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Claudia Gschwend || Photographer

Claudia Gschwend is a Swiss photographer celebrated for her poignant and compassionate visual narratives. Her practice evolves around questions of identity, culture and human connections. She explores these topics globally, always looking for insight into different communities within their different environments.

From capturing the work of a Swiss circus charity in Senegal, Lebanon and Turkey, collaborating with an anthropologist to research the traditions of a native tribe in Brazil’s amazon to working with a journalist on a series of portraits and interviews with musicians in the UK and the Netherlands. Her curiosity always leads to new stories, with a focus on finding that moment of presence with the people in front of her camera. Her series of the Senegalese circus troupe has been selected for the Portrait of Humanity prize 2022 by the British journal of Photography and was exhibited in Melbourne, India and London.

This is a series of portraits of the Sencirk circus troupe in Dakar, Senegal. “In January 2021, I traveled there with a Swiss charity”, she said, “to photograph the delivery of their donation: a container full of circus equipment.”

In 2010, Sencirk obtained its official status with the help of public authorities interested in this socio-educational project. The first circus school in Senegal was born.

Sencirk circus troupe, Dakar

Sencirk, was founded by Modou Touré, once a child beggar, who now wants to help others in a similar position. 

Every year, many young Senegalese children are sent to the cities to study the Quran, only to find themselves forced into begging for money and food on the streets.

That’s one of the reasons why he created something that gives an incredible number of kids the opportunity to gain self-confidence and enjoy some carefree hours. 

Today, Sencirk is a very important place, nearly thirty artists train most days in the tent in Dakar. Modou and his people also manage many diverse projects in hospitals and in various institutions such as the “L’Empire des Enfants” or “La Maison Rose”. In which women with their children live, mostly coming from a difficult background.

It’s a community built on resilience – a group of young people working through shared trauma who are strengthened by their potential to overcome it together.

Beqaa Valley, Home of the Bulaban Circus

Beqaa Valley is known for its warm and dry summers and cold and wet – even snowy – winters. Covered with olive groves, cultivated wheat fields and large numbers of vineyards, figs and pomegranate trees, the Beqaa Valley and its fertile soil is the country’s prime agricultural region.

Due to wars and the unstable economic and political conditions Lebanon faced in the past, with difficulties some farmers still face today, many previous inhabitants of the valley left for coastal cities in Lebanon or emigrated from the country altogether, with the majority residing in America, South America or Australia.

Bulaban Circus, Belqaa Valley, Lebanon

Her photography work with the Bulaban Circus premiered at the Photo London 2024 to raise awareness about this youth-led initiative supporting the refugee community in the Beqaa Valley. Bulaban circus aims to work with children in a farming community inside a circus tent to unleash their creative potential and imagination, foster their self expression freely& healthily and bring in new perspectives

Bulaban Circus, Beqaa Valley

Through her evocative imagery, Gschwend captures the vibrant spirit and transformative power of the circus, illustrating how it brings joy, unity, and a sense of normalcy to the lives of refugees. Her work not only documents the artistic performances but also underscores the profound impact of this initiative on the community it serves.

See more of Claudia’s work on this link

Celeste Melgar

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