Fotograf Magazine

A Special Anniversary

In 2020, European Photography magazine will celebrate forty years of its existence. It is one of the very few international magazines in the field of photography that has significantly changed the perception of photography as a medium – moving it in a different direction than traditional photography magazines. 

When I think back to our time – to the time of the photographers of my generation – when, in the 1980s, we would run across and obtain a copy only by chance in Prague in what was then still communist Czechoslovakia, I recall that surprising feeling from seeing a new perspective of photography and the associated intellectual and philosophical, aspect, which was a new discovery for us. 

From the very beginning, the magazine’s founder and leader – Andreas Müller-Pohle – collaborated with the well-known German philosopher Vilém Flusser, whose thoughts and concepts regarding the medium of photography were absolutely revolutionary at that time. As compared to the dominant tendency to show photography chiefly as a medium for portraying reality, holding a position somewhere between documentary, aesthetic elegance, and decoration, from the very first, European Photography focused on conceptual tendencies that use photography as a medium for recording an event but, at the same time, also for the purpose of carrying out a provocative philosophical exploration.

It seems to be almost an act of fate that European Photography appeared on the scene a mere one year prior to the demise of the Swiss-published Camera, which had been the leading photography magazine until then. Although the American publication Aperture had already existed for about three decades – and, thank God, still exists today – Europe was lacking magazines that could also play the role of a critical and art-historical medium. It was also at this time that Camera Austria was established. It was not until 2000 that Exit began to be published in Britain, 2001 saw the establishment of the Dutch Foam, and in 2002, the Czech Fotograf magazine appeared.

Andreas Müller-Pohle, European Photography’s initiator and publisher, continues to build on the long tradition established by important individuals from the world of photography, who have devoted their energy and creativity not only to their own art, but have also played key roles in cultural activities, such as starting and leading a photography magazine. Such publications have gone on to be considered important milestones in the history of the photographic medium. 

Let us recall Alfred Stieglitz and his legendary Camera Work; Ansel Adams, who was one of the founders of Aperture; Allan Porter, who injected much new life into Camera magazine during its last years, and others.

The success enjoyed by the aforementioned individuals was mainly associated with their ability to use their sense for photography, together with their courage and their enthusiasm for this art, and to surround themselves with highly qualified colleagues from the fields of theory, photography critique, and the fine arts in general. 

Andreas Müller-Pohl and I are personally linked through a long friendship. I was in a situation similar to his for many years as an artist-photographer and the editor-in-chief of Fotograf magazine. Because of the opportunities to meet with him and other colleagues from the international photography scene at various festivals such as FotoFest Houston, Paris Photo, and those in Arles, Krakow, Bratislava, Kyiv, Prague, and elsewhere, we became very close. I know very well how important it is to find and maintain that fragile boundary between personal and public interest. For the future, I wish for him that both these paths he is successfully following concurrently continue to be as rich and full as they are now.

Pavel Baňka