Behind Walls

Photography in Psychiatric Institutions from 1880 to 1935

A photographic approach to a life on the edge of society


Title Information

Edited by Katrin Luchsinger, Stefanie Hoch, and the Kunstmuseum Thurgau. Contributions by Urs Germann, Stefanie Hoch, Markus Landert, Katrin Luchsinger, Sabine Münzenmaier, and Martina Wernli

1st edition

, 2022

Text English and German


132 pages, 35 color and 66 b/w illustrations

23 x 29 cm

ISBN 978-3-03942-056-8

In cooperation with Kunstmuseum Thurgau


Many psychiatric hospitals in Switzerland house a treasure trove of historical photographs that go back to the 19th century and until now have never been studied properly. Glass slides and negatives, loose paper prints, and photo albums allow fascinating insights into the modernization of these establishments – and at the same time into the history of photography. The medium that was new at the time was used by psychiatrists to record diagnoses, as well as to show the public life behind institutional walls. Thanks to increasingly handy cameras, it was also possible to record the modest celebrations, leisure and creative activities.

Behind Walls introduces these testimonials of life and scientific practice in psychiatric institutions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that are accessible to the public for the first time. The essays critically study the use of photography as a medium in psychiatry from different perspectives.

The book is published in conjunction with exhibitions at Sammlung Prinzhorn in Heidelberg, Germany; the Thurgauer Kunstmuseum in Warth, Switzerland; and at Schweizerisches Psychiatrie-Museum in Bern, Switzerland, in 2022 and 2023.


Katrin Luchsinger is an art historian and a freelance publicist and curator working on topics such as art and psychology, material cultures, and inclusion. She has taught as a professor at Zurich University of the Arts’ Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts until 2019, where she directed various research projects on art and creativity in psychiatric institutions around 1900.


Stefanie Hoch is a scholar of cultural studies and a curator at Thurgauer Kunstmuseum in Warth, Switzerland.

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