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30/12/2006

Month of Photography in Paris and Paris Photo 2006

Paris Photo 2006
  

The Month of Photography in Paris was formerly the world’s largest and the most important photography festival, whose program regularly featured essential exhibitions, often setting milestones in presentation of both older and contemporary photography. In the last ten years it has been somewhat overshadowed by the Paris Photo fair. Even so, every other autumn, the rich cultural life of the French capital is further enriched by a number of excellent photography exhibitions. Last November, an official program of 64 exhibitions appeared in various museums, galleries, foreign cultural centers and town halls. This time the program focused above all on photography in print media.

The revelations included an exhibition in the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, showing the use of photography in the illustrated magazine Vu during the years 1928-1940. The magazine played a similar role in the evolution of modern French photojournalism as its German counterparts, the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung and Műnchner Illustrierte Presse. Outstanding in terms of its structure, the exhibition used authentic pages of the magazine divided in sections by themes, presenting a generous space for the display of various visual essays on everyday life, sports, culture, dramatic images from various wars (it was Vu magazine, for instance, which first published Capa’s famous photograph Falling Soldier), photographs of celebrities as well as images warning of the advance of the Nazi movement in Germany. The exhibition The Odyssey of an Icon: Three Photographs by André Kertész was a curator’s dream, showing a number of variations of the triad of famous works by the Hungarian legend of modern photography as well as dozens of the various books, catalogues and magazines in which they were published. Both well-known and obscure works featured in the exhibition of Soviet photomontage, focusing on the theme of the Army from the period between 1917-1953. The exhibition traced the gradual degeneration of avant-garde Constructivist art into dull agit-prop in the style of Socialist Realism. Another type of aggressive political photomontage, directed chiefly against Hitler’s regime were the works of John Heartfield, many of them created during his 5-year-long exile in Czechoslovakia. The Bibliothèque Nationale hosted an exhibition of the golden era of photojournalism from the 1940s to the 1960s – entitled Humanist Photography – which included optimistic images with a clear composition, perhaps slightly archaic today, by Izis, Boubat, Doisneau, Ronis, and other French photojournalists of the time. The anniversary of the Budapest anti-Communist uprising of 1956 was commemorated with a presentation of the images of the Austrian photo-reporter Erich Lessing; alongside the display in Paris, they were also presented at a number of other photography festivals last year. Among the real revelations was the exhibition of the photographic scrapbooks of Henri Cartier-Bresson, which featured a number of little-known works. More recent developments of press photography were shown in an excellent and extensive exhibition Things as They Are, put together by Christian Caujolle from both original photographs and their reproductions in a plethora of magazines. This imaginative exhibition, tracking the major political and public events of several decades and their reflection in photography, convincingly showed the tremendous transformations that photojournalism has undergone in the last fifty years, abandoning certain positions due to the massive spread of television reportage while discovering a new niche in the form of exhibitions and books instead. The retrospective of French advertising photography from Man Ray to Jean-Paul Goude was presented at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

Erich Lessing, Budapest 1956
    
Joel Meyerowitz, New York 1975
     
Helmut Newton, Tied upon Torso, 1980
      
Alex ten Napel, Steven, 2006
     
Jeanloupe Sieff
       
Norman Parkinson, Golf, 1939
      

The Month of Photography also featured a number of solo exhibitions. The largest of those presented the work of American documentary photographer Lee Friedlander at the new photography center, at Le Jeu de Paume near the Louvre. Friendlander was presented here as the foremost pioneer of subjective documentary and new topography, but also as the author of nudes of striking rawness. Among other retrospectives one should mention above all that dedicated to Joel Meyerowitz and his color documentary and portrait images from the 1970s and 1980s. In keeping with tradition, photography from the countries of the former Soviet Block was represented only marginally at the Mois de la Photo. Apart from the above-mentioned exhibition of Soviet photomontage there were two provocative exhibitions by the Polish artist Zbigniew Libera, and László Lugo Lugosi’s Budapest 1900-2000, working with the much-exploited approach of confronting old images with new photographs of the same settings.

In the middle of November, the Paris Photo Fair ran parallel to the Month of Photography for five days. In spite of the tremendously high rent prices of booths (the basic renting of a standard booth alone ranges between eight to ten thousand Euro, and one must factor in also the not inconsiderable costs of transport, accommodation and insurance), gallery owners, dealers and publishers last year showed so much interest in participating that the selection committee had to turn down two thirds of the applicants. Last year they allowed through the selection process 88 galleries, 18 publishing houses and bookshops from 21 countries. Their ambition to represent as great a geographical variety as possible was perhaps slightly at the expense of overall quality, for while the foremost American galleries (Chicago’s Stephen Daiter, and San Francisco’s Robert Koch), or the Galerie Paviot from Paris were rejected, the unknown Hamburg-based gallery Sfeir-Semler was accepted, presenting new prints of portraits from a Lebanese photo-studio. This time, the focus was on Scandinavian countries, to which the central exhibition was dedicated, as well as a number of presentations.

In contrast to the New York AIPAD fair, Paris Photo is ever more distinctly focused on contemporary photography, even though among the exhibitors were also specialists in 19th century photography, and many galleries offered rare original prints by the representatives of the avant-garde such as Man Ray, Raoul Hausmann, Albert Renger-Patzsch, László Moholy-Nagy, André Kertész, Alexander Rodchenko and others, still works of contemporary artists prevailed by far. Naturally, this was with the exception of the most expensive among their ranks, such as Andreas Gursky or Cindy Sherman, who are represented by art galleries instead of photo-galleries, and whose work is sold at exorbitant prices at art fairs such as Art Basel, Art Cologne or Art Basel Miami Beach, instead of photo-fairs like Paris Photo, Photo London or AIPAD New York. But even with their absence, Paris displayed an extraordinarily wide range of current creative trends from various parts of the world. One could see how Paris contributes to the establishment of many artists: the previous year Loretta Lux and her spectral portraits of children with unnaturally large heads was a revelation, while a year later she already ranked among the international stars, and her new work sold at 15 to 20 thousand Euro. In 2006 this success was repeated by the Dutch photographer Alex ten Napel, with his similarly computer-adjusted portraits of children in water. The fair indicated the continuing popularity of the piercingly sharp definition of large-format blow-ups of details of stereotypical urban landscapes (most frequently represented recently being Shanghai, Hong Kong, and other Chinese cities), various types of staged photography, distinctly subjective documentaries, modern portraits, nudes and photographs featuring the motif of the body, or conceptual works exploring the metamorphoses of identity or the passage of time. Peking’s 798 Photo Gallery exploited the vogue for all things Chinese, exhibiting and in some cases also selling new prints of 1960s socialist-realist photographs at circa 2000 Euro apiece; color images of fanatic crowds hailing Chairman Mao were on offer for as much as 20 000 Euro. Today’s photography market sometimes brings the most unexpected surprises.

Vladimír Birgus
Fotograf 8/2006

 

 

30/12/2006

Měsíc fotografie v Bratislavě 2006


Měsíc fotografie v Bratislavě - Jindřich Štreit na zahajovací recepci 
  

Výstava Jindřicha Štreita ve Slovenské národní galerii


  

Bratislavský Měsíc fotografie probíhal v listopadu 2006 už po šestnácté. Ze skromných začátků se stal jedním z předních fotografických festivalů, což loni potvrdilo i jeho zařazení do Evropského měsíce fotografie  spolu s festivaly v Paříži, Vídni, Berlíně, Lucemburku, Římě a Moskvě. Novinkou byla i sekce „Na východ od východu“, zaměřená na fotografie z Koreje a Číny. Jinak však šlo o standardní ročník festivalu, jaký u nás bohužel stále ještě nemáme.

Jestliže v minulých ročnících největší zájem diváků přitahovaly výstavy slavných osobností světové fotografie Michalse, Salgada, Kleina, Cartiera-Bressona, Leibovitzové, Witkina nebo Nachtweye, tentokrát největší nadšení vzbuzovala retrospektiva Jindřicha Štreita ve dvou podlažích Slovenské národní galerie. Byla zdaleka největší z neuvěřitelného množství více 600 výstav, jimiž se tento přední český dokumentarista dosud prezentoval. A byla také z nich nejkvalitnější. Štreit touto expozicí, premiérově uvedenou v menším rozsahu na jaře v Ostravě, oslavil své šedesátiny. Výběr snímků na výstavu i pro doprovodnou knihu z nakladatelství Kant však tentokrát neudělal sám, ale svěřil ho Tomáši Pospěchovi. Bylo to dobré rozhodnutí,  protože Pospěch se nebál nerespektovat chronologickou posloupnost cyklů či eliminovat podružnější práce. Vybral tak - a v mnohdy překvapivých souvislostech představil - skutečně nejlepší díla, byť některá z nich do té doby existovala jenom v negativech. Především syrové a přitom vizuálně silné snímky z každodenního života vesničanů na Rýmařovsku a Bruntálsku, v nichž Štreit  mistrovsky propojil obraz konkrétní skupiny lidí v určitém prostředí a čase se zobecňujícími nadčasovými hodnotami. V Bratislavě se to povedlo ještě více než na jarní premiéře výstavy v poněkud stísněných prostorách ostravské galerie, kde některé obří zvětšeniny neměly dostatečný prostor. Expozice tak skvěle představila nejenom ohromný rozsah, ale i mimořádnou kvalitu a historický, sociologický i filozofický
význam Štreitova díla.

Romualdas Požerskis, z cyklu Venkovské slavnosti
  

Zuzanna Krajewska, z výstavy Nový polský dokument
  
Určitý pandán ke Štreitovým humanistickým dokumentům v Bratislavě tvořila díla mezinárodně proslulého litevského fotografa střední generace Romualdase Požerskise, jenž ve svých černobílých snímcích (obzvlášť patrné to bylo na fotografiích z náboženských poutí) také dovede odhalovat velká obecná témata v nejobyčejnějších životních situacích a spojovat autenticitu s lyričností. Na festivalu však bylo možno porovnat Štreitovy slavné fotografie i s ještě nedávno téměř neznámými snímky pětasedmdesátiletého krnovského fotografa Gustava Aulehly, který před půl stoletím začal s velkou otevřeností, obrazovou vytříbeností a často s jemnou ironií dokumentovat ve svém městě a jeho okolí devastaci lidí i prostředí v době komunistické totality. Protože se fotografováním neživil a se tedy ohlížet na to, zda jeho fotografie budou zveřejněny nebo ne, podařilo se mu vytvořit neobvykle pravdivý osobní dokument, jenž daleko výstižněji ukazuje podstatné rysy tehdejšího života než stejně staré optimisticky laděné záběry Ericha Einhorna, Leoše Nebora, Václava Jírů a dalších představitelů poezie všedního dne. Jak výjimečné byly Aulehlovy snímky v kontextu československé fotografie 50. a 60. let bylo ostatně možno vidět v konfrontaci s řadou lyrických snímků z té doby, zařazených do výstavy a publikace Bratislava zadním vchodem.

Současná dokumentární fotografie je ovšem hodně jiná. Výborně to předvedla hlavně výstava Nový polský dokument, kterou sestavil varšavský kurátor Adam Mazur hlavně z děl mladých polských fotografů Rafala Milacha, Weroniky Łodzińské s Andrejem Kramarzem, Ireneusze Źjeździalky a dalších. Ti vytvořili silnou mladou generaci, kterou už nebaví neustále rozmělňovat práce polských průkopníků konceptuální a intermediální tvorby, jak se to stále ještě dělá na mnohých fotografických školách u našich severních sousedů, ani vytvářet další a další „citlivé“ sociální snímky z nemocnic, klášterů či dětských domovů . Svou inspiraci hledají hlavně v současných trendech subjektivního dokumentu, moderního sociologického portrétu či uhrančivě precizních fragmentů městských krajin a různých interiérů. Bratislavská repríza této zásadní expozice, původně uvedené v Centru současného umění ve Varšavě. ukázala překvapivě vysokou obsahovou i řemeslnou úroveň mnoha děl, jaká bychom ještě před pár lety marně hledali v polské fotografii.

Edward Burtynsky, z cyklu Čína
  
Jak aktuální je tvorba mnohých polských dokumentaristů předvedla třeba komparace s díly skvělého kanadského fotografa Edwarda Burtynského, který se v posledních letech stal jednou z nejrespektovanějších postav současné světové fotografie. Odbytá instalace jeho výstavy v bratislavském Domě umění však musela nemile překvapit každého, kdo viděl Burtynského profesionálně připravené retrospektivy v Brooklynském muzeu v New Yorku nebo v Kanadské národní galerii v Ottawě. U jeho fascinujícího souboru  snímků z Číny totiž nebyly respektovány tematické kapitoly a dokonce se v něm ocitly záběry rozebíraných vraků lodí z Bangladéše. A navíc fotografie byly alespoň v úvodních dnech festivalu představeny bez popisků, které jsou velmi důležité pro pochopení politických, sociologických a ekologických aspektů převratných změn v nejlidnatější zemi světa, jež Burtynského fotografie ukazují. Burtynsky se ve svých velkoformátových barevných fotografiích  řadí do aktuálního proudu technicky dokonalých a vnějškově rezervovaných záběrů reality, ale v jeho fotografiích se v poslední době daleko častěji objevují lidé. Přízračné snímky tisíců stejně oblečených dělníků a dělnic v ohromných halách při nástupu do práce, šití bot nebo kuchání kuřat výmluvně ukazují ztrátu individuality i tisíciletých tradic a současný prudký nástup masové výroby a masového konzumu v zemi, v níž se tvrdá ideologie snoubí s ohromným ekonomickým růstem. Čína dnes láká mnoho předních fotografů, ale dosud žádnému z nich se nepodařilo ukázat tamní život a prostředí s takovou vizuální silou jako Edwardu Burtynskému. V Bratislavě to ještě podtrhla  konfrontace jeho svrchovaně současných děl s tradičně pojatými cestopisnými záběry z Tibetu od Pavla Breiera.

Kim Insook, Sladké hodiny, 2005
  
S jihokorejskou fotografii se v Evropě v posledních letech setkáváme stále častěji, i když zdaleka ne tak často jako s fotografií čínskou (například velkou přehlídku fotografické tvorby z jižní Koreje před časem uvedl  fotofestival v německém Hertenu). V Bratislavě byla premiérově představena expozice Současná korejská fotografie, jejíž název nebyl příliš přesný, protože vystaveny byly i ukázky starších děl z 60. let. Je však pravda, že aktuální práce v ní převládaly. Bylo zajímavé vidět, jak se mezinárodní tendence (promyšlené využití barev i možností počítačových úprav snímků, technicky dokonalé velké zvětšeniny, renesance zájmu o portrét apod.) v mnohých dílech prolínají s vlivy tradiční korejské kultury či se zájmy o reflektování situace rychle se transformující jihokorejské společnosti či neprodyšně odděleného a na obou stranách neustále vyzbrojovaného národa ve dvou zcela odlišných státech. Možná však, že to s tou totální odlišností dvou Koreje tak úplná pravda nebude. Tak to alespoň naznačoval šokující výstup jihokorejského velvyslance během vernisáže, kdy po promítnutí několika záběrů ze Severní Koreje začal křičet na kurátorku a přítomné korejské umělce a stavět je do latě jako nějaký komunistický činovník.

Tradiční dominantou bratislavského Měsíce fotografie, jako vždy připraveného malou skupinou organizátorů pod vedením Václava Macka, byla tvorba ze střední a východní Evropy, které takovou pozornost nevěnuje žádný jiný festival. Zájemci o historii fotografie mohli vychutnat na výstavě Skvosty ruské fotografie 1850-1950 ze sbírky Anatolije Zlobovského dobové originály děl známých (Karelin, Dmitrijev, Rodčenko, Zelma), méně známých (Langman, Děbabov, Chlebnikov) i téměř zapomenutých (Trapani, Lembergová) ruských a sovětských fotografů. Velkým zklamáním zato byla komorní expozice nových zvětšenin raných prací světoznámého maďarského fotografa Andrého Kertésze z let 1913-1919. Výběr Pétera Bakiho z Maďarského muzea fotografie opominul naprostou většinu zásadních děl, která z Kertésze dělají jednoho z nejvýznamnějších průkopníků moderní fotografie, zato zahrnoval celou řadu banalit ve stylu pohlednicových záběrů.  Řadou prací na hranicí kýče, navíc často prezentovaných ve špatných reprodukcích, nepotěšila ani výstava Akt v chorvatské fotografii. Naopak zaujaly obě rakouské výstavy, jak soubor reportážních snímků Ericha Leasinga, ukazujících krátkou euforii a následné krvavé potlačení protikomunistického puče v Budapešti v roce 1956, tak kolekce fotografií Branka Lenarta, plná nápaditých her s perspektivou a odkazů na různá starší umělecká díla. 

Výstava Jiřího Davida v Galerii města Bratislavy
  
Velmi rozsáhle a kvalitně byla tentokrát zastoupena česká fotografie. Tu kromě zmíněných retrospektiv Jindřicha Štreita a Gustava Aulehly reprezentovala komorní expozice intermediálních děl Míly Prestové, putovní výstava nekonvenčních portrétů známých osobností od Antonína Kratochvíla, kterou v železničních vagonech předvedla bývalá Leica Galerie Praha, a výstava velmi osobních a často značně intimních fotografií Jiřího Davida, po řadu let zachycujícího svou ženu a dospívajícího syna. Zatímco v dřívějších cyklech Skryté podoby a Bez soucitu fotografie jenom realizovaly autorovy koncepty a nebylo důležité, kdo u nich stiskl spoušť, v Davidových zobecňujících a přitom tak subjektivních rodinných dokumentech má už fotografie roli autonomního díla. Z překvapivě skromného zastoupení slovenské fotografie zaujala hlavně výstava Stars, jejíž autor Pavel Maria Smejkal implantoval za pomoci počítače postavám vězňů z koncentračních táborů tváře současných celebrit. Nešlo mu o zpochybňování jednoho z posledních tabu, jakým v současném umění zůstává ironizující interpretace holocaustu (o to se s kontroverzními výsledky pokusil polský umělec Libera), ale jednak chtěl upozornit, že v koncentračních táborech zahynuly stovky tehdejších celebrit, jednak chtěl divákům položit otázku, zda by se i oni mohli dostat do podobné situace – a jak by\se v ní zachovali. Pro mnohé návštěvníky byla překvapením retrospektiva zapomínaného představitele slovenské inscenované fotografie 80. let Jána Pavlíka.

Hannes Wallrafen, Svatba
  

Hodnocení portfolií


Ředitelka Pražského domu fotografie Eva M. Hodek v První slovenské krčmě
  
  

V Bratislavě bylo k vidění i mnoho dalšího, od možná až příliš rozsáhlé výstavy finského fotografa Arna Rafaela Minkkinena, po dlouhá léta fotografujícího fragmenty svého těla v krajině i v městském prostředí, přes přehlídku současné slovinské fotografie, zaměřenou na její konceptuální a inscenovanou část, výborný soubor barevných dokumentů z Kolumbie od holandského fotografa Hannese Wallrafena, zachycující atmosféru Márquezova románu Sto roků samoty, až po výstavu Mutace, na níž byla vybrána především počítačově upravené díla od sedmi autorů ze sedmi zemí, které probíhají festivaly zařazené do Evropského měsíce fotografie. Součástí bratislavského festivalu bylo také dobře zorganizované hodnocení portfolií, několik tvůrčích dílen, koncert nových skladeb vytvořených k projekci fotografií, přednášky, rozsáhlý katalog. A tak i když se šestnáctý Měsíc fotografie ve slovenské metropoli nevyhnul některým chybám při instalacích výstav a jeho pořadatelé stále nebyli schopni zavést pro hosty a novináře akreditace, které by jim zajistily volné vstupy na výstavy, většina návštěvníků asi byla spokojena s festivalovým programem i s příjemnou atmosférou malebného starého centra Bratislavy, v němž probíhá většina festivalových akcí.

Vladimír Birgus
Zdroj: Fotografie Magazín 1/2007

30/12/2006

Month of Photography in Bratislava 2006

Konstantin Shapiro, F. M. Dostoyevsky, 1879
   
Bratislava’s festival of photography can be described either in terms of superlatives or unflatteringly – depending on perspective. Some regular visitors fail to see how it is possible, in spite of all the critical responses, that the organizers were unable to avoid unnecessary mistakes in the festival’s sixteenth year, which took place in November 2006. These included the all too often shoddy installation of the exhibitions, missing captions, and major exhibitions again opening in the first half of the opening week, when most foreign visitors still had not made it to Bratislava (from Czech photography schools alone over two hundred students and lecturers visit regularly), or the still non-existing accreditation for exhibiting artists, portfolio reviewers, festival guests and journalists, who once again had to go through the humiliation of having to plead for free entrance to exhibitions and other events. On the other hand it is clear that the Bratislava Month of Photography has come a long way since its humble beginnings, and today has earned its irreplaceable niche among other photography festivals (a fact confirmed by its inclusion in the European Month of Photography, together with the festivals in Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Rome and Luxembourg). A small group of organizers, with Václav Macek at their head, managed to compile a festival accentuating Central and Eastern European photography, which is also accompanied each year by several exhibitions of foremost photographers from other parts of the world. The festival program has grown over the years to the current number of circa 35 exhibitions; in addition to those there is today also a well-organized portfolio review (with the participation of prominent photographers, critics and curators), several workshops, lectures, a photo-book competition, and even a concert of new compositions by Slovak musicians inspired by various photographs. The Fotofoto Foundation that holds the festival managed to publish a number of books and catalogues, and in 2005 they opened the Central European House of Photography. Already for eleven years they have been issuing Imago magazine in English. The organizers have also gradually managed to eliminate the most serious mistakes in the festival production: most exhibitions were open also during the opening weekend, the extensive Slovak-English catalogue came out on time, all of the exhibition pieces were hung on the walls or panels, and none were found lying on the floor, as happened in 2005.

What then, did the 16th Month of Photography yield? As always, the larger share of exhibitions were dedicated to Central and East European photography. Regrettably, Russian photography this year was not represented by any new tendency, only an exhibition entitled Jewels of Russian Photography 1850-1950 from the Collection of Anatolij Zlobovsky. This presented mostly original prints of 19th century portraiture (Konstantin Shapiro, Andrei Karelin, Maxim Dmitriev), Russian Pictorialism (Nikolai Andreyev, Vasily Ulitin, Alexander Grinberg, Nikolai Svishchov-Paola, Leonid Shokin, and others), 1920s and 1930s avant-garde tendencies (Alexander Rodchenko, Eleazar Langman, Alexander Khlebnikov, Regina Lemberg), as well as photojournalism increasingly influenced by Socialist Realism (Arkadii Shaikhet, Dmitri Dyebabov, Georgii Zelma, Arkadii Shishkin, Ivan Shagin). The over-mannered shots of zealous builders and sportsmen taken from striking high or low angles were in many ways reminiscent of Leni Riefenstahl’s photographs from Nazi Germany, raising similar questions as to the degree of guilt of talented photographers in promoting totalitarian regimes. Its contribution lay particularly in that alongside much-published icons the exhibition included little known works, such as Langman or Lemberg’s photographs, that until recently did not appear even in detailed anthologies of Soviet photography. Polish visitors, however, were particularly surprised to see the works of a classic figure of Polish photography (Jan Bułhak) ranked among Russian artists.

The festival’s attractions that drew the most viewers included the exhibition of early works by the world-famous Hungarian photographer André Kertész from the years 1913-1919. The selection of new prints from the Hungarian Museum of Photography however left aside a vast majority of the essential works that made Kertész one of the most prominent pioneers of both modern photojournalism and experimental photography, while it included a multitude of banal pictures. In contrast, both of the Austrian exhibitions were excellent – the collection of Erich Lessing’s reportage photographs showing the short-lived euphoria and subsequent bloody suppression of the anti-Communist uprising in Budapest in 1956 (on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of this event Lessing’s dramatic photographs were presented in many cities worldwide, from New York and Paris to Vienna), and the collection of Branko Lenart’s photographs, full of imaginative tricks of perspective and references to various older works of art. 

The opening of Pavel Maria Smejkal exhibition
  
Slovak creative photography was also represented in several exhibitions. Bratislava By the Back Door (Bratislava zadním vchodem), compiled by Václav Macek and featuring an eponymous publication, presented a photographic history of the Slovak capital in the 20th century. Of particular interest were documentary images from the 1950s and 1960s by Ladislav Csáder, Juraj Šajmovič, Igor Grossmann and others who worked in the aesthetic of the “poetry of the everyday.” For many visitors the biggest surprise was the retrospective of an often forgotten representative of 1980s Slovak staged photography, Ján Pavlík, whose work was more introspective and less playful than the works of his colleagues at that time, Tono Stano, Vasil Stanko, Rudo Prekop, and Miro Švolík. Among the most original parts of the festival was the exhibition Stars. Its author, Pavel Maria Smejkal, digitally implanted the figures of prisoners in concentration camps with the faces of contemporary celebrities. His intention was not to question one of the last taboos in contemporary art – an ironic interpretation of the Holocaust (as attempted for instance by the Polish artist Zbigniew Libera, with controversial results). Rather, he wanted to say that hundreds of celebrities of the time had also perished in concentration camps, and at the same time he wished to pose the question to the viewer of whether they could also find themselves in a similar situation – and how would they live up to it. Two diverse poles of photography on sociological issues were presented in Andrea Kalinová’s exhibition on Slovak politicians and the provisional dwellings of the homeless; and Juraj Chlapík’s exhibition confronting the portraits of the inhabitants of Bratislava’s largest housing project – Petržalka – with the interiors of their pre-fab homes.

Among the highlights of the festival were The New Documentalists (Poland), assembled by Warsaw curator Adam Mazur mostly of works by young Polish photographers, Zuzana Krajewska, Rafał Milach, Igor Omulecki, Weronika Łodzińska, Andrzej Kramarz, Ireneusz Źjeździalka, and others. They collectively form a strong younger generation that has grown tired of the endless reiteration of works by the Polish pioneers of conceptual and multi-media art from the 1950s and 1960s, as is still the case at many Polish schools of photography. They look for inspiration above all in the current trends of subjective documentary, the modern sociological portrait, or stunningly precise fragments of urban landscapes and various indoor scenes. The Bratislava reprise of this essential exhibition, first shown at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, revealed a surprisingly high level of achievement both in terms of craft and content – such as only a few years ago would have been sought in vain in Polish photography. By comparison to the more ironic exhibition Poland Now (Teraz Polska), launched in May 2006 at the Month of Photography in Krakow, the present exhibition inspired more optimism. A more traditional rendition of the photographic documentary was visible at the retrospective of the internationally renowned Lithuanian photographer of the middle generation Romualdas Požerskis, whose black-and-white images have the ability to reveal large, general themes in the most trivial situations, combining authenticity with lyricism.

Czech photography was represented this time very extensively and in very good quality. This was largely due to the gigantic retrospective of Jindřich Štreit stretching over two floors of the Slovak National Gallery. It was an expanded version of the exhibition held in Ostrava, on the occasion of the 60th birthday of this foremost representative of Czech and European social documentary. He entrusted with the selection of photographs his former student and present colleague at the Institute of Creative Photography at the Silesian University in Opava, Tomáš Pospěch. It was a propitious decision, since Pospěch was bold enough to interfere with the chronological sequence of cycles and to eliminate some less essential works. In this way he succeeded in selecting only the very best works – including some that had hitherto existed only in negatives. Particularly the bleak, and yet visually compelling images from the everyday life of villagers in the region of Rýmařov and Bruntál where Štreit masterfully combined a portrait of a specific group of people in a concrete environment and period with timeless values documented the outstanding quality as well as the historical, sociological and philosophical significance of Štreit’s work.

Gustav Aulehla
  
The Bratislava Month of Photography however also presented an opportunity to compare Štreit’s work from the last two decades of the 20th century with the older and hitherto virtually unknown photographs of the 75-year old Gustav Aulehla. With startling openness and visual sophistication, and often with subtle irony, fifty years ago Aulehla began documenting the devastation of both people and environment during the rule of Communist totalitarianism in his native Krnov and its vicinity. Since photography was not his means of living, he did not have to worry whether his photographs would be published or not, and he thus created an unusually truthful personal documentary that portrays aspects of life at the time far more aptly and authentically then the lyrical photographs of his contemporaries, representatives of the “poetry of the everyday” trend. Czech photography was represented in Bratislava also by a small exhibition of multimedia works by Míla Preslová, a traveling exhibition of unconventional portraits by Antonín Kratochvíl held by Leica Gallery Prague in railway carriages, and the very personal and often rather intimate photographs of Jiří David, who has for a number of years photographed his wife and teenage son. While in his earlier cycles Skryté podoby (Hidden Image) and Bez soucitu (No Compassion) photographs were merely a vehicle to realize the artist’s concepts and it was inessential who actually pressed the shutter release, in David’s generalizing, and yet ever so subjective family documentaries, photography now becomes work in its own right.

Edward Burtynsky's exhibition
  
Edward Burtynsky-China-Shanghai, 2004
  
The program of the Bratislava festival this year included a section entitled East of the East, introducing photographs from China and South Korea. Those included extraordinarily compelling photographs from contemporary China by the Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, who has in recent years become one of the most well respected figures in contemporary photography. His large-format color prints place Burtynsky within the current trend of technically perfect and outwardly reserved shots of reality, but people have started appearing with increasing frequency in his recent photographs. The spectral images of thousands of uniformly dressed male and female workers sowing shoes in vast halls, gutting chickens or eating in immense factory canteens most eloquently illustrate the loss of both individuality and traditions going back thousands of years, and the current sharp advance of mass production and mass consumerism in a country where hard-line ideology goes hand in hand with tremendous economic growth. Bratislava saw the premiere of Contemporary Korean Photography, featuring also examples of older works from the 1960s. It was fascinating to see the international tendencies (a sophisticated use of color as well as computer-processing of the image, technically perfect prints, a renewed interest in portraiture) in many works fused with traditional Korean cultural influences, or a desire to reflect the fast-transforming South Korean society, or the imperviously isolated and incessantly arming nation divided into two completely different states.  

An undisputed contribution to the festival was also the extensive exhibition of the Finnish photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen, who has for many years photographed fragments of his body in both rural and urban landscapes, a retrospective of Slovenian photography focusing on its conceptual and staged trends, a surprisingly good exhibition of Cuban photographs on religious themes entitled The Other Side of the Soul, a collection of color documentaries from Columbia by the Dutch artist Hannes Wallrafen, and Mutations I – a selection that included computer-manipulated works by seven artists from the seven countries where festivals included in the European Month of Photography take place. The sixteenth Month of Photography in Bratislava was thus among the better years in the history of the festival so far.

Vladimír Birgus
Fotograf 8/2006

30/12/2006

Photokina and the International Photo Scene in Cologne

Photokina, Cologne
  
As early as the 1950s and 1960s, well before the emergence of the first festival of photography in Arles, there existed a regularly held event presenting many exhibitions of images from historical and contemporary photography – the culture program of Photokina, the world’s largest film and photography fair in Cologne. The fact that since its inception Photokina did not merely present innovations in film and photo technology but also actual photographic work was in large part due to the recently deceased German collector and historian of photography, L. Fritz Gruber, who for many years organized for the fair, both directly at the main site and in Cologne’s numerous museums and galleries, thematic as well as artist-oriented exhibition of the foremost photographers. After he retired, the cultural program of Photokina experienced once more a heyday during the time when Karl Steinorth was closely involved – the curator of a number of major exhibitions and author of many books on the history of photography. Photokina Cologne thus regularly saw retrospectives of Alfred Stieglitz, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Edward Steichen, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, William Klein, and other famous photographers, richly sponsored by Kodak and Agfa.

Martin Parr, Day of the Deadh,  Mexico City, 2003, Masgnum Photos
   
Patric Fouad, Women's Rooms - Brothels in Germany, Düsseldorf
   
Frank Herfort, Moscow, 2005
  
Exhibition of the Institute of Creative Photography, Silesian University in Opava (Academy meets Photokia)
  

The current crisis of many traditional photographic companies that have failed to keep up with the massive advance of digital photography, however, has resulted in a sharp drop in the sponsorship of the cultural side of Photokina. In spite of this, in September 2006 the Photokina Visual Gallery took place already for the third time on the premises of Hall 1 of the much-improved Cologne exhibition area, presenting a number of attractive exhibitions. Exhibitions were also held at other venues during the fair; noticeable among them for instance the immense prints of the historical photographs of Karl Hugo Schmölz, portraying the dominants of Cologne destroyed by air raids during the Second World War, the documentary photographs of the Dutch photographer and environmental activist Robert Knoth showing the deadly impact of ill-deposited radioactive waste in Russia on the local people and landscape, or the Bildeberg agency exhibition, portraying life in contemporary Germany with gentle irony. The main magnet of the Visual Gallery at Photokina, however, was the new retrospective of Martin Parr, fresh laureate of the Erich Salomon Prize, awarded on the eve of Photokina’s opening by the German Photographic Society (DGPh). Parr compiled his Assorted Cocktail from sections of both older and brand new cycles, in which he with characteristic dry English humor and subtlety showed the typical features of mass tourism, consumerism, globalization, and herd mentality. While the garish details of kitschy souvenirs, chubby tourists and greasy food from Mexico or Germany were close in both motif and style to Parr’s older photographs from England or Spain, his newer images of everyday life in Scotland heralded a return of sorts to his spectral 1980s´ England, full of absurd confrontations and visual symbolism. Another exhibition that drew large audiences was Patric Fouad’s Frauenzimmer – Brothels in Germany. These technically precise large-format photographs showed the interior of rooms inhabited by prostitutes in various German cities. Fouad was not seeking titillating views of places normally accessible only to paying customers, but instead employed the symptomatic details of garish beds, artificial flowers, stuffed animals, embroidered pillows, and lascivious framed pictures on walls and bedside tables to create a sociological documentary of the settings in which the oldest trade in human history is conducted in his native country. Of an altogether different kind was the exhibition of young Italian photographer Lorenzo Castore entitled Paradiso, already presented in Arles as well as several other photography festivals. His blurred color images of streets, backyards, bars and bedrooms are far removed from the traditional humanism of photojournalism and rather then social issues they reflect the inner world of the artist, his subjective take on people and the intimate moments in their lives. The other pole of contemporary documentary presented traditionally composed black-and-white images by Jürgen Escher (Germany) on humanitarian aid in various ailing places on the planet, filled with poverty, hunger, disease and violence, but also hope and longing for a better life. Escher’s photographs cannot be denied a certain humanist appeal, but they lack the visual qualities of Salgado, or Nachtwey. 

A number of fresh ideas and technically perfect photographs, where today it no longer matters whether they were created using traditional or digital technology, were on display at the group exhibitions of young artists. The exhibition of the laureates of the Kodak Prize for young artists was outstanding; almost all the works were technically precise, possessed of a solid concept and functional utilization of color (not one of the prize-winning collections were in black and white), as well as an emphasis on visually attractive rendition of both self-reflective and social subtext. Some works were “staged documentary” that obliterated the boundaries between reality and fiction. Protagonists of this tendency meticulously arranged spectral scenes set in strange rooms in St. Petersburg and Moscow, places with no clear function, where time seemed to be frozen (Frank Herfort), in a nuclear power-station and its vicinity in the Lithuanian town of Visaginas (Martin Schlüter), or in a house where puppets represented family members doing their morning exercises, having breakfast or having sex – and also committing suicide (Grit Hachmeister). Among the prize-winning works were also the naturalist detailed photographs of women during their morning beautification sessions (Malin Schulz and Sina Preikschat), an apt documentary from present-day Armenia (Lili Nahapetian), inventive portraits of Chinese artists from Peking (Tobias Habermann) and other works that proved that many young German and European photographers are moving away from the long dominant influence of Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, and other famous disciples of Bernd Becher at the Staatliche Akademie in Düsseldorf, and are looking for new themes and new styles. 

This was visible also in the international context at the exhibition of 23 university-level schools of photography, Academy Meets Photokina, where a single school from a formerly Communist country was selected – the Institute of Creative Photography of the Silesian University in Opava, represented by works of Czech, Slovak and Polish students. The winning works of the Fujifilm Euro Press Professional Photo Award 2006 were of a rather uneven level of achievement, as alongside works of quality some rather banal sports shots or details of frogs and newts were also honored. Photographs by Eliot Erwitt, Reinhart Wolf, Ernst Haas, Andreas Feininger, and other world-renowned artists were included in the Icon exhibition – 30 photographers of the Association of Freelance Photo Designers, which was however handicapped by the fact that their giant prints were hung all the way up under the exhibition hall ceiling, and few people actually looked at them. Photographs of Charles E. Fraser were a nostalgic reminiscence of the early days of Photokina, capturing as they did installations of exhibition at Photokina in the years 1950-1956, which from our vantage point are sometimes unintentionally amusing.      

Of the 68 exhibitions of International Photoscene held in various galleries and other venues, among the most interesting this year were above all the retrospective of the American pioneer of conceptual photography and new topography, Ed Ruscha, held at the Ludwig Museum, the extensive, but rather uneven exhibition God in Germany at the Kunsthaus Rhenania, and the exhibition of photographs of the fascinating dehumanized jungle of Hong Kong tenement houses by Michael Wolf (Germany) at the Laif Agency’s exhibition room. German inter-war photography was represented by the impromptu street shots of Friedrich Seidenstücker and little-known reportage photographs by Hannes M. Flach from the car races at Nürburgring. In comparison to the dozens of outstanding exhibitions at the International Photoscene in the 1980s and 1990s, there was little to see this year, and moreover the selection of exhibitions in the official program struck one as rather random. It was evident that the International Photoscene in Cologne is not in its heyday.
                             
Vladimír Birgus
Fotograf 8/2006

14/12/2006

LANUGO

LANUGO
Anton Karpita
Kamila Musilová
Tereza Vlčková

18. 12. - 21. 1. 2007
Vernisáž 18. 12. v 18.00

Galerie Artistů ve foyer kina Art
Cihlářská 19, Brno

Lanugo je odborný název pro jemné ochmýření těla novorozence. Přeneseně řečeno je to jakýsi začátek, z něhož se něco vyvíjí a vyrůstá. Vata chránící křehké. Fotografie tří autorů, Antona Karpity, Kamily Musilové a Terezy Vlčkové jsou s těmito významy úzce spjaty. Tvůrci, studenti Univerzity Tomáše Bati - oboru reklamní fotografie, jsou stále ještě hledači. Spojuje je však snaha o nalezení nových přístupů k médiu módní fotografie. Jsou znuděni banálními časopisovými fashion story a snaží se ukázat obrovské možnosti, které tento tradiční žánr skýtá. Jednoduché, esteticky "vycizelované" fotografie Antona Karpity, snová atmosféra na hranici krásy a kýče ve snímcích Terezy Vlčkové či scény postavené na základě příběhů od Kamily Musilové jsou příslibem něčeho nového.

5/12/2006

The Nude in Czech Photography 1960-2000

Miloslav Stibor - 15 Photographs for Henry MillerThe nude is one of the most beloved and most frequent kinds of Czech photography, and many of its artists like František Drtikol, Karel Ludwig or Jan Saudek are among the most important and most popular Czech photographers. Although after 1960 there have been several periods which were not favorable to photographic nudes in Czechoslovakia, for various reasons, there were not any when high quality nudes were not made at all. The worst period of dogmatic totalitarianism ended with Stalin's death in 1953, but it took several more years before the cultural scene showed distinct signs of liberalization in Czechoslovakia. Photographers adopted a number of specialized techniques, including point-source studio lighting, sandwich montages with details of various structure, projections of various rasters on the models' bodies, the Sabattier effect, coarse grain, and "rollage." Such stylized works by Miroslav Hák and Karel Ludwig were loosely emulated by other artists. In 1960, Václav Chochola made several classical studio nudes, emphasizing the models' natural beauty without distinctive stylization, but in that same year, he and the artist Jiří Kolář employed these very photographs in a series of "rollages" and "prollages". Stylization through sharp light contrasts and effective details were often used in nudes to accent basic archetypes, simple shapes and proportionality. Miloslav Stibor in the 1960s became one of the most important international Czech photographers of nudes. In 1968, following his earlier creatively finished, technically precise but somewhat cold nudes, Stibor presented a surprising series entitled 15 Photographs for Henry Miller /see photo/. These sensual photographs featuring cropped details of female bodies are undoubtedly the peak of his work, and perhaps even one of the best works of Czech nude photography in the 1960s. Dramatically lit and stepping out of the darkness almost like phantoms, these eroticized nudes allow for a certain degree of naturalism rather than stylized finish. Sandwich montages and projections of rasters, or light-filtered patterns, were most often used in nudes by Jaroslav Vávra and Zdeněk Virt.


In the 1960s, the first distinctive staged photographs that employed the motif of naked bodies began to appear. Jan Saudek pioneered this approach, which has since found many followers in various chronological and stylistic waves. His earliest arranged photographs, which give symbolic expression to elementary human values and common emotions, were made in the late 1950s and early 1960s. At first, Saudek made delicate compositions that juxtaposed innocent and defenseless childhood and the world of adults. However, it was not until the 1970s that he received significant international notice.
Naked female and sometimes male figures appeared in the exalted scenes by members of the Brno group Epos. Rostislav Košťál, František Maršálek and Jiří Horák, influenced particularly by the hippie movement, literary and creative symbolism, and echoes of surrealism and existentialism, just like contemporary films with distinctive visual symbols, the theater of the absurd and fashion photographs. Taras Kuščynskyj, who sought to capture female appeal in most of his work from the 1970s, was distinct from the work of the Epos group, which was oriented toward symbolic expression of generational feelings. He gradually moved from simple harmonic nudes to more dynamic arrangements with exalted gestures by the models. Increasingly frequently he abandoned interiors and photographed in the forests and fields. Jan Saudek, which distanced itself more and more from fragile juxtapositions of childhood and adulthood or dreams and reality. It turned toward exaggerated eroticism and symbolic depictions of love and hate, the complicated relationships of men and women, reversal of traditional female and male roles, changes in appearance and identity of naked and clothed people, the irreversible flow of time and unavoidable old age and death. The duality of the present and the timelessness of his photographs is frequently strengthened by juxtapositions of old costumes and decorations from other times with typical products from the end of the 20th century. A similar role, reminiscence of old times, also emphasized by antedating photos by a whole century, is played by hand coloring, which Saudek has used since 1977 and which undoubtedly contributes to creating the aura of hand-made originals that some of his enlargements have.
Naked bodies of men and boys did not begin to appear in greater measure until the 1980s, in works by Slovak students at the Prague Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of Performing Asts (FAMU), Tono Stano, Vasil Stanko, Miro Švolík, Rudo Prekop and other representatives of the second wave of staged photography, who mostly stayed in Prague after finishing their studies. With their Slovak nationality and Czech citizenship they now belong to Czech and Slovak photography. Including naked male bodies in various shocking scenes was, of course, part of a wider revolt by the young Slovak FAMU students. Similarly to many of their generation among painters or sculptors, they rejected tendencies to moralize, typical of artists of the middle generation, and had little interest in politics or existential questions, which seemed to them to be exhausted and not modern. They found inspiration mainly in postmodernism, though often there were spontaneous reactions with a deep knowledge of the foreign artistic scene. They were not afraid of eclectic styles, subsequent interference with positives and negatives, reinterpretation of older works, humor, irony or eroticism - and in no way disguised the fact that they were often more concerned with pleasure in the creative game than with reflection of deep philosophical problems. They did not want to change the world, but they tried to relativize its perception, recognition and evaluation, to laugh at stereotypes and cliches. One of the most original and most impressive words in Czech postmodern photography was the series Playing for the Fourth from 1985-86, which resulted from collaboration by Tono Stano, Rudo Prekop and their Prague friend Michal Pacina. By joining inventive photographs of heads - made by Pacina, with photos of bodies - photographed by Prekop, and Stano's details of legs, they created not only three playful photographs, but also an unusually inventive entire series.
The distinctive trends of the 1980s included multi-media work, which also often included motifs of naked bodies. Postmodernist re-evaluation of the principles of the pure photographic image in Czechoslovakia too led to increasingly frequent crossing of the borders between photography, painting, graphics and sculpture. Pavel Jasanský reacted to the expressionist impulses from works by Arnulf Reiner and Anselm Kiefer in the series Bodies, growing since 1985. He completed the large photographs of naked couples and groups with sweeping overpainting in black, but he also connected them in an action sequence or assembled a video from them. Vladimír Židlický shifted from abstract body fragments with frequent use of luminography to dramatic scenes with clusters of naked figures, creatively reinforced by engraving and scratching negatives, drawing with light and brown toning of the enlargements.
>From the beginning of the 1990s, the fall of the communist regime and the return of democracy brought an exceptionally liberal atmosphere for the photographic nude in Czechoslovakia, which seemed to want to quickly compensate for the long years of censorship and official prudishness. Tens of erotic and pornographic magazines appeared, which here, unlike most western European countries or the USA are not sold only in special sex-shops, but in virtually all news agents. Despite these excesses, the closing 1990s were an exceptionally fertile period for Czech nude photography. While the staged photography of the previous decade was dominated by a return to playfulness and the lack of conflict of Dada or poetism, in newer staged photographs by Ivan Pinkava, Václav Jirásek or Michal Macků we find quite different influences. Ivan Pinkava frequently seeks inspiration in antiquity, the Gothic, the Renaissance, Mannerism, the Baroque, decadence or symbolism. The people in Pinkava's photographs frequently look like archetypes or mythical figures, who symbolize various psychological, relational or sexual themes, just as the desire to seek something deeper and more permanent than the current hectic times usually provide.
At the beginning of the group Brotherhood (Bratrstvo) at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, Václav Jirásek used as starting points the archetypes of the most dogmatic period of socialist realism, but today, like Pinkava, he seeks inspiration in a far more distant past, reaching not only to symbolism or the Gothic, but even to pre-historic myths. His melancholic photographs, in which he himself often appears lately, as a naked man in the midst of romantic nature, examine the depths of time, changeless values, a supra-personal order and faith. They return on a kind of imaginary spiral to the spiritual atmosphere of the end of the 19th century, which had great interest in such themes. All this is underlined by the richness of his tonal scale and the sharpness of contact copies from large format negatives, from which he sometimes assembles long panoramic images.
An accent on content and image symbols is also typical for the works of Michal Macků, which have recently received great acclaim in the United States and some European countries. Macků very inventively uses the technique of "gellages," which permits pulling the damp emulsion from a large-format negative and then treating it, which can include multiplication of the same motif, tearing, suppressing certain details or spatial distortions. In motifs of his own naked body in imaginary space he symbolizes the themes of violence, anxiety, loss of individuality in the middle of a de-personalized crowd, the duality of body and soul, transcendence and extra-rational perception. Zdeněk Lhoták also photographs his own nude body, but his work is markedly different from the photographs of Michal Macků and the works by John Coplans with similar motifs. Fragments of the naked figure are depicted from such unexpected angles and in such surprising cut outs, that they become a kind of sign, in which the erotic charge is suppressed in order to emphasize self-reflection and complicated symbolism, loosely inspired by yoga and Buddhism. A novelty in Lhoták's nude self-portraits, is the use of color.
In the '90s Pavel Mára made two distinctive series with motifs of naked bodies. In the technically precisely made, greater than life size enlargements of triptychs, depicting faces and entire naked figures of women and men from a frog's-eye view, axial view, and bird's eye view with parallel vertical lines, he suggestively posed the questions of identity, outer appearance and the precision of our perception. The tranquility of these photographs contrasts with the expressiveness of the red androgynous bodies from the series Mechanical Corpuses, connecting in an unusual symbiosis sensuality and coldness, animality and de-personalization.
Another of the few photographers who work inventively in nude photography with psychological and esthetic aspects of color is Jiří David - one of the best known artists of the middle generation, who often uses photography in his work. The sharply colored photos of his own naked young son with a revolver with their unusual atmosphere, may suggest the poetics of David Lynch's films.
Whereas earlier women appeared only exceptionally among Czech photographers, in recent years a number of female photographs of male and female nudes have appeared. Even during her studies at FAMU Michaela Brachtlová drew attention with her juxtapositions of details of bodies and plants, sea creatures and furs, in which, on the surrealist model, she emphasized latent erotic meanings. She also drew loosely on her somewhat grotesque-seeming juxtapositions of male bodies with fetishist furs in the illusory details of the male models' bodies. Irena Armutidisová and Jolana Havelková created their sociologically and psychologically eloquent portraits of naked men and women in a documentary concept. There are many more women photographers and painters or sculptors whose works include nudes or fragments of naked bodies. This testifies not only to the emancipation of women, but also to the fact that the nude is one of the most frequent, most favored, and most current genres in contemporary Czech photography.

 


The exhibition The Nude in Czech Photography 1960-2000 was curated by Vladimír Birgus and Jan Mlčoch. It was presented in the Manesh in Moscow during the Fotobiennale 2002 in the collaboration with the Czech Center in Moscow and The Moscow House of Photography. In September 2002 it will be presented in Czech Center in Paris, in November and December 2002 in the French Institute in Aachen.

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