The Swiss photographer Christian Kettiger started out as so many do with a camera when he was young. A friend taught him how to develop and print and so his hobby began in earnest. With his portraits under his arm he entered the École d'Artes Graphiques in Vevey, Switzerland at the early age of seventeen. There were a few artistic subjects on the agenda but photography drew all his attention.
Out of college he was fortunate enough to meet Christian Coigny, based in Switzerland. After a year as his assistant, Paris beckoned and so with encouragement from his mentor off he went. There he met up with the fashion photographer Steve Hiett and became his assistant for a while. But the time came to make the inevitable break and it was the French edition Marie-Claire that took his first images in 1986. This was followed by Italian, British and Spanish versions of Marie-Claire, then by Vogue Bellezza, and that was his career established.
| ||Not surprising, Kettiger mentions Helmut Newton as source of inspiration but the iconic Irving Penn too "I love his simplicity, his extremely simple lighting, his sharp shadows" he says. In line with his early involvement in portraiture he also mentions Diane Arbus and Josef Koudelka, famous for their gripping depictions of people who live outside 'normal society' for one reason or another. These are pointers to the other side of Christian's involvement in photography. There is the commercial aspect and there is the personal aspect. He personal projects reflect his depth of interest in the subject of photography and his interest in people. He is attracted to imagery that is "…simple and strong and full of emotion" as he says.|
His latest personal project, for example, concerns a small town in the USA that is home to a community of circus sideshow people He went there to be able to take some personal portraits - "…simple and strong and full of emotion". He now intends to return and build a record of these people who live on the edge of 'normal society'.
He will probably be taking along his Hasselblad H1. He was a great Hasselblad 500 and 200 series fan and relied on these models a great deal in his work. But as involvement with the digital world increased - he was scanning most of his negatives anyway - he thought it would be logical to make the jump. He admits to being slightly dispirited, in the beginning, about the decline of traditional methods which he had learned but buying an Epson 7800 printer became an eye-opener for him. "The results were fabulous" he says. After his first shoot with a Hasselblad Ixpress digital back, Kettiger sums up the experience with a similar response by proclaiming "it was fabulous". It is fairly obvious to foresee his choice of equipment.
One commercial assignment he has been involved with for many consecutive years is for Ligne Roset, the furniture and interior design company. He works closely with the art director, slowly building up the concept where two images play off each other in an original and fascinating manner. A subject close to his heart, perhaps, as he has furniture building as a relaxing hobby, along with riding his mountain-bike.
But family life in Paris will be paused again soon. This time not just because the pages of Marie-Claire and Elle are waiting, but for another reason. A close friend is a doctor who has been working with AIDS victims in Nigeria and Kettiger would like to help in some way. He realises that his approach must be delicate but wants to contribute by raising awareness through his pictures. Nothing is fixed yet as exactly how he will tackle this subject but he knows it will take several years to build up.
"Passion" is a word Christian uses about photography and how important it is to feel it if you want to go places in photography. Check his website for a broader look at what he has achieved.