View Full Version : 1968: Josef Koudelka and 1968, summer of hate
Note: I posted this under 'philosophy' because of the nature of the statements made by the photographer - more about how he chooses to live his life than about his photography. Nevertheless, he's a noted photographer, quite famous at one time.
1968: Josef Koudelka and 1968, summer of hate
The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia sent shock waves around the world. Amy Turner meets Josef Koudelka, the reclusive photographer who saw the tanks roll in, then smuggled these historic images to the West
Josef Koudelka crouched on the roof of a building in Wenceslas Square, Prague, his camera lens trained on the street below. Thousands of Soviet troops rumbled past in tanks – the city was being invaded. Below him, houses and buses were ablaze, bullets were flying and the wounded cried out. Protesters chanted the name of their hero, the Czech president Alexander Dubcek. Some threw stones at the troops. Others pleaded with the soldiers, begging them to go home. One man simply stood before a tank, silently opened his jacket and defied the soldiers to shoot him in the chest.
Click the link to read the rest. I am a fan of Koudelka, but then, I am a fan of nearly all the Czech photographers. They're terrific.
Excellent piece, Bill. Thank you.
Obsessed and obsessive... just like Winogrand and equally devoted to the craft. Thanks for posting, Bill! :)
I'd also like to remind Slovak photographer, often overlooked, Ladislav Bielik, who documented the occupation of Czechoslovakia in Bratislava in August 1968. His work was and still is used by many agencies and publishers without author's permission.
© 1968 Ladislav Bielik, The Bare-chested Man in Front of the Occupier's Tank
I can't find any of his other photos from the occupation series in some web-gallery to show, just the catalogue from auction (http://www.konzervativizmus.sk/upload/pdf/bielikkatalog.pdf).
He decided to stay in Czechoslovakia after occupation, but this meant the end of his professional career. His photos were no longer good, too artistic as communists noted. He died tragically in Budapest in 1984 during shooting car race for his friends.
Sorry, when I said I was a fan of all the Czech photographers, I meant Czechoslovakia as it was then. I did not intend to exclude those who now consider themselves Slovaks. I like them all.
Excellent interview, thanks for the link. I learned more about Koudelka from that piece than anything else I've read about him. Kudos to the journalist.
His Prague 1968 book is being released in the States at the beginning of August. You can also see a lot of the pictures in his Magnum in Motion essay on the Magnum Photos Web site, here:
Opens and closes with a priceless film clip of yer man shooting photos from atop a Russian tank trying to escape an angry crowd.
1968 is one of those years that are often cited as watersheds. For those of us who lived through the '60s, so much happened that it's fortunate that there were astute photographers around in various places who recorded the happenings.
Forty years later, some of them are gone or at least much older, but they left us a record that will endure.
Super controversial in 1968, and now they are selling posters of it:
I am a big fan of Josef Koudelka too.
I also like Josef Sudek. I have the book "Josef Sudek, Poet of Prague: A Photographer's Life". Aperture 1990 ISBN: 0-89381-386-9.
Thanks again for the link.
and, while I do admire his photos from Prague (and when I visited there it was with his work in mind) my eye likes his photos of gypsy people best. His photo of the gypsy man kneeling in front of his white, gesticulating, horse is pure genius.
Thanks for the link; I really appreciate it.
Mary in SW Florida, USA
Koudelka's Prague 1968 book is on sale in the UK, so I ordered a copy from amazon.uk, and they shipped it over here in a couple of days. Incredible collection of approximately 250 photos he shot during the first week of the occupation, interspersed with the text of announcements being made at the time by Czechoslovak Radio (which was using a highly unofficial transmitter by the end of the first day) and other sources.
An excellent documentation of events at that time. Most of the photos were shot, I believe, with a 25mm lens that someone had given him a few years before---he was right in the middle of things. (Contrary to the Times article, I don't think he had a Leica at the time; Ian Berry of Magnum saw him shooting that week, and described him as a madman with a couple of Prakticas with string neckstraps, and a cardboard box for a camera case.)
Thanks Bill, I like his work and now I like him even more.
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