Maryam Eisler (b. 1968) is a London-based photographer, editor and art patron.
Eisler holds a BA from Wellesley College and an MBA from Columbia University. She has held executive editorial roles on various arts publications and is also a member of the Tate International Council and co-chair of Tate’s MENAAC acquisitions committee. She is also a trustee of the Whitechapel Gallery, on the advisory board for Photo London, and a nominator for the Prix Pictet Photography Prize.
IMAGINING TINA: A DIALOGUE WITH EDWARD WESTON
For the Imagining Tina series, Eisler reimagined the passionate love affair between the great American photographer Edward Weston and fellow photographer, muse, lover, and activist Tina Modotti. Eisler attempted to relive Edward and Tina’s revolutionary and bohemian “Mexico“ years, all the while imagining Tina through Edward’s intimate gaze. Eisler’s camera seeks the sensuous whilst painting contours with shadow and light.
The series was shot on Wildcat Hill in Carmel, California, where Edward Weston lived from 1938 until his death in 1958. The “Little Grey Home in the West” is now home to Edward’s grandson, fine art photographer, Kim Weston and his wife, Gina.
The series consists of 19 sensual monochrome Platinum prints produced by the master Platinum printer, Martin Axon, whose craft has been used by many of the big names in the industry, among them Robert Maplethorpe, Host P. Horst, Annie Leibowitz and Patrick Demarchelier. The process involves printing on natural deckled edge Arches Platine paper, especially commissioned by Martin at the Arches paper mill in France.
“Whilst visiting the home of Edward Weston near Carmel in California, I stood in Edward’s original dark room, surrounded by his objects, all maintained as he had left them. These objects found in their original soulful setting triggered my own journey of creative fantasy. And, so I began to re-imagine Edward and Tina’s tumultuous affair, transported by time, space and place. It is the passion in their relationship and the role of Tina as muse, but also as a temptress, a collaborator and an instigator which has intrigued me for years.
Photographing at Weston’s home, I realised without conscious intent that I was, for the first time, honing in on the body, with an emphasis on purity of form, whilst attempting to extract an essence of the Sublime Feminine through shadow and light, the recurrent theme in my oeuvre. I was intent to present a closer and more intimate view of Woman; to give a visual interpretation of how I imagined Edward looking at Tina, at the height of their passion, all the while travelling a fine line between lust and trust, between the untouchable and the intimate.”
SEARCHING FOR EVE IN THE AMERICAN WEST
A fascination for the American West has exercised a profound attraction for artists and photographers for over two centuries. Ansel Adams’ work in particular is regarded as part of a tradition of Western American photography that began in the late 19th century and included the works of Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge and Edward Curtis; Curtis spent 30 years on an ambitious photo-anthropological exercise documenting 80 Native American tribes west of the Mississippi. With such obsession has grown much fascination with the region’s spectacular nature and wildness.
Whilst working on a major book on American artists and their studios in 2012, Eisler fell in love with the rugged and majestic landscape of New Mexico. She later returned, camera in hand, hoping to capture some of the regions magic and spirituality. It was here that her first series of photographs, Searching for Eve in the American West, was born.
EURYDICE IN PROVENCE
Whilst scouting for locations for her second major body of work, Eisler discovered the Carrieres de Lumieres (Quarries of Light), an extraordinary site which was once a bauxite quarry in the bowels of the Val d’Enfer (Valley of Hell).
The Carrieres also provided the setting for Jean Cocteau’s seminal 1960s film, Le Testament d’Orphée (Testament of Orpheus). As Virgil tells us, Orpheus once descended into the underworld, but it was he who returned whilst Eurydice remained. The term ‘quarry’ itself can mean ‘something chased or sought,’ and who was possibly pursued with more vigour than the woman Orpheus followed to hell?
This other-worldly backdrop in southern France became the first setting for Eurydice in Provence – a collection of elegant, monochromatic photographs of the female form – where the artist has juxtaposed myth and reality to explore ancient and universal themes: love and lust, trust, ‘The Divine Feminine,’ human temptation, invincible passion, and mankind’s insignificance amidst the greatness of nature.