Fotograf Magazine

Surrealism and Photography in Czechoslovakia: On the Needles of Days

In 2016 Ashgate Publishing released the second, paperback, edition of Surrealism and Photography in Czechoslovakia: On the Needles of Days, in which authors Krzysztof Fijalkowski, Michael Richardson, and Ian Walker explore the phenomenon of Czechoslovak photographic surrealism from their position as neutral outside observers. On the basis of their study of Czech academic literature and a personal survey of photographic collections in Prague and Brno, they have prepared several cross-cutting essays on the topic, ranging from the interwar period to the present day, with the aim of identifying the specific form and nature of Czechoslovak photographic surrealism.

Over the course of seven chapters, the book takes a chronological look at key moments in the history of Czechoslovak surrealist photography, from whose perspective the authors highlight the topics of revolution, the city, photography’s relationship to poetry, the disillusionment of postwar surrealism, and the existential impact of everyday reality, which in the minds of Czech and Slovak surrealist artists were projected into seemingly irrational associations and phenomena. In an era characterized by the polarity between construction and destruction, they tried to find distinctive and suggestive ways of expressing imaginative visions. The book’s authors note the artists’ isolation and their lack of contact with outside influences, and identify as one of Czechoslovak surrealism’s main features the distinctively solitary work of postwar artists (e.g., Emila Medková, Jiří Sever, Jan Švankmajer, Jan Daňhel, Brano Solarik).

Each chapter is accompanied by detailed analyses of selected works by Karel Teige, Jindřich Štyrský, Emila Medková, Miroslav Hák, and Toyen, as well as stills from Jan Švankmajer’s film J. S. Bach: Fantasy in G Minor. Although numerous Czech texts (including their English translations) have been published on this subject, in terms of international awareness we are still lacking a deeper theoretical understanding of the context and phenomenon of surrealist photography in the former Czechoslovakia. The studies contained in this book, all of them placed into the proper historical context, offer many new and valuable impulses for further strengthening Czechoslovak surrealist photography’s ties with the rest of the world.


Pavlína Vogelová



Fijalkowski, Krzysztof, Richardson, Michael, Walker, Ian. Surrealism and Photography in Czechoslovakia: On the Needles of Days. New York: Ashgate Publishing, 2013. Print.