Saturday, March 5, 2016

Josef Sudek

Josef Sudek (1896 –1976) was a Czech photographer, best known for his photographs of Prague.
Sudek was originally a bookbinder. During The First World War, drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army and serving on the Italian Front, he was wounded and his right arm had to be amputated. Although he had no previous photo experience, he studied photography for two years under Jaromir Funke. His Army disability pension gave him leeway to make art, and he worked during the 1920s in the romantic Pictorialist style. 
Always pushing the boundaries, a local camera club expelled him for arguing about the need to move forwards from 'painterly' photography. Sudek then founded the progressive Czech Photographic Society in 1924. Despite only having one arm, he used large, bulky cameras with the aid of assistants.
His early work included many series of light falling in the interior of St. Vitus Cathedral. During and after World War II Sudek created haunting night-scapes and panoramas of Prague, photographed the wooded landscape of Bohemia, and the window-glass that led to his garden (the famous The Window of My Atelier series). He went on to photograph the crowded interior of his studio (the Labyrinths series).
His first Western show was at George Eastman House in 1974 and he published 16 books during his life.
Known as the "Poet of Prague", Sudek never married, and was a shy, retiring person. He never appeared at his exhibit openings and few people appear in his photographs. Despite the privations of the war and Communism, he kept a renowned record collection of classical music.
Portrait of Andrej Bobruska

In addition to conventional biographies of Josef Sudek, John Banville's Prague Pictures: Portraits ofa City introduces the reader to the city through the photographic lens of Joseph Sudek. Banville relates how he became enlisted to smuggle Sudek's photographs to the United States and through his tale and the story of Josef Sudek muses on the history of Prague in its gravity and melancholy, torn by war and oppression. He re-creates the anxiety that must have faced the photographer in a city where, under Nazi occupation, landscape photography could be a mortal offense.

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