Fotograf Magazine

Dagmar Hochová

„Enough. If you know how to look, then you’ll always be amused.“

*10. 3. 1926 — †17. 3. 2012

Dagmar Hochová’s photographs, which I’m actually looking at right now, are atomic, full of energy, funny. They are kind, they burn with the artist’s detached view. Some photos are justly ironic toward the photographed persons even after all these years. Frolicking children with their front teeth missing, oafs in sweatpants and berets, abandoned youth from the edge of town, respectable and very busy nuns from various orders, protesting masses, a scared boy, writers, whole families or just lonely old men and women from Slovakia, Russia, Italy or Vietnam. Hard-headed, generous Dagmar Hochová, firm in her opinions, with the presence of a small photographer from Prague, proved able to very carefully observe all her subjects and shoot them in her own way. She often took the pictures intuitively; mostly in a very sensitively chosen moment. Always in natural light. Without fake sentiment. 

She was a talented observer; always moving, a non-static element in the centre of all events. She followed and shot pictures of people with a sharp eye that received praise from her teacher at Smíchov’s State Graphic Design School, Jaromír Funke. Her photographing was never an interruption. In her pictures, her subjects are never embellished, stylized or belittled. Ms. Hochová was a genuinely curious photographer, accommodating to all she photographed. For Ms. Hochová it was most essential to be part of everything, to be with them, and to capture the right moment. Dagmar Hochová respected the nature of those she observed, she followed carefully and sensitively all activities that individual persons were caught up in … provided she guessed or intimated the aforementioned favourable moment; she was fully able to make use of this. Thus her photographs don’t grasp at strict composition; they are not arranged. They are deeply human. Simple. Never engaged. Black-and-white photographs of people of various ages were not to be perfectly crafted at any price. This is their strength: directness and liveliness. 

Two boys jump with great verve against a wall. They can’t be interrupted. They are giving it their all. They rebound again and again. It would seem that the obstacle is insurmountable. But they are persistent.

In quiet Petrkov Bohuslav Reynek steals potatoes on a farm and after work he sits by the stove scratching a matrix with a needle. Jaroslav Seifert carries glasses to his co-debaters. The Surrealist poets, Havlíček and Burda, enjoy themselves during a visit to Ivan Diviš in Kyje. The elusive Ludvík Kundera escapes the photographer by passing through doors; once at the Ruzyně Airport, a second time at the Chrudim Gallery. Dagmar Hochová found Jan Skácel and Oldřich Mikulášek in their beloved Brno, with her natural nonchalance, a bottle of wine and the requisite cigarette. This time they sat not in a café but rather in a hospital room. Josef Kainar. Jan Drda. Norbert Frýd. Josef Váchal dries his socks on the shoe rack at almost dusk. He shifts his lorgnette and opens the Bloody Novel manuscript. Zbyněk Rotrekl describes right in front of the camera lens the best way to get to Jan Trefulka’s home. The modest Kamil Bednář, the rare personality and brilliant translator of many, perhaps eleven, languages. Experimental poets, Bohumila Grögerová and Josef Hiršal made an appointment with the photographer on the terrace at Adria Palace in Prague. Ivan Diviš. Jiřina Hauková smiled beautifully that time. Ladislav Novák. Běla and Jiří Kolář in Prague, in Paris and again in Prague. Ludvík Aškenazy crawls into his house through the window and then comes right back out again. Arnošt Lustig among children and without children. A profile shot of Hana Bořkovcová and from a subtle view from below. Josef Škvorecký, Zdena Salivarová and Josef Nesvatba. The detective story author, Hana Prošková, with her daughters. Alexandr Kliment and Ivan Klíma. But also Pavel Kohout and Ludvík Vaculík. Václav Havel and his wife, Olga. And finally Jan Vladislav; “The one responsible for the writing of the book, Konec chleba, počátek kamení (The End of Bread, the Beginning of Stones …)” As an appendix several shots from the series, IV. sjezd československých spisovatelů (Fourth Congress of Czechoslovak Writers), with the artist’s spot on remark : “I often say: we have so many writers registered, but where are their books?”

Dagmar Hochová was always prepared to go anywhere with a camera in pursuit of her topic. For her photographs she travelled for example to the kindergarten at the US Embassy; to the disappearing, and only thanks to children still free, edge of Prague; to border regions to see literally “displaced” afflicted children and nuns; to the parade commemorating the memory of Jan Palach; to Šumiac in Slovakia for the common churchgoing female elders; to sandboxes in between building estates; to the Matějská pouť/Fair in Prague; to Bílá Hora; to Mařenice and to Světlá; several times to the crypt in Prague’s Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius; to the grandchildren of the first Czechoslovak president; to artists, writers, to legionnaires. To people living in then Czechoslovakia, in Vietnam, in Orthodox Russia, in former Yugoslavia or in Italy. Many times she often went to photograph with permits, and without, on Wenceslas Square. Mainly at an uncertain time. Each time with unflagging hope. 

I’m writing, am looking at photographs, and I still hear her laugh. Rich and infectious. Laughter despite the unfavourable period. Just as she naturally, often and freely smiled, so did Dagmar Hochová take photos.


Katarína Uhlířová



Dagmar Hochová-Reinhardtová was born in Prague on 10 March 1926 to the family of journalist and university library employee, Karel Hoch. From 1942–1946 she studied photography under the tutelage of Jaromír Funke and Josef Ehm at the Graphic Design High School in Prague. (From 1943-1946 she was conscribed to forced labour at Pragfilm in Barrandov.) In 1953 she graduated with a major in film camera work at Prague’s film school, FAMU. She was one of the first students of Professor Karel Plicka. She then worked as a freelance photo-reporter. She cooperated, for example, with the magazines: Vlasta, Kulturní politika and Literární noviny. She also worked for the children’s publishing house, Albatros. From 1990–1992 she was a deputy in the Czech National Council (the parliament). In 2000 President Václav Havel awarded Dagmar Hochová a Medal of Merit for outstanding contributions to the arts. She died in Prague on 17 March 2012.

Dagmar Hochová devoted most of her life to documentary photography. Her work draws on the tradition of humanist photojournalism. It is however very subjective and distinctively “female”. She elaborated in detail several basic themes (children and their games, elderly people and their world, portraits of authors and artists). She also gradually created collections of photographs from her travels: Vietnam (1961), Paris (1964), Rome (1965 and 1968), Sweden (1974), Russia and Ukraine. In 1989 the art historian, Marie Judlová (Klimešová) prepared an extensive retrospective exhibition for her at the House of the Stone Bell (Dům U Kammeného zvonu). These books map Dagmar Hochová’s individual photographic series and projects: Deset, dvacet, třicet, už jdu / Ten, Twenty, Thirty, I’m Coming (Kuklik, 1994), Čas oponou trhnul / Time Rent by the Curtain (Kuklik, 1995), Síla věku / The Power of Age (Kuklik, 1996), Konec chleba, počátek kamení / The End of Bread, The Start of Stones (Torst, 2001), Deset, dvacet, třicet, už jdu! (Fraktál a Měsíc ve dne, 2009) and the retrospective publication, Dagmar Hochová (Odeon, 1984) and Dagmar Hochová. Česká fotografka / Dagmar Hochová. Czech Photographer (Torst, 2000).