Fotograf Magazine

Jan Lukas Centenary

The obituary of Jan Lukas (b. August 10, 1915 České Budějovice – August 28, 2006 New York) appeared in Fotograf #7 (2006). The centennial of the birth of this author of twenty-five photographic albums (not to mention their multiple language variations, alternative editions or contributions to group projects) has now been celebrated by a trio of exhibitions.

The most extensive of those was Lidé / People (1930–1995), held in Prague. Curator Nadia Rovderová installed a selection of 120 items at Artinbox Gallery, Prague, in collaboration with the photographer’s daughter Helena Lukas, who is herself a photographer. The latter also prepared two further selections of work for exhibition in her father’s birthplace. In summer 2015, the Měsíc ve dne Gallery in České Budějovice presented a basic career outline of Lukas in a small-scale exhibition entitled Praha / New York. A more extensive cross-section of his work entitled Fotograf Jan Lukas / The Photographer Jan Lukas was held in the fall 2015 by the Czech Syndicate of Journalists at the Museum of South Bohemia, as a tribute to an artist “whose work is better known throughout the world than in his native city,” as the initiator of the project Radek Gális, editor of the České Budějovice daily newspaper put it.

Jan Lukas was a pioneer of modern photography; already in the 1930s, he ranked among the photographers active internationally and working for European magazines. His exile in the mid-1960s, however, brought not only a change of scenery, but also meant that in the twenty-five years that followed his work was banned from publication in his homeland, then in the throes of the Communist regime. It also meant that opportunities to publish his photographs in book form were considerably limited. The only book that may be seen as fully his own to come out in the United States was The Islanders (1987).

His personal testimony of the demise of a democracy and the rise of a totalitarian regime, entitled Pražský deník 1938–1965 / Prague Diary 1938–1965 only saw publication in book form as the author turned eighty. A monograph summing up six decades of activity was brought out by the same publisher, Torst, in 2003. This was again done in Prague. Lukas’s native country is also more active than any other in terms of organizing exhibitions of his work. To date the last effort in this field is the reprise of the retrospective presented by Galerie Art Chrudim, Jan Lukas Fotografie 1935–1984. It is accompanied by an eponymous catalogue

Josef Moucha