Elfriede Mejchar

* 10. May 1924, † 11. October 2020 in Vienna

Born in Vienna in the roaring twenties; grew up with mother and vegetable gardens during the barren thirties in Lower Austria. Passed the assistant's examination in photography in northern Germany in the last year of the war. Young in the fifties (out of time). 1953 first own camera (Leica) through good connections to the West. 1960 Master's examination in photography at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna. Since then busy earning money. Commissions all over Austria, so I saw a lot of beautiful and also badly preserved houses, churches and institutions. Always on the search for the right lighting, whether by sky or artificial light. (Elfriede Mejchar)

Elfriede Mejchar practised photography as a profession. She documented Austrian cultural assets for the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments. During the 32 years from 1952 to 1984 that she criss-crossed Austria photographing for this office, she developed in parallel her own personal thematic focuses and fields of interest (scarecrows and provincial hotel rooms, car wrecks and wastelands, industrial buildings, power plants and barns), on which she constantly orbited, sometimes over decades. Thus a huge and astonishingly multi-layered body of work has emerged, which shows her very personal, authentic approach to reality in all its facets.

All b/w photos were developed by Elfriede Mejchar herself. In this way, she was able to intervene creatively not only with the camera but also in the darkroom. It was not until the conversion of the house in which her studio was located that she was forced to give up working in the darkroom.

Another side of her work was concerned with people. Early on, in the 1950s, she created portraits of famous artistic personalities, and especially in the last two decades she produced series of her subtly erotic stagings and collages, to which she began to devote herself as she grew older.

Elfriede Mejchar's works have been presented in important galleries, collections and museums. The Museum of the 20th Century in Vienna (1976), the Blau-Gelbe Galerie in Herrengasse (1992), the Fotogalerie Wien (2000) and FLUSS (2009) dedicated solo exhibitions and retrospectives to her. In 2008, the Wien Museum showed her photographs from the outskirts of Vienna (Simmeringer Heide and Erdberger Mais, Triester Strasse, Wienerberger brick factory, Victor Alder chemical plant). Her famous flower shots were shown in the Leopold Museum in Vienna and an overview of her photo series from 2010 and 2014 in the Museum of the State of Lower Austria in St. Pölten.

In 1998 Elfriede Mejchar received the Karl Weiser Award for Photography, in 2002 the Prize for Artistic Photography of the Federal Chancellery/Art Section, in 2004 the Prize of the City of Vienna for Fine Arts and the Prize of the State of Lower Austria for Photography, and in 2016 the Gold Medal of Merit of the State of Vienna.

Elfriede Mejchar – A Life with Photography (German)

Video: OKTO/BUTTERBROT, 2001 Harald Burger
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