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Sudek. Poetry of an object

The characteristic silhouette of a man roaming the streets with a large-sized camera on his arm was, once upon a time, known to everyone in Prague. He would capture views of his city and the beauty of nature, but his most extraordinary works – still lifes – came to live in the four walls of his tiny studio.

Josef Sudek in Mionsi Forest, 1970 | via www.archive.org

It was by a close call that Josef Sudek (1896-1976), now considered one of the most influential characters of Czech and European photography, didn’t choose to lead a peaceful life of a bookbinder. But passion turned out to be stronger. Recruited into the Austro-Hungarian army, he takes his camera with him to the front line of the Great War, not leaving photography behind – not even once his right shoulder has to be amputated after sustaining an injury. Ironically, the loss of ability brings him a sense of freedom and enables him to give into art entirely. After graduating from the State School of Graphic Arts in Prague with a degree in photography in 1924, Sudek, alongside his friends, initiates the progressive Czech Photographic Society. His first cityscapes of Prague and cycles: Invalidovna and Saint Vitus’s Cathedral, are characterized by the classic, pictorial brilliance and picturesqueness, which will later on become the Bohemian’s trademarks. Nevertheless, he already knew he would be determining his own artistic path. 

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