Tamara Wyss was born on 29 April 1950 in Heidelberg. Her school years she spent mainly in Darmstadt. In 1970 she began her training as a filmmaker at the German Film and Television Academy from where she graduated in 1974. Her projects on the Cape Verde Islands resulted in her first major documentary, Between sorrow and laughter; water once a day (1983).
Her interest in China started from an early age, mainly triggered by the children’s books written by her grandmother, Hedwig Weiss-Sonnenburg, which are set in China in the period before and during the national revolution (1911), for example, Book of the little Chinese Li and Plum-Blossom and Kai Lin (the latter was translated into many languages). Many of the objects collected in China aroused Tamara’s interest, such as a pair of tiny cloth shoes with exquisite sole, as they were worn by noble ladies at that time, small wooden figures, which depict scenes from everyday life in China, and many other things such as images and photographs.
Tamara Wyss began to deal with the materials of her grandparents in the 1980ies, including the films and photographs of her grandfather Fritz Weiss. This resulted in the idea to make a photo exhibition and a documentary film, The Chinese Shoes (2004). The photographs were presented for the first time to the public in 2001 at an exhibition in Chengdu; a catalogue with the exhibition’s pictures was printed as well. In 2008 another exhibition, The beginning of a relationship, took place in Chongqing. The book Yesterday in the land of Ba and Shu (2009) was presented in Chengdu in 2009. These activities were the result of a long and intensive research about the history of the images, discussing with colleagues from China, how to gain the best quality of the photographs, etc. The best insight to the photograph’s background, the time and how they reflect the present might still be found in the documentary The Chinese Shoes.
Tamara Wyss left us too early. Her courageous dealing with her illness gave us courage as well. This virtual exhibition may remind us of her life and work.
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