Kuyas, Ferit

Ferit Kuyas, Zurich, Switzerland

Ferit Kuyas (1955) was born in Istanbul, Turkey. He studied architecture and law in Zurich, Switzerland and graduated 1982 in jurisprudence from the University of Zurich. Working mainly on personal projects, he published several books. After visiting Shanghai for commissioned work, Ferit’s travels brought him often back to China. His most recent body of work is City of Ambition with large cityscapes from the megalopolis Chongqing, China, which got published in October 2009.

Ferit’s photographs have been shown in museums, galleries and festivals in Europe, America and Asia. His work is represented in private, corporate and public collections in the United States, England, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Turkey. He received a number of awards, among them the Kodak Photobook-Award, the Guatephoto Award and the Hasselblad Masters.

Aurora – Part I

Ferit Kuyas: Zone IV, Pigment print, 40 x 50 cm, 2011

Spring 2010 I received an e-mail from a friend telling me about Guatephoto, a photo festival in Guatemala City. I visited their website, submitted work and got accepted. Originally I didn’t think of attending the festival opening. When I learned that I won the award for best project I had no choice than to go. So I flew to Guatemala City last July. It was my first visit to a Latin American country. In the plane I learned that Guatemala City airport’s name is “La Aurora“. This sounded touching. Aurora, the name of the goddess of dawn is a sign for a new beginning, it feels very optimistic. And most of the 3.5 million people populating Greater Guatemala City need that optimism to handle their life. Their hospitality and friendliness on one hand and the problems they are facing with all the security problems on the other hand quickly made me think of a project. I became eager to photograph their habitat. January 2011 I started photographing the city. I was aware of the security issues, having before seen private security guards standing in front of virtually every building. I had not imagined that it would be so difficult to get what I wanted – some of it I never got. If something was interesting there was a wall or security guard in front of it. Or both. Without local support I would have been lost. It is crucial to know where one can go and where absolutely not. During the first leg of the project I focused mainly on cityscapes but photographed also anything I thought of as being possibly interesting for the final body of work. In the second part (still under work) the focus is on the people of Guatemala City, portraying them in their habitat. Like in various other countries in a similar situation, the American Way of Life is the goal for many. Global franchising companies have spread out and mobile communication is extremely popular. The US have helped shaping the city – it was Pan American Airlines who imposed
the airport to be very close to the city center. So here we are again with the airport. But only to bring back the dreamy name “La Aurora“ into reality. It is the name of the large farm which was sacrificed to build the airport. Another poisoned dish. But an exciting one.


Ferit Kuyas, Montanchel, 50 x 50 cm, Carbon Pigment Print, ed. 2/5, 1996

During the year 1995 I started devoting more of my time to comissioned work. It became more difficult to mainly focus on personal projects.
So I started photographing on travel which I continued until 2008.

While doing this, in some way I was leaving open the inner response to what my eyes were telling me about the outside world, becoming a resonance membrane, responding sensitively to each symbol and image – sometimes consciously but often entirely intuitively. The result were images of metaphorical quality. I have collected these intuitive Archetypes over the years. By contemplating them, I am drawn unconsciously into a process of deeper resonance.

Often devoid of people, these images reflect a severity and clarity as well as a timeless mystical quality. They evoke an elementary meaning which exceeds their primary content, unveiling another level underneath the level of obvious reality. Here I find the reflection of my inner thoughts, values, moods – I guess like in a mirror of my subconscious.

They are showing my elements of life, fragments of reality, sometimes a deeper truth normally hidden to us. Of course it will always be my own truth.

Access Roads, Caiyuan Bridge, Chongqing

Ferit Kuyas: Access Roads, Caiyuan Bridge, Chongqing, archival pigment print, 2007, 64cm x 80cm, 1 of 10

City of Ambition is a visit to one of the largest cities in the world, Chongqing where I am mainly interested in the outskirts. There the city can’t be really seen but sensed, like a tiger moving through the jungle – invisible, yet there. Construction sites and places of change show metaphorical facets of the huge shift taking place in contemporary China. The landscape formed by the two huge rivers blending in the city will completely change when the water level reaches its maximum as part of the reservoir formed by the Three Gorges Dam. What dramatical effects this will have to the city of Chongqing can only be guessed today.
The fog dominating most pictures is real. The city is nicknamed in China as the City of Fog. It reflects the big mystery China still is for me. After many travels it seems like the more I learn the less I know. Often it feels like moving trough a surreal scenery, set up to make a movie. Although this body of work definitely has a documentary component I do not understand myself as a documentarist. The ability to express my personal emotions through my images is very important to me.

City of Ambition – Fast Forward in China

Ferit Kuyas: City of Ambition, edition 5


City of Ambition is a series of colour photographs from Chongqing, one of the largest cities in the world. My images aim to reflect the sheer dimensions of the cityscape. Like most of my work, this project has autobiographic roots: I got to know the city through my in-laws who live there. The people of Chongqing are very eager to show the world and their sister cities in China who they are. Together with the booming economy, this leads to an explosion in city development.

I am mostly interested in the outskirts of Chongqing, where the city can’t really be seen, but rather sensed. Also construction sites and places of change are of main interest to me. They show us metaphorical facets of the huge changes taking place in contemporary China.

Astonishingly, Chongqing is an unknown place for most people in the western world. The city is located in Southwest China’s region of Sichuan and was the capital of China during World War II. The municipality is populated by approximately 32 million people.


Ferit Kuyas: Chongqing – City of Ambition. With Texts by Diana Edkins and Bill Kouwenhoven. Schilt 2009 Publishing, Amsterdam, 112 pages (English edition) and Benteli Publishers, Berne (German edition)
Ferit Kuyas, Edy Brunner and Marco Paoluzzo: Shanghai, Edition Stemmle, Thalwil/Zurich and New York 2000
Ferit Kuyas: Industrial Interiors, Edition Stemmle, Thalwil/Zurich and New York 1999


Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA
Howard Stein Collection, New York, USA
Portland Musuem of Arts, Portland OR, USA
Musèe de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium
F. Hoffmann-La Roche Collection, Basel, Switzerland
Centrum Bank, Vaduz Liechtenstein
Metron Collection, Brugg AG, Switzerland
La Fototeca, Guatemala City
EWD Collection, Davos, Switzerland
NOK (AXPO) Collection, Baden, Switzerland
Interartes, Zürich, Switzerland


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