News / Industry News & Events / Studio Willen go behind the scenes of Switzerlands private high-end aquarium scene (01/31/18)

Studio Willen go behind the scenes of Switzerlands private high-end aquarium scene


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Tania and David Willen met in the heady days of 1985 at the Schule fr Gestaltung, Bern, where Tania studied graphic design and David photography. Having been a couple for 17 years, since 2003, the duo have worked as business partners and, in 2015, they founded Zurich-Based Studio Willen. Our declared passion is object, landscape and architectural photography, says David and Tania. With Studio Willen we also consult brands regarding their imagery. Beside this, we do independent projects like Appetite for the Magnificent, which are a particular pleasure for us.

Appetite for the Magnificent encapsulates Tania and Davids skills as a picture editors-cum-art directors and photographers respectively, along with the talent of co-author Dr. Jrg Scheller, who is the head of the theory section in the undergraduate Art & Media department at Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK).

The publication, which is published by Edition Patrick Frey is a joyful visual exploration into the weird world of aquariums. Appetite for the Magnificent reflects the aesthetic character of high-end aquaria curated by Swiss aquarists, the duo explains. Concentrating on the flat front surface of the tanks, the photography hides their spatial context, thus creating an intensified, staged representation. The resulting colourful aquascapes are tableaus, in which the dichotomies of reality and virtuality, presence and absence, the animate and inanimate are played out and nature is turned into culture. The fish tanks are presented as modern-day cabinets of curiosities sophisticated arrangements of mineral, floral and faunal exhibits.

The images were captured in Swiss zoos and with the help of contacts in Switzerlands private high-end aquarium scene. We met people who breed their own plankton for their private aquariums and invest three hours a day in taking care of the fishes and their habitat, the duo say. We learned that it is quite a science to do it right: its all about chemistry, having the correct PH-value and water climate.

So what are the winning components of a successful aquarium shot? The saltwater tanks are more colourful than the freshwater tanks. For us it was important to have the whole spectrum of different aquariums. We were mostly interested in the landscapes and the design of the aquariums, the fish are just supplementary. The difficulty of this project was to work with magnificent scenarios without falling into kitsch. It was almost like doing a book about sunsets