Fotograf Magazine

Festival Streit

I lost count long ago of how many books on the once proscribed documentary photographer Jindrich Streit have come out since 1993. All the more merit to the publication taking stock of his activity commemorating his sixtieth birthday, in which all these have been carefully recorded by the editors. Tomas’ Pospech in particular did service to the photographer. He put together the illustrations section of Streit’s twentieth album – well printed and well designed by Otakar Karlas. Full-page reproductions naturally take up the lion’s share of the 264 pages.

The monograph was launched in eleven locations in the North Moravian city of Ostrava, the largest city in the region, which was Streit’s adopted home. Visitors could find their way around using the street maps published in the exhibition guide. In various galleries they also found works that form part of more than one series. The best shots simply had to be present in the retrospective exhibition and in the thematic series recapitulating the various stages of Streit’s oeuvre.

The most extensive exhibition installed at the House of Art invited heightened attention merely by presenting the artist’s largest retrospective of the four decades of his work. To mark this occasion, some photographs were blown up to 100 x 130 cm. Streit belongs in the company of photographers whose ambition is to astonish by the very scope of their work. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain he has traveled widely, but in fact he ends up bringing from remote exotic places a very similar kind of impromptu snapshot that he often takes a stone’s throw away from home. Tomas Pospech ‘s choice of structure and sequence lends the book a rhythm; he has also chose a good proportion between the local and foreign photographs. The artist did well to entrust himself to Pospech, even though Streit’s own endeavor, Fotografie, ktera mom rad (The Photographs l love), commanded respect. This subjective cross-section, installed in the Ostrava Museum, revealed the profundity of the innermost impulses that are hidden under the artist’s sweeping gestures.

It was good to once again see the long-finished series, many of which have not been exhibited for years. I was particularly happy to go through Divadlo 2ivota (Theatre of Life) again, the series by which I discovered Streit for myself back in the late 1970s. (As chance would have it, back then I also saw it in Ostrava). And it was for the very first time that I was able to satisfy my curiosity and see a more extensive version of an even older cycle, Romove bez romantiky (The Romanics minus the Romance). True, these are somewhat theatrical series, but their mood corresponds with their subject matter. Still, the selection presented in the monograph dwells on what makes Streit an artist in his own right.

The photographer was predestined by an inheritance from his predecessors: from his mother, he inherited a love for art, and his mentoring disposition, and from his father, the urge to educate others. He writes about this most eloquently in a memoir-sketch in the present book. He came into his own in the rough clime of remote foothills where he was sent on a job assignment after graduating from the Faculty of Pedagogy. A guiding principle of his life is his loyalty to the remote Sovinec, It was here that he produced his own innovation of realism, as Antonin Dufek aptly sums up in his foreword. It seems almost unreal that this landed the photographer in jail! Today he lectures on his method to his students at the photography department at the Silesian University in Opava.

Dufek A, Jindnich Streit/Fotografie/Photographs/1965-2005. Praha: KANT 2006, 264s. ISBN 80-86970-05-1. (published to accompany a traveling retrospective exhibition of the same name).

Josef Moucha