Zurich – Until January 2018
NEW YORK / LOS ANGELES 1977 – 1985
Between 1977 and 1985 Swiss photographer Willy Spiller lived in New York and L.A. Fascinated by the speed, the energy and the absurdity of the 1970s and `80s, he roamed the streets far and wide with his camera. Whether it was rides on the subway, dancers at the legendary Studio 54, hip-hop culture in the streets of New York or the poolside life of L.A.`s high society, Spiller captured all the many facets of a bygone world in images as varied, as fascinating and as absurd as that world itself had been. In the process, he combines his curiosity for his fellow human beings with a profound understanding of the beauty of the banal and mundane in the world around him. It is this that ensures his place in the annals of great Swiss photography. Like many of the resonating names before him, he managed to translate empathy into form through strength of will. Or, as his long-time friend and companion Paul Nizon so aptly put it: "I`ve often asked myself what made Willy Spiller`s photography so forthright, so refreshing and so riveting. I believe it`s a blend of unabashed curiosity and roguish complexity combined with a fraternal sense of compassion. It isn`t something you learn at school: it`s more a question of class, of predisposition, and ultimately of character. Behind the swashbuckling, wheeler-dealing façade is a dreamer, a man hungry for life and beauty. And that is the reason he sides with humanity, which is just another way of saying that he had an innate love of mankind. That is the way he sees things. And it is driven by a highly developed artistic energy.
«Willy Spiller is one of Switzerland`s greatest living photographers. A man of his metier through and through, he has shown us that photography can often go deeper if it focuses on the surface and that great things are sometimes born of humility. Spiller is a photographer of people and their stories. His pictures decipher the human comedy: he succeeds in impressing us with the unremarkable, sees the tragedy in the ridiculous but also the humour in the depressing and the elegance in what is essentially tasteless. Aloof but invariably respectful, unsentimental but always driven by feeling, his photographs lead us through the present, and without going into too much depth, without any grand gestures, paint a glittering image of human achievement, passion and ambition.»