Born and raised in the beautiful canton of Grisons, Switzerland, Martina Bisaz moved to Zürich to study architecture, but shortly afterwards switched to the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, where she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Scientific Visualization. Since then, she’s been freelancing, and working for the archaeology department of Zürich University as a scientific illustrator. Libby O’Loghlin asks her about her Instagram collaborations and how she fell into photography.
What initially attracted you to study scientific illustration, and when did you start taking photographs?
I always loved to draw, since I was a little kid. And at first I didn’t even know that this ‘subject’ existed. I found out at a diploma exhibition at school, and was fascinated by those drawings and paintings. That’s when I decided I want to study this, and nothing else. Photography was also a little part of my study. I think that’s when I started to be more and more interested in it. But the big change happened when I started to use Instagram.
You have a very recognisable little Fiat that features in many of your images on Instagram … tell us a bit about how the car became a feature … and how you ended up with nearly 130K followers on Instagram.
I started to post pictures of my Fiat quite at the beginning of my Instagram career, and I realised people loved that little cutie. And one day, about a year later, Instagram contacted me and asked me if they could feature my account. And of course I said yes! That’s how my follower number went up to about 60K.
While photography is often a solitary pursuit, you seem to regularly travel with one or two other people. Who are your main travel companions, and do you end up in their posts too?
I don’t really have a main companion. Whenever there are friends from Instagram visiting Switzerland, I try to show them some beautiful spots and sometimes I happen to be in their photos as well. Or I could visit places or countries, sponsored by their tourism boards, where I meet old or new friends. That is always a lot of fun.
Can you explain a bit about what an Instagram ‘collab’ is, who your collaborators are, and how you connected? Have you ever met any of your collaborators in real life?
An Instagram collab can be, for example when you just swap pictures with someone else on Instagram and edit it and post it and mention the other person. It’s like a promotion for that person. Or, someone wants to make an edit with one of your photos, and then you also post what he edited. They mostly write a comment on your post and ask if they could do a collab with you. Then you continue by email. Yes, I have met some in real life, that’s the great part of it. You make so many friends, and some of them become your best friends also in real life.
It seems like you’re always on the move, capturing mountains and nature, rain, hail and shine … How often do you travel within Switzerland? And do you have some locations you like to return to?
It seems like I am always on the move, but that’s not always the case. When I go somewhere, I take so many pictures, that I have photos for the next month to post! And on the weekend I am often at my parents’ house, which is in the most beautiful mountain village of Switzerland. So it looks like I’m always on holidays!
I want to return to the Matterhorn. Been there three times, but I have only seen it once. The other two times it was cloudy, which was really, really upsetting, especially after travelling like four hours through the whole of Switzerland.
Summer or winter: which do you prefer for taking pictures?
That’s a tough question. Winter can be amazing for pictures, but also difficult to get to places. Unless you take the ski lift or you do ski tours. That’s why I prefer summer, or autumn for better light, because I can actually go outdoors and hike wherever I want, to places and mountains I can’t reach in winter.
And The Woolf special question: What is one of your favourite works of fiction, and why?
What a question! I always remember Der Medicus [in English: The Physician], which I read when I was a teenager. The reason why I like it, hmmm … I think all the science and medical discoveries simply fascinated me and I actually finished the whole book!