Fotograf Magazine

Jan Malý, Jiří Poláček, Ivan Lutterer

Homo Bohemicus

The project Homo Bohemicus (Český člověk) or Czech People, as it is also known – was initiated by the trio of photographers, Jan Malý, Jiří Poláček and Ivan Lutterer in the early 1980s. After Ivan Lutterer’s premature and tragic demise, the project has been assisted in turn by Daniela Horníčková and Jan Malý jr. Though not a typical “public art” project, the significance of this long-term initiative still transcends far beyond the field of photography as such, broaching the arena of public life. The exhibition tent where the portraits documenting “ordinary” Czechs were made frequently formed part of other popular public events, tempting protagonists of the portraits to enter its space. The eponymous book published in 1999 was accompanied by an introductory essay by Anna Fárová, which has lost none of its relevance until today. We have thus decided to publish it here in full. 

 

Pavel Baňka

 

In the mid-19th century, the Frenchman Félix Nadar launched the first mass production of photographic portraits, something that painters were unable to compete with in terms of quality, accessibility, or faithfulness of depiction. Nadar worked through the medium of portraits, rendering the psychology of the sitter, elaborating gestures. His sitters were mainly personalities from the art scene of the time. Photography, however, loves ordinary things, descending to them from the heights of art. It also loves ordinary people. André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri was acutely aware of this, and would use his invention, the “calling card”, a standardized 8.5 x 6 cm format, to capture anyone and everyone. He would invariably portray the full figure from head to toe in the artificial setting of the photographic studio, but in a casual pose, with a harmonious and agreeable pictorial quality. In this way he introduced to photography the ability to offer the portrait format cheaply and to everyone. Using bombastic advertisements and low prices, his portrait studios in Paris were soon besieged by crowds. 

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