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Vera Mercer

M. Harder

152 pages
Distanz Verlag Gmbh Llc
In recent years, Vera Mercer (b. Berlin, 1936; lives and works in Omaha, Nebraska, and Paris) has garnered international attention primarily with opulent still lifes she started creating in Paris and Omaha in 2006. Mercer has been photographing people since the 1960s. She liked to roam the cafés of Paris, where she observed the patrons and studied their behaviors with an almost sociological eye. The resulting pictures are stills from an imaginary movie, ephemeral images capturing moments on the stage that is the world. She also made artists’ portraits suffused with great intensity; among her subjects were her ex-husband Daniel Spoerri, Niki de Saint Phalle, Andy Warhol, and Norman Mailer. Her most recent color portraits, on which she has worked since 2012, primarily in Omaha, show her models amid arranged still lifes in Mercer’s huge apartment. As in her classical still lifes, earlier pictures occasionally appear in the background. The sitters represent a wide range of occupations and social classes: domestic staff and cooks, artists and curators from her circle of friends, film distributors and directors all slip into new roles for these tableaux vivants. Mercer’s idea to merge the still life and the portrait, two genres that had long existed side by side in her oeuvre, in unique theatrical productions is without precedent in the history of photography. Rather than trying to frame a universally valid characterization of a personality, her art is a sumptuously sensual celebration of life. With an essay by Matthias Harder and a conversation between Vera Mercer and Uta Grosenick.