Fotograf Magazine

Czech Photography Abroad 2002-2003

This is in great part due to a number of exhibitions of Czech photography that began taking place (especially since 1990) in a number of important museums and galleries, as well as to the fact that most catalogues and books devoted to Czech photographers today are published with English texts, and many are distributed abroad. In the last two years, others were added to their number.

In 2002 a number of exhibits of both contemporary and historical photography were presented within the framework of the Czech Season in France. At the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, there was an exhibition of panoramic images of Prague by Josef Sudek from the collection of the Museum of Applied Art in Prague. The Centre Atlantique de la Photographie in Brest hosted a retrospective of the avant-garde photographer Jaroslav Rössler, the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles held an international premiere of the gigantic retrospective of Josef Koudelka’s work until now, and the Centre Nationale de la Photographie in Paris exhibited the photographs of the visual artist Václav Stratil. The Galerie Municipale du Chateau d’Eau in Toulouse exhibited the documentary photographs of Jindřich Štreit, and the Czech Center in Paris held an exhibition The Nude in Czech Photography 1960-2000, which then traveled to the French-German Institute in Aachen. The last two years have also witnessed a continuing interest in the work of the classics of Czech photography. The Alvar Aalto Museum in Jyväskylä held an exhibition of Josef Sudek’s commercial work, as commissioned by DruÏstevní Práce. At the end of 2003, the Morandi Museum in Bologne opened an exhibition of Sudek’s still-life photography from the collection of the Moravian Gallery in Brno. At the same time, the Rössler retrospective opened in the Museum der moderne Rupertinum in Salzburg, and ín 2004 will have its final run in the Fotografie Forum International in Frankfurt. A large exhibition of František Drtikol compiled from funds from the Museum of Applied Art in Prague opened in November 2003 in Moscow House of Photography. The revealing exposition entitled Central European Avant-gardes: Exchange and Transformation 1910-1930, which was presented in Los Angeles, Munich and Berlin, and was accompanied by an extensive catalogue (published by the MIT Press), featured photographs by Jaroslav Rössler, Jaromír Funke and František Drtikol, as well as the collages of Karel Teige. A number of works from among the classics of Czech photography were included last year in the exhibition of the collection of Baroness Jeanne von Oppenheim in the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach in Florida, and in the exhibition of the collection of Manfred Heiting in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Smaller shows of Sudek’s work were held in the Howard Greenberg Gallery and in the Klotz/Sirmon Gallery in New York.

The Fotobienale 2002 in Moscow featured The Nude in Czech Photography 1960-2000 and part of Pavel Baňka‘s series Infinity. The 12th Month of Photography in Bratislava included in 2002 a rerun of the retrospective Czech and Slovak Photography in the 1980’s and 1990s, which had first opened in the Museum of Art in Olomouc, the exhibition The Floods in Bohemia and an exhibition devoted to the work of Karel Cudlín, Josef Moucha and Hynek Alt. Last year’s festival in Bratislava included Infinity – the landscape photographs of Pavel Baňka, Dita Pepe’s series Self- Portraits, and Tomáš Ruller’s series From Love. In the spring of 2003 the first Month of Photography in Kiev presented the work of students of the Institute of Creative Photography of the Silesian University in Opava, Karel Cudlín’s Ukrainian photographs and Vladimír Birgus’s exhibition Something Unspeakable. The Month of Photography in Montreal featured the photographs of Miro Švolík and an exhibition of digitally manipulated portraits of weeping politicians entitled Without Compassion by Jiří David, which was also presented in Graz, European City of Culture 2003. In 2002 the work of Jindřich Štreit and Blanka Chocholová was exhibited at a photography festival in Duyun in China. Jan Vaca and Dita Pepe presented their work at Photokina in Cologne. The Transphotographies exhibition in Lille last year featured Dagmar Hochová, Pavel Baňka, Jan Saudek and Václav Stratil. The International Festival Photography in Lodz in May 2003 included an exhibition of works of the students of FAMU as well as a retrospective of Dagmar Hochová. Parts of the IN OUT International Festival of Digital Image (held in Prague in the summer of 2003) were presented in Bratislava and Budapest. The World Press Photo 2003 awarded Antonín Kratochvíl two of its main prizes. The Czech Center of Photography took part in the photography fair AIPAD in New York in February 2003, while the Leica Gallery Prague participated in Paris Photo 2003.

The Leica Gallery in New York pays continuing attention to Czech photography. In 2002 they presented an exhibition called Czech Documentary Photography, and last year they held an exhibition of Karel Cudlín’s work, and for 2004 they are preparing to exhibit work by Antonín Kratochvíl. The Nude in Czech Photography 1960-2000 had great attendance and media attention during its re-runs in the former imperial castle in Poznan, in the Wroclaw Gallery of Contemporary Art BWA and at the Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych. The Contemporary Czech Documentary Photography exhibition opened at the International Days of Photography in Herten, after which it traveled to other cities in Germany, Leverkusen and Dormagen. The Gallery of Contemporary Art BWA in Wroclaw held a joint exhibition of photography students from the University of J.E. Purkynû in Ústí nad Labem and their Polish and German colleagues, while teachers at the Institute of Creative Photography of the Silesian University in Opava exhibited their works in the Poznan castle. A number of independent exhibitions abroad were held of authors such as Jan Saudek, Josef Koudelka, Jindřich Štreit, Pavel Baňka, Veronika Bromová, Jiří David, Dana Kyndrová, Jan Pohribný, Ivan Pinkava, Dita Pepe and other Czech photographers.

A considerable contribution to making Czech photography known abroad was made by books and magazines. One of the most prestigious American publishers, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, published Czech Photographic Avant-Garde 1918- 1948 and Jaroslav Rössler – Czech Avant-Garde Photographer, both of which had been previously published in Czech by KANT publishers. Aperture Publishers of New York published a second edition of Josef Sudek: Poet of Prague. The Finnish exhibition of Josef Sudek included an extensive catalogue Josef Sudek. The Commercial Photography for Družstevní práce, while the Paris exhibition published a catalogue Josef Sudek: Prague Panoramique. The Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences published a study entitled Jaromír Funke and Czech Modernism. The History of Czech and Slovak Photography in Tokyo last year. Facsimiles of the avant-garde books Abeceda (Alphabet) and Fotografie vidí povrch (Photography Sees Surface) were published in the United States. The BWA Gallery in Wroclaw published a polish translation of the book The Nude in Czech Photography. New publications devoted to the work of Josef Koudelka, Jan Saudek, Vojta Dukát and Antonín Kratochvíl came out in France, Germany, Holland and the United States. Photography books published by the Czech publishers KANT and TORST are distributed internationally, and they can be found in bookshops and museum shops in many countries. Czech photographers are extraordinarily well represented in Michael Koetzle’s Lexikon der Fotografen (Munich, 2002). The 8th edition of European Photography Guide (Göttingen, 2003) devotes 16 pages to Czech photography. Czech photography has been extensively written about in foreign periodicals, for instance, Format, the Polish art review, focused its 41st issue on the history and present state of Czech photography, with in-depth essays on the Czech interwar avantgarde and Czech photography of the 1990s, and a number of Czech photographers’ portfolios.


Vladimír Birgus