In Switzerland, if you order a coffee in a restaurant or bar, it invariably comes with a portion of cream served in a small, brown plastic pot sealed with a thin peel-off foil lid. Since 1968, these lids have always featured a picture. Over the years, a never-ending array of thousands of series of small images have circulated throughout the country. These collections represent all genres of photography, from fashion to landscape, portrait, architecture, still life, nude, and documentary. Despite the small size of this medium and its banality, it has probably been the most far-reaching and popular means of distributing photographs throughout Switzerland for over half a century. Undoubtedly, these images have formed an important part of the Swiss people’s visual memory and subconscious knowledge.

Escapism is defined as a means of evading reality, an “attitude that entails withdrawing from the world and from public life through flight or disillusionment.” This term is at the heart of Roger Eberhard’s project. With Escapism, the Swiss photographer focused on a typical Swiss tradition: collecting coffee creamer lids and contemplating the images printed on them. Like stamp collecting, these lids became something of an obsession and were frenetically traded at gatherings and fairs for decades. Of course, the rarest sets sold for high prices among collectors. Annual issues of professional directories meticulously recorded the latest estimated value of each series. Then, suddenly, in the early 1990s, this market crashed, just like any unstable market or, to use a more recent analogy, a highly speculative NFT bubble.

Of the countless possible photographic genres printed on these lids, Roger Eberhard focused on specific types of landforms threatened by global warming. He appropriated pictures using a high-resolution camera to create extreme close-ups of idyllic beaches, erupting volcanoes, nebulous deserts, glaciers, shorelines, canyons, and iconic mountains. Each shot was taken in the studio, and then carefully digitally enhanced to remove any imperfections. The final print is an enlarged reinterpretation of the original photograph, whose author generally remains unknown. The CMYK colour separation process is suddenly revealed, as colourful, fluid and imperfect, reminiscent both of pop art paintings and impressionism.

When standing in front of the prints, the viewer is torn between the intense aesthetics of these archetypical images and their iconic status which recalls the Great Wave off Kanagawa, and billboards for the film Apocalypse Now and for Marlboro cigarettes. Besides the vernacular character of this material, the predominance of the extremely enlarged colour separation characterizes the entire series.

These patterns reveal the ink that constitutes the reproduction dot by dot. As with a multitude of brushstrokes, this pattern evokes transparency and subtlety of watercolour, blurring more than ever the boundary between painting and photography, digital and analog, past and future, beauty and imminence, and, most of all, between reality and escapism.

(Text: Stefano Stoll, Images Vevey)


Works by Roger Eberhard (*1984 Zurich, Switzerland) are exhibited internationally and can be found in important public and private collections. Previous publications include “Standard” (Scheidegger & Spiess, Zurich, 2016), “Norma” (Peperoni Books, Berlin, 2013), and “Human Territoriality” (Edition Patrick Frey, Zurich, 2020). “Escapism” was first presented during the Festival des Images in Vevey in September 2022, where a large-scale solo museum exhibition was dedicated to the series, curated by Stefano Stoll. The exhibition was then a guest at the Kyoto Photo Festival in Japan in April 2023, also curated by Stefano Stoll. The book to the series is published by Édition Images Vevey. Roger Eberhard lives and works in Stallikon (CH).

– Press release DE / EN

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