an enigmatic writer and photojournalist,
was born in 1908 and died young, at age
34, from the consequences of a bicycle
accident. During her short lifetime, she
traveled extensively (including trips to Persia, Afghanistan, several European countries, the United States, and Africa), wrote about 300 articles and photojournalistic essays (some of them under her married name Clark or Clarac), and took roughly 5,000 photographs.
She was born and raised in a rich Swiss family and throughout her life caught between this world that enabled her to live a privileged life and her convictions that stood in stark contrast to the her family’s political support of the far right in Switzerland. She was homosexual, her friends included Klaus and Erika Mann, Carson McCullers, Marianne Breslauer, and Ella Maillart, and throughout her adult life she suffered from an opioid addiction that she was unable to cut despite several withdrawal efforts.
Her trips to the United States yielded a large array of articles and photographs that depict the era of the Great Depression. She analyzes class, and — to a much lesser degree — also race within the context of the United States, looks at the development of unions and organizations that promote political change that aids the underprivileged. In her texts she becomes a vivid advocate for groups like the Monteagle School for workers (later Highlander Center) and shows an interest in alternative lifestyle models, such as the Gruetli Farm community in Tennessee.
Her depiction of Knoxville in her 1937 essay “On the Shadowy Side of Knoxville” vividly captures the harsh contrast between privileged lives and the destitution of those who dwell in extreme poverty in neighborhoods like what used to be West Front Street. This essay thus far has not been translated from German to English, and the English translations provided in this exhibit presents for the first time selected passages to an English-speaking audience.