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Artists Josef Koudelka
Josef Koudelka Photo

Josef Koudelka

Czech-French Photographer

Movement: Documentary Photography

Born: January 10, 1938 - Boskovice, Czech Republic

Josef Koudelka Timeline

Quotes

"Good photos are few and far between. A great photo is a miracle."
Josef Koudelka
"I don't like captions. I prefer people to look at my pictures and invent their own stories."
Josef Koudelka
"I photograph only something that has to do with me...my freedom is something I do not give away easily."
Josef Koudelka
"If a picture is good, it tells many different stories."
Josef Koudelka
"It is not so important who is Russian and who is Czech. It is more important that one man has a gun and one man has not."
Josef Koudelka
"Beauty is relative, and it depends on each person. Beauty is everywhere, even in tragedy."
Josef Koudelka

"What matters most to me is to take photographs; to continue taking them and not to repeat myself."

Synopsis

Josef Koudelka is a Czech-born French itinerant photographer known for his seminal photo-books about the gypsies in Eastern Europe, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and the Black Triangle, a region of environmental devastation. The black and white images in these photo-books represent key moments in human history that afford us the opportunity to learn from the experiences of alienation, conflict, despair, waste, loss, and departure. He uses photography to distill and visualize human values that have shaped our current human condition.

Key Ideas

While working as a photographer for the Czech theater, Koudelka developed a visual, graphic language defined by its economy, high-contrast lighting, raw graininess, and effective compositions. He pre-visualized the image, used repetition, cropping, and even manipulated the image to capture the detail he was after. In this manner, Koudelka produced a striking image that engaged the viewer. Koudelka not only captured the essence of every theatrical performance he photographed, but also succeeded in documenting what was quintessential in the epic drama of life he subsequently photographed.
His photographs of the Soviet invasion in 1968 are not only his singular foray into photojournalism, but more importantly, they stand as a definitive testament to the Czech people's spontaneous mass protest against Soviet military domination. Koudelka's photographs render this historical event from various viewpoints as it ensued in real time.
Later, the panoramic format has become Koudelka's preferred approach. It allows him to visualize the spatial relationship between man and nature, the individual and the world. With this format, he has produced iconic images of man-made environmental devastation and the frailty of human civilization. His panoramic photography has also persuaded us to gaze at subjects we are prohibited from viewing for security reasons or that go unnoticed, because they are not part of our everyday world.
He believes that one can acquire knowledge through one's eyes, as he states: "...if you look enough and give enough time, even if you do not have a fantastic brain, ... you will get to certain conclusions and I think I get to the conclusions." His philosophy is visualized poignantly in his photographs of the Roma gypsies and the way in which he learned how to live by observing their way of life and culture.

Biography

Josef Koudelka Photo

Childhood

Josef Koudelka, born in Boskovice, a town in Moravia, was fascinated throughout his childhood by folk music, planes, and family photographs taken by the local baker. He seems to have grown up in a close-knit family, which can be inferred from what he has said in interviews about his parents in general. At the age of fourteen, the local baker, also an amateur photographer, introduced him to photography. Koudelka saved up for a Bakelite 6x6 camera by selling wild strawberries picked from bushes on the roadside outside Boskovice. He started taking photographs of his family and the town's surrounding landscape until he left for Prague at the age of eighteen to take up a sensible career in engineering.

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Josef Koudelka Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Josef Koudelka
Interactive chart with Josef Koudelka's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Jiri Janiček
David Hurn
Elliot Erwitt

Personal Contacts

Robert Delpire
Henri Cartier-BressonHenri Cartier-Bresson
André Kertész

Movements

Documentary PhotographyDocumentary Photography

Influences on Artist
Josef Koudelka
Josef Koudelka
Years Worked: 1958 - Present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Gilad Baram
Eric Kim

Personal Contacts

John Szarkowski
Anna Farova
Cornell Capa

Movements

Documentary PhotographyDocumentary Photography
Landscape Photography

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Zaid S. Sethi

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Zaid S. Sethi
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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