Fotograf Magazine

From the Prague Uprising to the General Strike

He Died in the Last Seconds of the War by Tibor Hont, Totaleinsatz by Zdeněk Tmej or Children on the Bridge by Dagmar Hochová: photographs that have become part of the canon of art history by happy coincidence or, if you will, due to their exceptional formal and aesthetic qualities. Thanks to the book by Alena Lábová, we can now appreciate more than just their artistic quality, as is mostly the case in the history of Czech photography. Lábová writes about photography in the context of historical events, political changes, and institutional conditions. Students of journalism at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague, where the author taught in the 1970s, may find the information needed for their state exam in the book; others may see the publication as an important and refreshing insight into the history of the photographic medium that can be anything, not just art.

In the generally chronological flow of information, Alena Lábová alternately focuses on photographers, publication and institutional platforms and the contemporary reflection of journalistic photography, comprehensively describing the milieu the written history of photography is based on. Sometimes, she adds her comments to the period texts or highlights certain passages, for example, in the case of the postwar production by Jiří Jeníček, whom she appreciates mainly for the following statement: “Not everyone should be able to take photographs, but everyone should be able to read photography.” Most covered texts, however, are included in the book without any further comment, and the selected methodology was not the most important thing for the author. The almost 600-page publication will serve primarily information purposes, and its power lies mainly in the collected material, the combination of journalism history, the theory of photography and the institutional history of the medium, and the span of the time frame covering the period from the Prague uprising to the Velvet Revolution.

 

Lábová, Alena. Česká novinářská fotografie (Czech journalistic photography) 19451989. Prague: Karolinum, 2019. ISBN 978-80-246-3713-6.

Hana Buddeus

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