Much of photography criticism comes down to one basic question: what makes this or that photograph worth looking at? Predictably, most of these rumination center around the literal subject matter rather than the style or vision of the photographer or the qualities of the photograph as object. Yet that emphasis, in itself, tells much
about how people look at photographs. Cumulatively, these monologues comprise a fascinating contribution to the literature of photography, an oral sociology of the photographic image in our time.
All transactional portraits - images in which the subject is aware of the camera - are collaborations. But portraits of artists, who are trained in the nuances of image, are in that sense especially interactive. --- Visual Literacy by A.D. Coleman, N.Y.
SWITCH - Photographers Face the Camera
Clothbound, 226 pages, 160 b/w duotone
8.75 x 10 in. (22 x 25 cm.)
Friedrich Reinhardt/Una Papers
Switch is what Vera Isler, photographer from Basel, calls this book. Over a period of five years, she visited and photographed eighty colleagues,
thus turning the makers of photographs into photography's subject matter. Isler's sitters include such celebrities as Arnold Newman, Richard Avedon,
Giséle Freund, Elliott Erwitt, Annie Leibovitz, Inge Morath and Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Professional photographers are difficult subjects; they know how skillfully their medium can lie, how easily it may enhance or distort. Nonetheless,
Vera Isler's colleagues accepted the challenge of being photographed and responded with generosity and love required not only behind but also in front of the camera.
Brief biographies and statements, in her own languages comments on the reversal of roles, complement the portraits.
Click to view selected portraits from SWITCH
To purchase SWITCH or email Vera Isler
Click to view a complete list of photographers in "SWITCH"
FACE TO FACE - Portraits of Artists
Softcover, 75 pages, 60 b/w duotone
9 x 11.5 in. (24 x 30 cm.)
Publisher: F.Reinhardt Verlag, Switzerland
Vera Isler's cleanly designed, duotone - printed Face to Face: Portraits of Artists brings together 60 contemporary artists, while also serving as the catalogue of an installation of large-scale prints that has been presented internationally. Stylistically, these portraits follow a
tradition that goes back at least as far as Edward Steichen's Rodin studies: artists working in their environment juxtaposed with examples of their work. Unlike, say, Arnold Newman, Isler attempts no particular pre-planning and consistently maintains a distance of about six feet from her sitters. Her strength is in her unobtrusiveness,
and her ability to wait until her subjects settle into comfortable, yet characteristic postures. Particularly strong here: Duane Michals, Doug and Mike Starn, Marina Abramovic and Dennis Hopper.
--- Visual Literacy by A.D. Coleman, N.Y.
Click to view selected portraits from Face to Face
To purchase Face to Face or email Vera Isler
Click to view a complete list of artists in Face to Face
Installation, photo of exhibition "Face to Face" in the Kunsthalle Vienna, 1992.
This portrait gallery presents "famous" members of the family: of a community.
Pictures of personalities, of unique individuals, each adopting a pose and waiting.
This is a moment, this "snapshot" which constitutes a link to the painted portaits.
Each has suspended his or her activities to appear; each poses by the attributes of his or her profession and position; each develops his or her picture around typical everyday objects. Photographs paint and state a fact.
The "local colour" emerges from the characteristics of the decor; the touch of light; the contrasts of glances exchanged.
It is surprising in our times to find a photographer who adopts a style akin to classical painting.
--- Gilbert Perlein, Curator,
translation of the catalogue Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporian Nice, 1992.
Over the last ten years, Vera Isler has called on a large number of well-known artists in their studios. Her visits produced a series of photographs that give a valuable impression of some leading contemporary artists and provide an opportunity for a face-to-face encounter. Most of the photographs by this Basel-based photo artist were taken in the subjects' homes or studios since her aim was to present them as human beings and not as famous personalities. All the portraits are in black and white and measure 170 x 120 cm.