Michael von Graffenried: Our Town



ISBN: 9783958298835 Category:

Michael von Graffenried


Our Town is Michael von Graffenried’s photographic portrait of New Bern, a small city in North Carolina with a population of 30,000, conspicuously composed of 55% white and 33% black citizens. It was here in 1710 that Christoph von Graffenried of Bern, Switzerland, first began building houses at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers; the fledgling town took on the name of his home city. Taken over a period of 15 years, Michael von Graffenried’s photos are neither overly formal compositions nor fleeting snapshots, but patient images of everyday life showing understanding and no judgment of his subjects: a black church congregation, young white girls at rifle practice; black men exchanging cash on the street, a white couple displaying their collection of firearms with the trophy of the hunt-a great stuffed bear-looking on; a black female stripper performing for a white man.

In June 2020, following the killing of George Floyd, the largest demonstration New Bern had ever seen took place, parallel to many Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country and marking the first time the issue of black-white race relations had been thus proclaimed in the city. Von Graffenried’s Our Town is a both a proud document of a community and an empathetic call for increased integration and understanding at a decisive moment in American history.

Additional information

Weight 1800 g
Dimensions 24.7 x 31.2 cm
Publisher name Steidl
Publication date 1 August 2021
Number of pages 240
Format Hardback
Dimensions 24.7 x 31.2 cm
Weight 1800 g


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Born in Bern in 1957, Michael von Graffenried began his career as an international photojournalist in 1978, and today concentrates on long-term projects in multiple media including billboards and film. His documentary film War without Images, produced with Mohammed Soudani, was first screened at the Locarno Film Festival in 2002. Von Graffenried has exhibited widely and his photographs are held in the permanent collections of the Swiss Foundation for Photography, Winterthur, Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, among other major collections in Europe and the US. He was named Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in the French Legion d'Honneur in 2006, and received the Dr. Erich Salomon Prize from the German Society of Photography in 2010 (the third Swiss to obtain the award after René Burri and Robert Frank). Steidl published von Graffenried's Bierfest in 2014.