For her latest collection of photographs, Eisler has re-imagined the passionate love affair between esteemed American photographer Edward Weston and fellow artist, muse, lover, and activist Tina Modotti. Having become lovers after she posed for him, they first travelled to Mexico in 1923, where they remained for five years.
London-based, Iranian-born Eisler is best known for her dynamic portfolio career in the arts. A photographer, patron, editor and publisher, her many accolades also include membership of the Tate’s International Council, while participating as a co-chair of the Tate’s MENAAC acquisitions committee, the advisory board of Photo London and as a trustee of the Whitechapel Gallery, London.
Folkloric locations and compelling spaces driven by spectacular natural light are the driving force behind Eisler’s oeuvre. While shaping her artistic vision and her overall concept of the human figure within the context of nature, her photographic adventures have taken her to an abandoned stone quarry in Provence, Havana, Iceland, Santa Fe and the rugged mountains and rivers of upstate New York. Recent travails capturing the female form in mythic landscapes or places of historic significance have taken her to the big open skies of New Mexico, the mountains of the Catskills (in Upstate New York) and to Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch (where the artist lived and worked from the 1940s until her death in 2012). For her latest pilgrimage, Eisler has travelled to one of the spiritual birthplaces of American fine art photography in California.
That spiritual motherland is Edward Weston’s museum-like home on Wildcat Hill in Carmel Highlands. A pioneer who moved photography as a craft from the pictorial to the modernist, Weston lived here off and on from 1938 until his death in 1958. A lifelong Weston enthusiast, Eisler reached out to the estate to request permission to visit. To her delight, Kim Weston, Edward’s grandson - a fine art photographer in his own right - who runs the house with his wife Gina invited her to stay.
The cabin has been thoroughly lived in for the last 50 years and yet is very much as Edward left it. Eisler accepted Kim’s gracious invite to California, where she was treated to first-hand stories of Edward Weston and Tina Modotti around a fireplace that has burned logs almost every day for decades. As a child of the Iranian revolution herself, she was entranced by the stories of Edward and Tina’s Mexico years, where their inner circle of friends included Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Residing at Weston’s home, surrounded by his artefacts, objects and original dark room set Eisler off on a creative fantasy.
“And, so I began to re-imagine Edward and Tina’s tumultuous affair, transported by time, space and place”, says Eisler by way of explanation. “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, 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”, she adds, “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.”
In the latest exploration of female nudes, Eisler attempts to relive Edward and Tina’s revolutionary “Mexico years”, all the while imagining Tina through Edward’s intimate gaze. Her camera seeks out the sensuous, while painting contours with shadow, capturing each image in natural light. Photographed at Wildcat Hill, Eisler takes the bodily experience and transports the viewer back in time, charging the prints with a powerful physical and sexual energy. Delicate but deliberate, the images still resonate sensuality, but in Eisler’s words, “I am interested in Woman with a capital W.” Exploring the female experience is her through line, the gaze strictly female. The exhibition consists of 19 sensual monochrome Platinum prints. Each one 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, Horst P. Horst and Annie Leibowitz.
As a visual storyteller, the core of Eisler’s work is always centred on the Sublime Feminine. Throughout her personal journey of sorts, she has tried to trace and capture the mysterious, procreative power of the female body that has symbolised creativity since the dawn of art.