A new show at Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland explores the long-running overlap between hobby culture and photography. “The Hobbyist: Hobbies, Photography and the Hobby of Photography,” on view until January 28, 2018, brings together work from more than 30 photographers from the past 50 years. The images record the many ways that leisure, expertise, passion and identity intersect, in pictures of pigeon racers, body builders and artists moonlighting as restauranteurs. And as the show argues, photography itself, which is also a popular hobby, is often an integral tool for defining hobbyists’ sense of community and self, especially in our increasingly social and digital age.
The hobbies depicted in the show range from the easily accessible to the more more esoteric. In a 1974 image, Bill Owens shows a motley group of runners in an amateur foot race, who include both kids and adults. More recently, Ricardo Cases made the practice of Spanish pigeon racing the subject of his series “Paloma al aire,” which records the bright markings that gorgeously identify the birds in flight. Other hobbies are more obscure. Lotte Reimann’s series “Bis Morgen im Nassen” gets especially weird, collecting images made by a man who is passionate about “wetlook,” the depiction of people in their clothes, soaked with water.
As the museum writes, photography offers “amateurs the possibility of visually recording the fruits of their endeavors, showing them and sharing them with a wider public. At the same time, photography itself is a hobby that is passionately embraced.” Photographs are “collected, archived, filed and declared to be works of art. Compiled as collections, they provide a sweeping overview of private lives and popular culture alike—in short, the world of the hobbyist.”