Josef Koudelka

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“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 began photographing his family and the surroundings with a 6 x 6 Bakelite camera. In 1961, he earned a degree from the Technical University in Prague and later worked as an aeronautical engineer. At the same time, Koudelka began photographing theatre productions on an old Rolleiflex camera.

In 1968 he witnessed and recorded Soviet armies as they invaded Prague and crushed the Czech resistance, before he was forced to flee the country. His pictures of the events became dramatic international symbols (though he published them anonymously at first), helping him to win the esteemed Robert Capa Gold Medal. This proved a major turning point in Koudelka’s life and career. In 1970 he won asylum in England, living there for the next ten years. A nomad at heart, he continued to wander around Europe hoping to capture something of the world that seemed to be vanishing before his eyes.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Koudelka sustained his work through numerous grants and awards, and continued to exhibit and publish major projects like Gypsies (1975) and Exiles (1988). His work received much support and acknowledgment from Anna Farova, a Czech art historian, and the famous French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 1987 he became a French citizen, and was able to return to Czechoslovakia for the first time in 1990. He then produced Black Triangle, documenting his country’s wasted landscape.

Koudelka resides in France and is continuing his work documenting the European landscape. (via)