Saturday, February 26, 2011

Josef Koudelka

Josef Koudelka, born in Moravia, made his first photographs while a student in the 1950s. About the same time that he started his career as an aeronautical engineer in 1961 he also began photographing Gypsies in Czechoslovakia and theater in Prague. He turned full-time to photography in 1967. The following year, Koudelka photographed the Soviet invasion of Prague, publishing his photographs under the initials P. P. (Prague Photographer) for fear of reprisal to him and his family. In 1969, he was anonymously awarded the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa Gold Medal for those photographs.

Known for his highly formalized, sensitive images of the vestiges of gypsy life, Czech photographer Josef Koudelka has been traveling the world since 1962, documenting their communities in Eastern Europe, England, Ireland, France, and Spain. Living as his subjects do, constantly on the move and defiantly independent, Koudelka has always refused magazine and commercial assignments, and has worked for years without a permanent darkroom. Focusing on the rituals of everyday life, on birth, marriage, and death, he has produced years of work, including Theater, Gypsies, Prague 1968 (Invasion), Exiles, and Chaos.
"I try to be a photographer. I cannot talk. I am not interested in talking. If I have anything to say, it may be found in my images. I am not interested in talking about things, explaining about the whys and the hows. I do not mind showing my images, but not so much my contact sheets. I mainly work from small test prints. I often look at them, sometimes for a long time. I pin them to the wall, I compare them to make up my mind, be sure of my choices. I let others tell me what they mean. [To Robert Delpire] My photographs, you know them. You have published them, you have exhibited them, then you can tell whether they mean something or not." -Josef Koudelka
What interests me and inspires me is his methodology that he employs, much like Annie Leibovitz in her early days of photographing for Rolling Stone, where many of her piers attributed her ability to 'blend in' and not be noticed, thus giving her the complete trust and confidence of her stubjects. Although admitted that Josef Koudelka project may have been otherwise motivated, his passion and results are something special. 
This follows on a series of Documentary Photographers I'm looking at.

1 comment:

al said...

Czech artists are amazing, generally speaking. They still have a preference for black/dark atmosphere, guess it has to do with post-Communist era. I love Josef Koudelka's work and I agree that his biography is a very interesting one, worth have a look at it.


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