her recovery, she learned how to play the guitar and started writing songs, which were made available on iTunes as "The Bedroom Sessions". She began playing these songs at venues in Philadelphia and was noticed by employees of the radio station WXPN, which helped to start the career of Norah Jones. She was encouraged to send a demo tape to the radio station, which ultimately found its way to the Universal Music Group. She released her first album “Worrisome Heart” in 2008 and her second "My One And Only Thrill" in 2009, which brought her her first Grammy nomination.
I am on a day-trip to the Netherlands to meet with the ‘Iron Lady of The Hague’. The security measures at the International Criminal Tribunal are impressive. An assistant leads me to the office of Carla Del Ponte, where she is sitting behind a pile of files. “What do you want?” she asks. “Well, I want to photograph your hands”. ”Then let’s do it!” After I took a picture while she holds a report on Slobodan Milosevic, I ask her if I can take her portrait. She sits down and says, “Serious! I have to look serious!” And I say, “Yes, you are such a serious person.” And she laughs. With great heart.
Carla Del Ponte was born in 1947 in Ticino, Switzerland. She studied law and obtained her LL.M. in 1972. In 1981, Del Ponte was appointed an investigating magistrate, and later public prosecutor at the Lugano district attorney's office. As public prosecutor, she dealt with cases of money laundering, fraud, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, terrorism and espionage and became well known in Europe, for instance for breaking a Sicilian Mafia money-laundering operation in Switzerland. Since then, her personal image of the tough, incongruous and non-conformist woman who does not succumb to any kind of pressure was forged. 1999, she was appointed prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and was arguably regarded as the most famous Prosecutor ever to attain this position. She resigned from the ICT in 2008 to serve as Switzerland’s Ambassador to Argentina until 2011, when she retired.
Carla Del Ponte was married and has one son.
Klaus Jacobs receives me in his office next to the coffee museum in Zurich and explains me that he never crosses hands behind his back. The hands must always be in front of you, ready to defend and attack.
Klaus Johann Jacobs was born in 1936 in Bremen, Germany. He started his career in the global coffee and chocolates industries, where he became 1962 Director of Purchasing and Marketing for the Jacobs AG coffee business and ten years later its General Manager. In 1982, the company merged with Interfood to create Jacobs Suchard AG, Europe's number one chocolate and coffee business. After selling a part of the company to Philip Morris, Jacobs created with the remaining parts of Jacobs Suchard a company now known as Barry Callebaut, today world's largest raw chocolate producer. In 1991, Jacobs became also involved with the human resource services industry with the acquisition of Adia Personnel Services where he led the company to a Global Fortune 500 Company following the merger with Ecco in 1996 to form Adecco.
Klaus Jacobs established the Jacobs Foundation in 1988 to contribute to Productive Youth Development and surrendered his entire share of the Jacobs Holding AG (CHF 2.3 billion, 2008) to the foundation.
Klaus was a family man with six children and a great horse enthusiast. He died on September 11, 2008, in Switzerland.
A special permission lets me attend a rehearsal of the Tonhalle Orchester in Zurich. The typical sounds of an orchestra warming up suddenly fall silent as David Zinman enters the stage. Everyone listens attentively to his introductory words and corrections, before they all together bring to life the symphonic poem Op. 5 ‘Pelleas und Melisande’ by Arnold Schoenberg.
David Zinman was born in 1936 in New York City. After early violin studies at the Oberlin Conservatory, Zinman studied theory and composition at the University of Minnesota. He started out 1961 as an assistant, then second and finally principal conductor at various orchestras in the US and Europe.
Zinman became music director of the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich in 1995. His innovative programming with that orchestra included a series of late-night concerts, "Tonhalle Late", which combined classical music and a nightclub setting. He conducted the Tonhalle Orchestra in its first-ever appearance at “The Proms” (Royal Albert Hall, London) in 2003. He concluded his Tonhalle music directorship in 2014.
Zinman continues to conduct the renowned American orchestras of Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York. In Europe, he regularly performs with the Berliner Philharmoniker, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic and others. His latest award was the ECHO Klassik for ‘Conductor of the Year’, received in 2015. He and his wife reside in New Jersey, United States, and Zurich.
I pay Adrian Frutiger a visit at his home close to Bern in Switzerland. I am amazed about his activity and enthusiasm for new projects and ideas. He shows me his atelier where he still works the old-school way, with pencil and paper.
Adrian Frutiger was born 1928 in Unterseen, Bern, the son of a weaver. Showing a clear interest in art in his early life, he was encouraged by his father and teachers to pursue an apprenticeship rather than pure art. At the age of sixteen, he was apprenticed for four years as a compositor at the Otto Schlaefli printing house in Interlaken.
Frutiger became one of the most famous typeface designer and influenced the direction of type design in the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st. Frutiger's most famous designs, Univers, Frutiger and Avenir, are landmark sans-serif families spanning the three main genres of sans-serif typefaces: neogrotesque, humanist and geometric. Univers was notable for being one of the first sans-serif faces to form a consistent but wide-ranging family, across a range of widths and weights. Frutiger described creating sans-serif types as his "main life's work," partially due to the difficulty in designing them compared to serif fonts.
Frutiger married Paulette Flückiger in 1952, who died in 1954 after the birth of their son Stéphane. He remarried the theologian Simone Bickel in 1955. They had two daughters, who both experienced mental health problems and committed suicide as adolescents. Disappointed by the standard of mental health care at the time, Frutiger and his wife founded the ‘Fondation Adrian et Simone Frutiger’ to fund psychology and neuroscience research and developments in mental health support.
Frutiger spent most of his professional career working in Paris and living in France, returning to Switzerland later in life. He died on September 10, 2015 at the age of 87 in Switzerland.
I cannot remember how many times I called Mario Botta, before he granted me an interview. He lives in another world, in his own world. I have the feeling that everything and everyone constantly upsets him. His workspaces in Lugano are also from another world – they are bombastic. Mr. Botta gives me exactly seven minutes of his time – with a perfectly straight face.
Mario Botta was born in 1943 in Mendrisio, Switzerland. He designed his first buildings at age 16, a two-family house at Morbio Superiore in Ticino. While the arrangements of spaces in this structure is inconsistent, its relationship to its site, separation of living from service spaces, and deep window recesses echo of what would become his stark, strong, towering style. His designs tend to include a strong sense of geometry, often being based on very simple shapes, yet creating unique volumes of space. His buildings are often made of brick, yet his use of material is wide, varied, and often unique.
Amongst other buildings, he designed the National Bank of Greece, Athens, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte, NC, and the church Santa Maria degli Angeli, Monte Tamaro, Switzerland.
I find myself standing in front of a house surrounded by a garden where nature had taken over complete control. It is raining and nobody opens, for fifteen minutes. Then suddenly, HR Giger appears in the door frame, barefoot, and asks me inside. His rooms are pleasantly dark and his artwork is everywhere. In a pile of small figurines, I discover an Academy Award. “Hollywood doesn’t interest me”, he says. Giger is intriguingly quiet but very present. And I have the feeling that there are only very few people who truly understand him.
Hans Rudolf “HR” Giger was born in 1940 in Chur, Switzerland. His father, a pharmacist, viewed art as a "breadless profession" and strongly encouraged him to enter pharmacy. He moved to Zurich in 1962, where he studied architecture and industrial design at the School of Applied Arts until 1970.
While becoming an acclaimed interior designer, HR Giger was producing his own art, that eventually became very successful. From 1962 on, he dedicated his entire time to art and film. He was best known for sculptures and airbrush images of humans and machines linked together in a cold 'biomechanical' relationship. He won an Academy Award for his work on the film “Alien” for best visual effects. In Switzerland, there are two theme-bars that reflect his interior designs, and his work is on permanent display at the H.R. Giger Museum at Gruyères.
The artist was married twice and used to live and work in Zurich, where he died on May 12, 2014.
After tense negotiations with his secretary, I finally got a meeting with Theo Hotz in his offices in Zurich. He is a passionate person and the encounter is wonderful. I photograph his hands on the sketches of a just won construction project in Vienna.
The Hotz was born in 1928. After an apprenticeship as a building engineer, he opened his own office at the age of 21. One of his notable building is the main train station in Vienna.
Theo Hotz is active in a variety of ways at the cultural and architectural level. An avid art lover, he is, together with his wife Elsa, an important art collector.
I am driving to Verscio in Ticino to meet Dimitri and see my first live show. I am thrilled. He reminds me of the sad clown in Fellini’s film “La Dolce Vita”, but he makes people happy. Is there anything more beautiful than that? And yes, his mouth is also with no makeup extremely wide.
Dimitri Jakob Müller was born in Ascona, Switzerland in 1935. When he was seven years old he decided to become a clown. After graduating from school, Dimitri became an apprentice potter while studying music and theatre. He went to Paris to study under Etienne Decroux, then Marcel Marceau.
In 1959, he was hired as an Auguste by Louise Maisse, a whiteface clown. He then created his own solo mime act, which was received with much acclaim during the 1962 International Mime Festival in Berlin. In 1975, he founded with his wife Gunda the Scuola Teatro Dimitri in Verscio, a small performing arts college. In 1973, he was awarded the Grock prize, and appeared with New York's Big Apple Circus. He has also performed in many other countries across the globe. He was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1995.
He married his wife Gunda in 1961 and they had five children. He died on July 19, 2016 at age 80 in Switzerland.
Over the years, I became good friends with Albert Kriemler. Of our first encounter, I remember that I thought him to be elegant and very sensitive. With quiet voice, he tells me about his philosophy of designing clothes. Albert is poetic and genuine.
Albert Kriemler was born in 1960 in Switzerland. He began working at Akris, the company founded by his grandmother, in 1980. Together with his brother Peter, he has made the company as Creative Director into a global and successful fashion brand.
Dr. Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at FIT, says, “Akris is best-known for luxurious minimalism. You won’t find richer, more beautiful fabrics anywhere. But there is much more to Akris than luxury. Albert is obsessed with making clothes modern. As Linda Fargo once put it: ‘Albert is someone who has improved the quality of life through design.’ What women appreciate about Akris is that they wear the clothes, the clothes don’t wear them. Not surprisingly, some of the most accomplished women in the world appreciate the cool confidence that Akris gives them.”
Albert Kriemler received numerous awards, i.e. in 2016, the Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion by the FIT. Although he travels a lot, his professional and personal base is still in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
High above Montreux, Claude Nobs lives in a charming chalet. The meeting was preceded by countless telephone calls and written requests for an interview. I was glad all the more when I finally got an invitation. Mr. Nobs leads me through his house, or rather museum, or rather Party Chalet, and recounts some of the legendary happenings that occurred in that place. His endless love and sensitiveness makes him larger-than-life.
Nobs was born in Montreux, Switzerland. After apprenticing as a cook, Nobs worked in the Tourism Office of Montreux. He later went to New York, where he met Roberta Flack and invited her to the Rose d’Or de Montreux. Later, Aretha Franklin made her first visit to Europe thanks to him.
At the age of 31, while he was director of the Tourism Office of Montreux, he organized the first jazz festival featuring artists such as Charles Lloyd, Keith Jarrett, Ron McLure and Jack DeJohnette. This new festival was an immediate success, and gained a reputation far beyond Switzerland. Nobs quickly transformed his festival into an international gathering place for lovers of jazz.
Claude Nobs himself played the harmonica. He died on January 10, 2013 at the age 76 in Switzerland.
Otto Stich, the man with Federal Council experience, is a very fine and interesting person. It’s nice to listen to him, while he talks about his experiences and challenges as a Federal Councillor. He likes to smoke the pipe and is far more funnier than one might think. A well-known publicist once invited him to a “work-lunch”. Otto Stich replied, that firstly, it is not his custom to eat, while he works, and secondly, not his custom to work while he eats. And thirdly, he actually prefers to do both without the publicist.
Otto Stich was born in 1927, son of a mechanic, in a house where politics was a daily topic of conversation. Stich studied political science and became a member of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland shortly after the end of WW II. He was elected to the Federal Council of Switzerland on December 7, 1983 and handed over office on October 31, 1995. During his time in office he held the Federal Department of Finance and was President of the Confederation twice in 1988 and 1994. Even after his resignation, he continued to participate in political discussions.
He died on September 13, 2012 at the age of 85.