1982 - Photobook "Kunst der Verweigerung"*,
Graffitis in Swiss youth centers
1986 - Photobook "Schaut uns an"*, portraits of people over 80
1987 - Photobook "Mäss auf dem Petersplatz"
1988 - Photobook "Spitzen-Plätze"*, (portraits of The Swiss Elite)
1992 - Photobook "Switch", portraits of photographers
1992 - Photobook "Face to Face", portraits of artists
1995 - Photobook "Mario Botta, Bank am Aeschenplatz Basel"*
2000 - Auch Ich... - (Me Too...) - Autobiography
hardcover, text pages 192 and 28 photo pages, 13x22 cm
publisher Berlin Ost
Translation (German to English):
Her mother was Hungarian, her father Polish. They both were Jewish and lived in Berlin. They owned two tobacco stores and lived comfortably until 1933 - when the Nazis came to power in Germany.
In 1936, they reluctantly sent their three young daughters to Switzerland while they were preparing for emigration to the United States. The papers for Heinz and Louitschika Leiner were finally ready, those for the children were not. As the political climate worsened in Berlin, still no papers for the girls. Soon the parents were deported to Poland. Weekly letters arrived to the girls in Teufen, Switzerland until 1942. Shortly afterward, Heinz and Louitschika, and many relatives were gassed in Auschwitz.
In 1998, the eldest sister and Vera's surrogate mother, Adele, died. From Adele's daughter, Vera received a shocking hoard - eighty letters from her parents, that Adele had hidden from her sister for more than fifty years. Thus, the internationally acclaimed photographer was once again confronted with the murder of her family more than a half a century after the Holocaust.
At the same time, Vera was diagnosed with breast cancer. Three days after the mastectomy, she began to write her autobiography. Soon after, she definitely had blue flowers tattooed over her scars...
New York in 1980 was a turning point. Vera Isler, an artist in many media, fell in Central Park while roller-skating with her 16-year-old daughter Kate. After breaking her wrist, she resigned herself to the only thing she could still do - push the release button on her camera; and push she did with increasing success. Her photographs of the first gay and lesbian parades in both Los Angeles and San Francisco were the breakthrough that propelled her career in Switzerland. From this point on, she was offered steady work from a number of Swiss publications.
Then came her books of old people photographs. At a time of youth worship, no publisher was willing to touch a volume of portraits of people of a certain age. Especially, of people over eighty. Not only did this tribute to the elderly become a bestseller in Switzerland, but also equally successful was "Face to Face", a book of black and white portraits of artists. This collection, a continuing project, is now comprised of more than a hundred and fifty large-sized pictures that travel through the galleries of Europe and the United States. Vera has had many eminent artists before her Nikon: Baselitz, Beuys, Louise Bourgeoise, Botta, Christo, Fetting, Hopper, Koon, Annie Leibowitz, Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Lüpertz, Nam June Paik, Penck, Rauschenberg, Pipilotti Rist, Tapies, Tuttle, Wegmann, Andrea Zittel...
Chapter One (English translation by Marcy Goldberg)
Papa held me in his arms, in the middle of Berlin, in the middle of the night. He was wearing his beige and white - or were they blue and white! - striped pyjamas.
Wrapped snugly in a blanket, I looked out at the dark, rainy night. I was with Papa. That was the important thing. But why was everything so hectic? Papa waiting for a taxi in his pyjamas. Why? I don't remember any more.
I had to have my stomack pumped, my sisters told me later. Is my memory playing tricks on me now? I can clearly see myself sitting in my little bed, a cot with side railings so I wouldn't fall out. All three of us slept in the same room . Adele, the oldest, Judith, the middle sister, and I, Vera, the youngest. The baby of the family.
Of course I didn't want to go right to sleep when Papi and Mutti came to kiss us goodnight. They left the room. Someone - the nanny? Dely or Judy? - gave me a fateful tube filled with something, to play with in my cot. I could shake it, rattle it, twist and turn it and - finally - open it. What was inside must have been especially good. They say I was sleeping blissfully when they found me.
Sixty years later. This time I am also in bed. Staring at the ceiling. Wide awake at last. The anaesthetic has finally worn off. I'm trying to fit the fragments of memories together. I move my feet under the blanket. They're okay. I move my fingers one at a time. Okay. Raising my arms is more difficult. I can't sit up. My entire ribcage is wrapped in bandages.
Clearly and distinctly it dawns on me. A part of my body is missing. Cut off. If a man said that I'd immediately think it was his penis. I my case - my breasts. Both of them including the nipples. Gone. The next morning: two awful seams about six inches long stretch thick and red across my chest.
Who always writes so soothingly that breast surgery is much less radical today, that only part of the breast must be removed? I happen to belong to the twenty percent of cases with a higher risk factor. I never did have much luck at gambling. Why should I have better luck now, when my life is at stake? Clearly, I didn't have much choice but to agree: " Remove them!"
All I can do is wait and see , and hope. It'll take more than that to finish me of. (Knock on wood.) Toi, toi, toi...
It's the damned memories that can't be cut away that easily. My oldest sister Adele died a few months ago. Her's was a long, difficult death. Hodgkin's disease, cancer of the lymph glands. She fought it for eight years. At the end the malignancies had spread through her whole body, her lungs were so full of water she could only speak in gasps. Her daughter nursed her lovingly for years. But Adele was haunted by the past: hers, Judith's and mine.
I can't understand it. Now, after my sister's death, an enormous bundle of letters from my parents and from relatives lies on my hospital bed. The earliest are dated 1936. Eveline, my sister's daughter, brought me the precious letters after her mother's death.
Over the years, I had often exchanged little episodes and memories with my sisters, ridiculously small visual fragments. Sometimes we even quarrelled about them. Both sisters accused me of imagining things, called me an impossible know-it-all. First of all, how could I, a little thing of three or four, remember anything? And secondly, I could never have been in Poland, as I claimed. They had visited Mutti's relatives in Hungary a few times but had never travelled to Poland. "And neither did you!"
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