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[Translate to Englisch:] © Christine Bärlocher, aus «Colline Metallifere», Bilder und Phantasien, 2021

Christine Bärlocher. Photographers have different professional biographies. Some reorient themselves after many years of photography. This is also the case with Christine Bärlocher (61) from Zurich.

From 2005, the former biologist worked as an independent photographer. Her pictures won several awards from Swiss Press Photo. 16 years later came the "break": since 2021 she has been involved in the Swiss Association for Continuing Education (SVEB) with storytelling and networking for the promotion of basic skills in the workplace.

Christine's path to photography led via a degree in biology (1987) and basic artistic training at the School of Design in Zurich. Later she completed the GAF photography training. For 15 years she implemented projects and campaigns on environmental issues, 7 of them in the international programme of WWF Switzerland. She tells the SBF editorial team about her decision to change careers and how biology and photography complemented each other for her. 

Why did you give up full-time photography? I realised that as an editorial photographer for media I was sliding into an increasingly precarious financial situation. I didn't see the corporate sector as a viable alternative. I asked myself which of my skills I could use more broadly.

From self-employed to employed - was that difficult? The decision and the path to it were not easy. Applying for jobs often didn't feel "right". It seemed impossible to get through the HR algorithms as a photographer. It took imagination to figure out which jobs were eligible. After a diversion, it worked out via a normal advertisement and without "vitamin B".

What are the advantages of being employed? Many! It's liberating to have a salary in my account at the end of the month. I work in a team and an institution on projects that would hardly be accessible to me as a sole trader. The downside is the cumbersome processes in the education administration environment. I sit in meetings and at the computer a lot. I miss the "flow moments" of photography.

You see a clear connection between being a biologist and a photographer. Can you explain that? The connection is myself as a person. I have a strong analytical side and a creative side. Both need space. The structured thinking and the affinity for technology of the "biologist" help me a lot in photography. The artistic side comes into play in the image design. It takes creativity to quickly find solutions under the usually not optimal "on-location" conditions and at the same time not to lose sight of the focus for the desired image, for the story.

Unlike others, you don't photograph nature subjects. It's almost stereotypical that people ask me if I photograph plants. I wanted to dive into new fields after my job at WWF, and I also studied microbiology. I was booked for reports and portraits of young people, families and education, also for interviews of all kinds. This gave me new insights across Swiss society.

Many photographers take pictures of landscapes to raise awareness about climate change. They jet around the world to do so. Why this contradiction? This contradiction also exists among NGOs. You have to critically question what you want to achieve against climate change before you jet around the globe for it. Droughts, floods, forest fires and melting ice are grandiosely translated into apocalyptic images. 

What do these images achieve? The poor farmer's wife in the dry field is one of those severely affected. But the subjects are inflationary and do not show the causes. We are the drivers of climate change, we have known that for decades. How can photography initiate change, change politics, change consumer behaviour? Similar questions arise as in war photography.

How do you manage your current job with being a part-time photographer? I don't. At the beginning of my employment, I had nice assignments and had to pass them on. Before that I tried part-time stints, with the result that neither was satisfactory. Now I work 80% and photograph smaller assignments when I can work without deadline pressure. And I look ahead: What else can I do with my camera after I retire? You can't start thinking about new directions soon enough.


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