Fotograf Magazine

Pavel Dias: Photographs 1956-2015

Worth Waiting For

The monograph of the photographer Pavel Dias (born in 1938), which was published last year by Karolinum Press, highlights, amongst other things, how much the world has changed since the time his generation stood at the helm. This includes the significance of monographs, as they have become an important mechanism for ensuring a successful artistic career. However, for the older generation, they still remain something of a testament, a work that presents a portrait of an artist for the future. Maybe this is why Pavel Dias took his time before publishing his. We might consider this delay to be needless hesitation, or we may see it as admirable personal modesty. Either way, the result is a certain distance allowed to the editors (who include Dias himself), a view from above, so to speak, which is positively reflected particularly in the selection of the materials included in the photographic section of the publication. It presents a thematically and chronologically organised sampling of Dias’s works, not lacking in logic, compositional balance, or proportional representation of all of the key topics the photographer has focused on over the course of his sixty-year-long career. The reader will find works dating back to the photographer’s secondary school years, photos focused on the theme of horses and racing, shots from his travels through Europe and Asia, and photographs associated with the issues of religiosity, Jewishness and the Holocaust. The final chapter of the publication, with the main theme of factography, is filled with documentary photos from the artist’s archives, capturing meetings with friends, the time when he was working as a photographer for various Czech periodicals, the film environment that he was very close to, and shots from family life.

The monograph is dual-language – Czech and English – and is a standard publication of its kind. The Belavenir Design Studio bound the book in a subtle retro-style cover, reminiscent of the aesthetics of the 1960s, which corresponds well not only with what we will find inside, but also with the artist’s own temperament and his work. One conceptual weakness of what is otherwise a harmonious whole are the somewhat unclear links between the texts written by Filip Láb and Karel Hvížďala. The former introduces the artist’s creative works to the reader; the latter, in the form of an interview and set against the backdrop of the time both were involved with the editorial desk of the magazine Mladý svět, reveals Dias’s complicated personal history. The problem lies in the fact that the contents of the text overlap, not to any dramatic degree, but, because even the narrative patterns of text are duplicated, it is rather distracting. The question arises as to why Filip Láb, an expert in modern communications, chose to write his contribution in a style that was popular four decades ago. Nevertheless, the text is readable and definitely addresses the public, who are used to this style of writing. However, would it not be more effective if someone who is more of a traditional player in the field added the required ‘classic’ touches and Láb then used his professional expertise to provide an external view, thus giving a certain overall perspective? At the end of the publication the reader will find additional texts written by Karel Dvořák, Ludvík Kundera, Anna Fárová, and Arnošt Lustig, which relate to Dias and to his photography. Although they were not originally intended for the monograph, they found a place in the publication in the form of a commentary, expanding its overall scope. Based on the above, it ensues that this publication is an important step, providing a refreshing view of an individual who has until now been travelling through public space under the generic label of a photographer of horses and concentration camps. This monograph could change things. Its chances to do so are increased thanks to the high-quality printing; it simply cries out to be picked up and read. 

 

Jiří Pátek

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