About me

I lived the first twenty years of my life in a small village outside of Zurich in an old house with a large garden. But already as a child I came into close contact with other cultures when my family lived for several months in Colombia. Back in Switzerland it had always been my wish to return to South America; meanwhile several extensive journeys have given me a very close impression of the continent and its immense diversity between the Caribbean Sea and the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.

 

I started to do photography when I was fourteen years old. I have documented life around me such as my school or the place where I lived, but of course I also put my focus on the places I visited. In South America as well as in many other places I have always been impressed to see under what harsh conditions some humans live, being a desert at 4000 metres above sea level or a tiny village, hours away from the next neighbours. As a contrast, I was also fascinated by the dynamic life in cities, always focussing on the question what conditions lead to a warm and cosy feeling and which elements make people feel alone and uncomfortable.

 

I have always admired classical documentary photography; in my eyes a good picture captures very precisely an atmosphere or feeling without any further explanation. Among my favourite photographers are personalities such as Sebastião Salgado, Dorothea Lange, Robert Doisneau, Pablo Coral Vega, Pascal Maitre or Bruce Chatwin; they are all able to tell stories with their pictures, and some of their photographs shaped our idea of the world we live in.

 

Since my childhood I have been very interested in animals and plants and was fascinated how research is extending the frontiers of our knowledge. I thus studied biology at the University of Zurich where I got a master in developmental biology. I then changed to the Swiss Tropical Institute in Basel where I developed a system to genotype different strains of the malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax. After a three month traineeship at the University of Glasgow I returned in autumn 2008 to the Swiss Tropical Institute where I am now doing a PhD in malaria molecular epidemiology and cell biology.

 

I think that good photography opens our eyes and thus brings us closer to reality. I share with many photographers an engagement to make people aware of existing problems and to reach concrete improvements. During my entire study time I was engaged in [project 21], the Students for Sustainability of Zurich, where I realized numerous events and projects. Among them is a long term project to preserve Tibetan medicine in close collaboration with the "Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute" in Dharamsala, India, or a meeting in 2006 on the topic “Mind, Knowledge and Sustainability”; for one week around 50 students from 15 countries gathered in the small village of Rasa in the Swiss mountains and discussed the importance of a clear mind for taking future-orientated decisions. It's the power and spirit created at such events that motivates me to pursue my engagement.

 

My photography shall reflect my deep interest on the planet we live on, mirrored by my curiosity for the places where I feel home, for other cultures and for science; and it shall also reflect my belief that we can and must care for it.

 

Zurich, Switzerland, December 2008

Cristian Köpfli

 

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