Fotograf Magazine

Preserving the Legacy

Following the unexpected death of Ivan Lutterer (Prague, April 27, 1954 – Rochester, November 11, 2001) the non-profit society Czech Photo (České foto) decided to preserve his studio in its entirety. It would certainly be inspiring if those interested in a specific artist were able to contemplate their artistic legacy simultaneously with the very environment which gave rise to it. This is especially true as institutional methods irremediably destroy any idea of the social background of the artist. Museums and collections as a rule tend to keep mere fragments of artists’ estates. The instance at hand is therefore an exception, although also with some reservations, as Lutterer’s orphaned studio in Prague was hit by the floods that swept the city in 2002.

Still, a consoling number of works survived the wrath of the elements, although instead of the usual museum experts, the body of work was catalogued by Lutterer’s colleagues, the photographers Jaroslav Bárta, Zdeněk Helfert, Daniela Horníčková and Iren Stehli. They handed over to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague a total of 9,136 negatives and 1170 positive prints. Jaroslav Bárta also contributed the outline for the selection of works and the manner of their exhibition in order to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of Lutterer’s birth. Almost relentless in his vigor, he also brought out the present monograph. He had already published the first Lutterer album, Panoramic Photographs 1984–1991 (Panoramatické fotografie 1984–1991), a work of outstanding documentary as well as aesthetic quality. This came out in 2004 to commemorate Lutterer’s fiftieth birthday, which he unfortunately did not live to see. The foreword was furnished by the eminent art historian, Anna Fárová. České foto society then accompanied the publication of Lutterer’s pivotal cycle with an exhibition at the Langhans Gallery in Prague.

The new volume naturally lacks the consistency of a book consisting entirely of panoramas. Instead, the present retrospective preserves a flow of changing impulses, in terms of both subject matter and style. With an academic background in photography, Lutterer absorbed its history, beginning with the heritage of the 19th century (reflected in his work by urban vedute and full-figure portraiture) via Pictorialism, reportage, and the genre of childhood photographs, towards large-format verism and new topography, in his rendition attaining a peculiar melancholy tinge. As Lutterer himself stated in a vital remark made on November 5, 2001: “All places are fascinating.”

In order to place Ivan Lutterer, to whom self-promotion was anathema, among the eminent representatives of Czech culture, his friends could hardly have chosen a more efficient way to proceed. The two volumes they have edited and brought out, accompanied by highly adequate commentary, offer nothing less than the preservation of the resonance of a most introverted spirit.

Josef Moucha