Fotograf Magazine

The Primer of Postmodernism: Josef Sudek

The charm of all lies in mysteriousness.

/josef sudek/

Josef Sudek (1896–1976) remains the most widely published Czech photographer. He was so unmistakeably original that it would be an exercise in futility to look for creative parallels in his contemporaries. He achieved his artistic peak at a mature age, after parting ways with the guidelines of modern times. In the 1930s, he still remained faithful to the outward- looking, functionalist world. During the Second World War, he fortified himself by turning to his inner world. This is manifested by his famous, simple motives, most notably the views taken through the window of his studio. Similarly, during the precarious times under the German occupation, he was able to endow his promenades through Prague’s gardens and parks with an intimate, almost dreamlike photogenic quality. The old-world continuity of his work passed undisturbed even by the doctrine of socialist realism. While officially the order of the day was the propaganda of the new era, Sudek drew heavily on reminiscences of the pictorialism of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, taking all he could use from it. He arrived at mirage-like still lifes, rendered as contact projections of large format negatives, or even employing pigment technology.

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