Iren Stehli at Fotostiftung Schweiz

Iren Stehli – So Near, Yet So Far
Fotostiftung Schweiz
8 March – 25 May 2014

From the series Dancing Lessons, Prague, 1975, Iren Stehli ProLitteris
From the series Dancing Lessons, Prague, 1975, Iren Stehli ProLitteris

Iren Stehli (born 1953 in Zurich) has been engaging with everyday life in the Czech Republic since the early 1970s in the form of photographic essays in which she weaves her photographs into dense fabrics, while at the same time
examining the changing social reality.

The Swiss photographer travelled to Prague regularly, even in the days of the communist regime, so as to immerse herself in a world that was both alien and familiar to her. She was attracted by the difference of Czech everyday life and – thanks to her Czech mother – was easily able to find her footing there.

writing education

Since then, with a mixture of fascination and commiseration, she has observed where and how people live and survive there, how they share joy and happiness or struggle against loneliness and desolation. In the process, Iren Stehli has been inspired repeatedly by seemingly banal and insignificant things: traces and objects that tell earnest stories, or by people going their way inconspicuously yet, on closer observation, radiating a vital energy.

The exhibition “So Near, Yet So Far” is the first survey of Iren Stehli’s work. Her coherent photographic approach is already manifest in her early stories in pictures about the tailor Slama, in her longer-term study of display windows in Prague, her lyrical still-lifes or her monumental work about the Roma woman Libuna, which spans a number of decades. What all these works have in common is a sensitive largely black-and-white pictorial idiom that captures changing moods and responds to the subject with great respect and empathy.