The exhibition presents the city of Zurich and its people as they lived and worked during the tumultuous times between 1967 and 1976, when youthful rebellion and sexual revolution confronted bourgeois morality and order. The two photographers Willy Spiller and Fred Mayer will exhibit some of their best-known works at Bildhalle, images that are visually intense, absurd and a witty testimony to the zeitgeist of that time.
Willy Spiller has become well known as a photojournalist far beyond Switzerland. In his unmistakable artistic style and with his precise eye, he has photographed Swiss and international celebrieties in historically eventful years, amongst them people like Alfred Hitchcock, Paul Nizon, Federico Fellini, Hildegard Schwaninger, Lady Shiva, Walter Pfeiffer and David Weiss.
It was a time in which Zurich was a completely different city: more raw and wild, but also conservative, bourgeois and sexist. „I have regularly noticed that his heart opened up when we worked on the fringes of ordinary society, in the grey zones of urban coexistence, in the twilight, where common moral concepts are expanded, repressed or turned upside down,“ says journalist Stephan Bosch in a portrait about Spiller. Or as the writer Paul Nizon puts it: Spiller photographs „with a blunt, fresh and gripping gaze, a mixture of unapologetic curiosity and rogue complicity, but also fraternal compassion.“
Fred Mayer shows vintage prints from his three-part series „Zürcher Panoptikum“, originally published in the weekend edition of the «Neuen Zürcher Zeitung» in 1972, accompanied by a text by Hugo Lötscher.
Whether publishers, artists, street sweepers or loiterers, they all appeared in front of Mayer’s camera free of charge.
Following the principle of US photographer Irving Penn, Fred Mayer did not portray his protagonists posing within their familiar milieu, but rather with their guard down against a neutral background in his studio. The resulting portraits of around 90 Zurich residents are intimate and timeless, and include celebrities such as Ueli Prager, Max Bill, Hugo Lötscher, Sigmund Widmer and the painter Varlin. Even now-extinct professions, no longer to be found in Zurich, such as beer drivers, fish sellers, master wainwrights, manual typesetters and coppersmiths, can be spotted amongst the photographs. Equipped with a typical professional tool or item, they represent their guild or craft, while others remain anonymous as they often wandered directly off the streets into Mayer‘s studio.
THE ZÜRCHER 1971
March 28 – May 11
Bildhalle, Stauffacherquai 56
For the opening of the exhibition the book ZÜRICH 1967-1976 by Willy Spiller
2019, published by Bildhalle, 500 copies, signed and numbered, 200 pages, 100 images, with a foreword of Stefan Zweifel will be released. ISBN 978-3-9525066-0-8