To only briefly evaluate the comprehensive publication on Jaroslava Kučera for Fotograf magazine may seem unfair. Its author, Kateřina Svatoňová, has opened up several crucial topics, but the chapter on the photography by the famous cameraman is the weakest part of the otherwise excellent text. The problem lies in the inadequacy of the use of art and historical concepts. Svatoňová puts Kučera’s (undated) photographs in the context of a wide range of stylistic categories, from surrealism and informel, new realism and new sensitivity to everyday photography, civilism and new materialism. Such an attitude, however, does not correspond to the study material.
The importance of the photographs is not in the similarity or belonging to specific, historically conditioned “isms” but in the long development of the cameraman’s media practices. The camera enabled Kučera to record visual motives, image compositions and colour combinations which he then used when working on films. It was his visual thinking, a way of seeing and thinking about the image that became the very themes of the book. Svatoňová deals with them as a theorist of the moving image. She answers accurately posed questions: Who is the cameraman? Why do the film interpretations usually sideline his work in favour of the director? What is the media specificity of his work? And what is the role of the archive which includes the photographs she refers to? With this theoretical, interdisciplinary approach, Svatoňová explicitly distances herself from the dominant genre of traditional monograph based on the sequence of the author’s life and work. The presentation of a compelling alternative to this genre is the greatest advantage of the reviewed book. The main objection, however, is that in several passages, even Svatoňová did not avoid the misery of monographic writing when she removed Kučera’s photographs from his media practices and put them into the stylish categories of new realism or everyday photography.
Svatoňová, Kateřina. Mezi-obrazy: Mediální praktiky kameramana Jaroslava Kučery (Between Images: Media Methods Used by Jaroslav Kučera). Prague: The National Film Archive, Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, MasterFilm, 2016. ISBN: 978-80-7004-174-1