Jan 21, 2005 12:00 AM - Feb 19, 2005 12:00 AM
Czech Photography VI
Czech Photography VI - Václav Chochola, Jan Lukas, Dagmar Hochová, Zdeněk Tmej. Exhibition at Leica Gallery, 670 Broadway, New York. Phone: 212 777-3051.
Fiacre, 1949, Vaclav Chochola
Václav Chochola was born in 1923 in Prague. By 1941, he had left school to enter upon various photographic apprentices; by 1943, he had acquired his first photographic studio in Prague; by 1945, he documented the Prague Uprising against the German occupation as well as other crucial events of World War II. By this time, his apprenticeship years were completed and he received his certificate as a free-lance professional photographer. Four years later he was admitted into the Union of Czechoslovak Artists. By 1950, he had opened a new studio in the Old Town of Prague and began to work in close collaboration with the photographer, Zdeněk Tmej. By 1953, he had married and, subsequently, his daughter, Blanka, was born. The political situation in his country continued to cause Chochola great anxiety and by the 1960s he was able to find assignments out of the country – in 1961, working on assignments for three months with the photographer, Dagmar Hochová in North Vietnam and China. In 1970, Chochola was arrested while taking photographs of the grave of Jan Palach, the Czech student who died after setting himself on fire to protest the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. He was held in prison for one month and then given a sentence of probation for two years, during which time he worked on his photo archive. By 1974, he had been evicted from his studio and had to move to the edge of Prague. In the late 1970s, his daughter, Blanka – who had written her university dissertation about the significance of his work - completed his photo archive and curated retrospective exhibitions of his work. Since that time there have been many solo shows, including a large exhibition in Prague held in 2003 honoring Chochola’s 80th birthday.
Selfportrait as Nightwalker, 1949 - Vaclav Chochola
Dagmar Hochová was born in Prague in 1926 and from 1942 through 1946 she studied at the National School of Graphic Arts in Prague. Following graduation, she then attended and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts (FAMU) in Prague specializing in photography. For more than 50 years, she has been an independent photographer working on assignments for newspapers, magazines and periodicals throughout the world. Her photographic technique has been that of a documentarian and a humanist.
Dagmar Hochová is, according to Marie Judlová, part of a generation of artists who liberated Czech art and expression in the late fifties. While their work maintains an internal integrity, it also embodies Czech culture in the broader context of modern art. Looking at Hochová’s work today one can still feel the strength and concern that was so obvious when it first appeared decades ago. As Frederic Ripoll notes, throughout the years of hardships and totalitarian regime, Hochová loved her country and managed to portray it maternally in her work. While her photographs, a good portion of which are populated by children, portray the intimate dynamics of everyday life, with both humor and irony, they are most of all full of depth, vitality and understanding. Antonín Dufek feels that her strength as a photographer is demonstrated by her achievement of credibility. While using children as the focus of attention, she is able to speak in much broader terms. In fact, the future of humanity is at the heart of her images.
Salvador Dali with my portrait of S.Dali, Paris, 1969
Jan Lukas was born in České Budějovice in Czechoslovakia and at the age of 6 his family relocated to Prague. By his early teens he was already clearly set on a career in photography – he even won the 6th Prize of a Kodak competition at age 15! After having graduated from the German Commercial Academy in Prague, he became a full-time independent photographer. From his documentation of the German annexation of Austria: the subsequent German takeover of Czechoslovakia, to the end of World War II; and the emergence of the ruling Czechoslovak Community Party in 1948, Lukas was in the forefront of photojournalism and reportage. In the political thaw of 1964, he was able to receive permission to travel to New York City with his daughter, Helena, where he met many old Czech friends - including Alexander Hammid - who had emigrated many years before. This trip was the catalyst for the decision to leave his homeland. In 1965, Lukas and his family emigrated and he spent the next 10 months in a refugee camp in Italy before coming to the United States. – he was granted U.S. citizenship in 1971. Not until 1990 did his name again appear in print in Czechoslovakia! It was not until almost 25 years of intense work in the United States, that Lukas was made an honorary member of the Czech Association of Photographers and, as his last piece of reportage, photographed President Václav Havel in the White House. In the autumn of 1990, he visited Prague for the first time since his departure in the 60s. In 1995, Lukas, himself, attended the opening of “Prague Diary 1938-1965,” his 80th-birthday retrospective in Prague consisting of 220 photographs. Lukas’s work is in the collections of the International Center of Photography and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
As Anna Fárová, the Czech photographic historian, writes, Zdeněk Tmej (1920-2004) is “body and soul a professional photographer….a real reporter.” Regardless of his subject matter, his technique was always brilliant. The range of his subject matter was wide – from the Czech uprising against the Germans, the concentration camps and post-war Germany, to theatre, ballet and sporting events, including the famous Kladruby horses. The German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia (March 15, 1939-May 9, 1945), however, which included the period of his forced labor in Breslau, became the focal point of Tmej’s photographic career. In September 1942, he was conscripted for forced labor in the Reich and left for Breslau. The resulting series of photographs is truly unique. Anna Fárová says that these photographs provide “an objective statement on an extreme situation…[imparting] an omnipresent atmosphere of slave labor and war…Tmej imparts to us a diary-like experience of a situation with which he was thoroughly familiar because he lived it, working from a feeling of inner necessity, rather than from an external stimulus.” She further notes he was a participant rather than merely a witness, and for two years he provided a documented record of a single situation in a single location populated by a singular group of men whose paths crossed, involuntarily, because of the war. The work is unique in that there is no other complete photographic document on this topic. As Tomáš Jelínek points out, because the forced laborers were denied their rights, their freedom, and their dignity, enduring both physical and psychological hardships, Tmej’s photographs are extremely valuable not only artistically and historically, but also in purely human terms.
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From: Jan 21, 2005 12:00 AM
To: Feb 19, 2005 12:00 AM