Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Martin Martinček

There is more in life to enjoy than berets; photography, for example. When travelling, my best souvenirs are photo-books by local artists, like the book Ako sa kruti svet (How the world turns around), by the late Martin Martinček. It is only now that I realize there is one great picture of a beret wearing woodcutter in there, among an endless number of other fantastic and extraordinary hats (see below).

Born in 1913 in the village of Liptovski Peter in the northwest Slovak Liptov region, Martin Martinček had always felt a close communion with nature and the Slovak countryside. Like many others of his generation, the second World War interrupted his life and career as a lawyer. He lost his first wife, two sons, and his father during the Slovak National Uprising, a Slovak resistance movement against the German occupiers in 1944. After the war, he helped organize the Commission of Justice and the Commission of Finance. He rose to become head of the Presidium of the Slovak National Council in Bratislava. Trying times followed.Following the Communist seizure of power in February 1948, his fortunes faded. Martincek first found himself in prison, and was then forced to perform hard labor at a brickyard in a Liptov village. He later worked on a communal chicken farm. A heart condition added to his troubles.

As political conditions improved, Martincek's newly-found career in photography began a gradual turn for the better in the late 1950s. He never had his own studio; the Liptov countryside served that purpose, and it served him well. He became a member of the Union of Slovak Artists and went on to co-found the Janko Kral Literary Museum in Liptovsky Mikulas. His increasing success enabled him to become a freelance photographer by 1961; a flurry of exhibits followed. He co-published his photographs with the works of famous poets such as Laco Novomesky and Milan Rufus. By 1970 his talents were receiving considerable fame. Both the Czecho-Slovak government and the International Association of Photography based in Bern, Switzerland, awarded him honorary titles. Other successes followed, including his inspiration of director Dusan Hanak's award winning 1972 film, "Images of the Old World." Martincek obtained the ultimate recognition for his achievements in 1998, when he became the first photographer ever to receive the highly coveted award named for Slovakia's most celebrated artist, the Martin Benka Prize.Martin Martinček died on 1 May, 2004.

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