Biography Photography

Photo: René Groebli, 1984

So-called reality is the result of communication
Paul Watzlawick

Steff Gruber (1953) grew up in a lake community in Zurich in a family of artists. During and after his time at the Gymnasium Juventus in Zurich he attended from 1972 film lectures and film courses with Martin Schlappner, Viktor Sidler, Georg Radanowicz, Walter Marti and Sebastian C. Schröder at the University of Zurich, the ETH Zurich and at the F+F, School for Design. During his two-year studies at the F+F, School of Design, he studied with Doris Stauffer, Serge Stauffer, Hansjörg Mattmüller and Peter Jenny. He also worked as a press photographer for Keystone Press and as a camera assistant for the cameramen Hans-Peter Roth and Alex Jent.

Since 1970 Gruber has been intensively involved with photography: he built his first black-and-white photo labs and soon thereafter professionally equipped colour labs. In 1974 he studied «Mass Media Philosophy» for one year at the University of Georgia in the USA, where he met the painter, filmmaker and photographer James Herbert. This friendship had a lasting influence on Gruber and continues to influence his work to this day.

His first big trip, which he undertook together with the British cameraman Andy Humphreys, took him from Georgia across the USA and northern Mexico to Los Angeles. There he worked for a short time in 1975 as an assistant in the film and video production company US on Television in the Venice district. The company primarily produced concert recordings. A Nikon and a Polaroid SX70 instant camera were his faithful companions. In 1977 he researched new photographic techniques to fuse the slide positive with the instant image. He called his method diatypie. In the 1970s Steff Gruber was one of the first filmmakers to deal with the docudrama genre. Since 1978 he has worked as an independent filmmaker. He became internationally known with his documentary Location Africa, about the shooting of Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski for the film Cobra Verde.

In 1984 he accompanied the US-American painter Sam Francis on his journey through Switzerland. At that time Francis was intensively occupied with the life and work of C.G. Jung and the two visited important places and the then still living descendants of Jung.

Gruber taught film, video and electronic media (1994-1997) at various schools and colleges, including the Institute for Communication Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Konstanz (Germany). In 2012 Gruber founded the cultural magazine TOX for art, photography, film, architecture and literature. Today, in 2019, the subject of photography has once again moved to the center of his life: Gruber is intensively involved with street photography. He is also concerned with questions relating to «analog versus digital» and his former method, the diatypie, which he is reviving today.

With his art projects and, he investigates the Internet, mostly with so-called bots, i.e. fully automated, for sex images, which then become the subject of his art installations in a modified form.

In addition to his various activities, Gruber now heads the cultural advertising company ALIVE Media AG, the film production company KINO.NET AG and is a member of the board of directors of the event marketing company MODUL AG. With the company WaveFactory, also founded by him, he deals with the propogation of radio waves and writes articles about high frequency technology.