The Swiss journalist, photographer, and lesbian icon, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, was born on this day in 1908.
One of the many photographs of Annemarie Schwarzenbach taken by her close friend and most likely her lover, Marianne Breslauer (x).
Annemarie Minna Renée
Schwarzenbach was born on May 23, 1908 in Zurich, Switzerland. Her family
afforded her a privileged life, her father being a wealthy business who worked
in the silk industry and her mother being the daughter of a prominent general
in the Swiss army. Annemarie’s mother was also bisexual and an artist herself
who loved photography; Renée Schwarzenbach’s bisexuality could possibly have
been the reason Annemarie’s penchant for dressing in boy’s clothes and
participating in “boy’s activities” was not punished during her childhood. She
would later attend the University of Zurich, where she began having
relationships with women.
One of Annemarie’s first serious
partners was Erika Mann, daughter of the famous writer Thomas Mann. The two met
in 1930 and although their romantic relationship would not last long, she,
Erika, and Erika’s gay brother Klaus would all three remain lifelong friends.
It was while living with Klaus in Berlin that Annemarie was introduced to hard
drugs and the party lifestyle. A close friend, Ruth Landshoff, would later
write that she “lived dangerously. She drank too much. She never went to sleep
before dawn.” With the rise of the Nazis to power, she became estranged
from her family, who were Nazi sympathizers and resented Annemarie’s
antifascist beliefs and friendship with the Jewish Mann family.
Annemarie photographed with her lover Ella Maillart. Ella was a fellow travel writer and the two embarked on expansive travels together to places such as Afghanistan and Turkmenistan (x).
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s,
Annemarie produced over 170 articles and 50 photo reports for Swiss, German,
and American magazines. She would spend the majority of her life
traveling and writing around Europe with colorful companions such as the photographer Marianne Breslauer, the Manns, and her eventual
husband, Achille-Claude Clarac. Achille was a gay French diplomat who sought marriage
for the same reason Annemarie did: social convenience. With the cover of her
marriage, she was free to seduce many women on her
travels, including ethnologist Ella Maillart, the daughter or a Turkish
Ambassador, Baronessa Margot von Opel, and the writer Carson McCullers.
As the years went on, Annemarie’s drug addiction worsened. Despite her several suicide attempts, it was a
biking accident that would eventually lead to Annemarie’s death on November 15,
1942. After falling from her bike in September of that year and sustaining a
serious head injury, she was shut up in a clinic by her family, where she was
misdiagnosed and was refused access to any visitors that were not members of the
Schwarzenbach family. Although her mother destroyed her letters and diaries following her
death, the people she called her true family – her LGBT friends and companions –
preserved her professional writings and photographs in the Swiss Literary
Archives in Bern.