Paul Wirz in New Guinea Photographs of the 1916-1953 expeditions|
In the first half of this century the Swiss anthropologist and
collector Paul Wirz (1892-1955) made several research trips to New Guinea,
partly combined with journeys in the Malayan archipelago. His reputation as an
anthropologist is based on his research in New Guinea and later on Bali. In the
western part of New Guinea, now called Irian Jaya, he concentrated his work on
the Marind-anim on the south-west coast; the region of Lake Sentani on the north
coast and the Highlands (Western Dani); and in the eastern part, now Papua New
Guinea, he worked in the Papuan Gulf region, the Highlands, and the Sepik area.
His field trips, marking almost forty years of research work, were of different kinds
and intensities, and were made in the context of changing theoretical backgrounds
and the varying personal and professional aims of the anthropologist. But during
all these visits, Paul Wirz used photography as his main technical medium, and took
thousands of photographs. The main part of this photographic material is now in
the Museum der Kulturen Basel, Switzerland. Another part of the material is with
Wirzís family in Basel, several hundred prints are in the Metropolitan Museum of
Art in New York, and some are distributed among various other museums.
This book, on the one hand, gives a general idea of the New Guinea photography
of Paul Wirz. On the other hand, it shows the exceptional nature of these
photographs as rare visual records of past cultures. They form an important source
for ethnographic research.
The bookís introduction provides an insight into the extraordinary life of Paul
Wirz, his private and professional backgrounds that influenced his anthropological
work and affected his photography.
The main part of the book is devoted to the presentation of photographs taken
during Wirzís stays in New Guinea. Reflecting the conditions of his field work, this
section concentrates on the Marind-anim, Lake Sentani and Papuan Gulf regions.
The photographs are combined with statements from Wirz, or commentary from
Andrea Schmidt, or both.
A selected bibliography of Wirzís publications concentrates on those that include
photographs of his New Guinea journeys.
Portrait; hardcover; vi + 194 pages
285 x 240 mm