Josef Koudelka: The Making of Landscape
The exhibition focuses on Josef Koudelka’s landscape photographs, reflecting on the Czech-French photographer’s acute awareness of the precarious relationship mankind has with his natural environment. The exhibition features large displays of his 20+ meters long concertina photo-books and dummies (or ‘maquettes’) from his personal collection.
“Serious and topical work.”
‘Where are the people?’ Henri Cartier-Bresson asked Josef Koudelka (born 1938) when presented with his friend’s first panoramic landscapes photographs in the 1980s. Some 30 years later, landscapes have become the main subject of the multi-awarded photographer’s work, and the people are in fact everywhere in the empty landscapes captured in Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Israel and the West Bank, and all around the Mediterranean area. These are man-made landscapes, for economical or political reasons, and they tell human stories, belonging to a time long ago or contemporary. ‘What is terrible is the destruction, not the destroyed landscape’ says Koudelka, and it takes all his talent to make us accept that, despite the grim views, this is still our land.
The exhibition consists of the books Black Triangle (1994) displayed in its original concertina format and Wall (2013) in a concertina format created for the exhibition, together with twelve concertina dummy books, many of them unpublished.
1–27 August 2017
The Signet Library
Edinburgh EH1 1RF
Produced by the WS Society
In partnership with Magnum Photos
In association with The Times Scotland
Part of the Edinburgh Art Festival 2017
Exhibition catalogue available from the Signet Library (£3) or online from our shop.
Born 1938, Czech/French
Based in Paris, France
Josef Koudelka, born in Moravia, made his first photographs while a student in the 1950s. About the same time that he started his career as an aeronautical engineer in 1961 he also began photographing Gypsies in Czechoslovakia and theater in Prague. He turned full-time to photography in 1967.
The following year, Koudelka photographed the Soviet invasion of Prague, publishing his photographs under the initials P. P. (Prague Photographer) for fear of reprisal to him and his family. In 1969, he was anonymously awarded the Overseas Press Club’s Robert Capa Gold Medal for those photographs.
Koudelka left Czechoslovakia for political asylum in 1970 and shortly thereafter joined Magnum Photos. In 1975, he brought out his first book Gypsies, and in 1988, Exiles. Since 1986, he has worked with a panoramic camera and issued a compilation of these photographs in his book Chaos in 1999. Koudelka has had more than a dozen books of his work published, including Invasion Prague 68 (2008), and, most recently, La Fabrique d’Exils (2017).
He has won significant awards such as the Prix Nadar (1978), a Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1989), a Grand Prix Cartier-Bresson (1991), and the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (1992).
Significant exhibitions of his work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography, New York; the Hayward Gallery, London; the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam; the Institute of Chicago; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
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