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Photographer Iren Stehli divides her time between Switzerland and the Czech Republic. For the past 30 years, her black-and-white images have explored the concept of time. As the guest of the Hermès Foundation at TH13, she reveals a fragment of contemporary eastern European history.
Iren Stehli's powerful documentary images are devoid of nostalgia. And yet they present an old-fashioned, somewhat out-of-touch world, with lucidity and frank sincerity: the world of Czech society in transition from one regime to another. Taken over several decades, the pictures form an important photojournalistic record of a multifaceted period, organised into three series: Dance, Fashion Shows and Shop Fronts.
The Dance series charts the artist's experience of the dance schools of Prague in the 1970s, attended by young men and women eager to try learning the waltz, or the mambo. Stehli's pictures offer no particular message: she is quite simply fascinated by her subjects' elegant gestures, glances and poses, by the theatricality of the setting, the quality of the light.
In Fashion Shows, the photographer attends an audition for young female models, observing the disconnection between their awkward poses and the Western consumerist ideal.
Shop Fronts records the decor, arrangement and contents of Prague's storefronts and windows over more than three decades, charting the evolution from an anti-capitalist, authoritarian model to a society of unbridled consumerism, fuelled by advertising. Iren Stehli's close-cropped, full frontal images focus intently on their subjects – essential witnesses to the spirit of the age.
Exhibition curator: Paul Cottin