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Artist' biography

exhibition view WALTER PFEIFER, september 2013, SULTANA

 
     
 


Initially a painter, draughtsman and graphic designer, Walter Pfeiffer started to use photographs as aide­memoirs while working on large­scale photorealist pencil drawings in the early 1970s. But soon Pfeiffer developed a ge­nuine passion for photography and its capacity to capture transient epiphanies of beauty. Stimulated by a cast of handsome drifters and stylish women, his very own personal Warhol­inspired “Factory”, he began to carve out his trademark style that testifies to both his desire for timeless beauty and his precise observation of the permutations of fashion and style. His breakthrough as a photographer was a series of images of a young man in drag that was included in Jean­ Christophe Amman’s seminal “Transformer” exhibition in 1974, the same year as Pfeiffer’s first solo photo exhibition, a series of assemblages of photographs and fabrics, which will be shown for the first time since 1974.

In 1981, he published his book “Walter Pfeiffer” (recently reprinted by JRP / Ringier), whose cheeky eroticism and raw immediacy was in perfect tune with the Punk / Wave movement, while prefiguring the diary­like, ostentatiously unpretentious approach to photography that would become popular in the 1990s. For most of the 1980s, Pfeiffer embarked on a quest for male beauty that culminated in “DasAuge, die Gedanken, unentwegt wandernd”, a 1986 series of b/w close­up portraits of young men, whose elegant reduction was the result of years of study and expe­rimentation.

Subsequently, Pfeiffer dedicated himself to drawing for a number of years, only to return to photography in the late 1990s. In 2001, he published “WelcomeAboard”, an overview of recent and past photographs, which proved that he has remained as youthful and exuberant as ever.

Pfeiffer's last book is "Scrapbooks 1969-1985, (Patrick Frey Editions - 2011). Walter Pfeiffer’s Scrapbooks from 1969 to 1982 are a very unique Wunderkammer. Pfeiffer’s Polaroids and photographs alternate with miscellaneous objects – newspaper clippings, postcards, packaging, tickets – and brief punning notes. Pfeiffer assembles all of this into a large collage full of surprising references and comparisons that is both a visual diary and creative foundation of his artistic work. In his scrap books, Pfeiffer’s keen view of Eros, Zeitgeist and popular culture, his disrespectful humor as well as his appreciation for the poetry in the mundane and banal, are sharply revealed. They offer a view into Pfeiffer’s meandering and playful universe and are a contemporary document that captures the Zeitgeist of the 1970s and 1980s with ephemeral elegance.

In recent years, he has ceaselessly refined his approach to photography and has worked for international magazines such as Self Service, iD, Butt, Fantastic Man Magazine, Gentle Woman and French Vogue.