A Journey Into Light

Chiara collects Elisabeth Zahnd’s moving portraits of her daughter as she battled an incurable brain tumor.



Title Information

Photographs by Elisabeth Zahnd Legnazzi. With texts by Nadine Olonetzky and Thomas Macho

1st edition

, 2009

Text English and German


152 pages, 38 color and 22 b/w illustrations

21 x 27 cm

ISBN 978-3-85881-238-4


Created out of deep personal affection and great emotional pain, Chiara is a powerful and moving photographic essay on illness and death. Its intense but sensitive images touch on the questions of how we deal with suffering, dying, and grief, while also evoking images of life, warmth, and love.

Chiara, daughter of artist and photographer Elisabeth Zahnd (*1957), was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor at the age of five. Zahnd’s portraits of Chiara capture her remarkable dignity during the final months of her young life. Zahnd never exploits the suffering of her daughter for her artistic project; even in close-up pictures she keeps a respectful, private distance. The photographs of Chiara instead portray her maturity and charisma even as her physical strength weakens. The images of Chiara are complemented by photos of abstract landscapes that visualize the changing perception of reality that accompanies a loss of the senses, as well as an essay by Austrian scholar and writer Thomas Macho, a philosophical meditation on illness and fear that provides context for Zahnd’s work.

An evocative portrait of life and death, Chiara is a unique work that brings us face to face with the human condition.

Authors & Editors

Thomas Macho

Nadine Olonetzky

, born 1962 in Zürich, freelance cultural publicist and editor with Scheidegger & Spiess publishers. Contributes regularly to NZZ am Sonntag and to books and catalogues on photography, art, and art history. Member of Kontrast ( in Zürich.

Elisabeth Zahnd Legnazzi


“It is a compelling photographic meditation on illness and death and how we cope with loss and grief. That said, it is also a contemplation of the life and intimacy; of love. Without false sentiment and sensation, this is a poignant examination of the human condition” Eyemazing