Theo Frey endowed his photographs with social commitment and a deep sympathy to the lives of ordinary people. His main work originated in the late 1930s and 40s and is primarily dedicated to rural life in Switzerland. From the 1950s on, he worked mainly for charitable institutions, and his role as a reportage photographer faded into the background.
From today’s point of view, it is the “unjournalistic” and somewhat austere images that capture the attention, images created in calm and concentrated observation of the world, full of the traces and signs that tell, undramatically, of the passage of time. The sensitivity with which Frey composed his works is particularly evident in his still-lifes and interiors: photographs of lovingly decorated living room walls or coincidentally arranged kitchen utensils give inkling of tribulation and want, but also of the hopes and dreams of the people connected with them.
Theo Frey never described his work as art; his social and political conscience made him skeptical of purely formal and aesthetic games. But he knew very well that his “documents” owed their power and significance to incisive creative design. “Although I was always first and foremost a documentarist, I was a documentarist who, whenever possible, approached things from the aesthetic side.”