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Tuesday, 17 March 2009


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I appreciate the mention!

I thought for a moment you were referring to André Kertész, in my mind perhaps the greatest ever, but no, he was Hungarian, I see.

Right, and Brassaï was Transylvanian, if I remember correctly.


Coincidentally, I recently got a copy of Sudek's body of work titled "From My Studio Window". It's the first look I've had a a broad, contiguous group of his images. Quite captivating.

Not that this is an altogether appropriate tangent, but it seems that being a photographer without a right arm would be extraordinarily difficult. Ergonomically, I can think of no cameras that could be operated with one hand that wouldn't demand that that hand be the right one. I'm assuming Sudek worked in large format, which would present its own share of problems, but it put the question in my mind: have there been any left-handed models of cameras produced that anyone knows of?

I was fortunate enough to see a show of Sudek prints in Prague. It seemed to be very special to see this work in his homeland. He is definitely a revered artist in the Czech Republic.

Speaking of notable Czechs, it's hard not to think of Drtikol and Koudelka.

This photo does resemble a Kertész. Either way I was unaware of who Josef Sudek was until this post. Thanks for the new addition to my resource of photographers.

He is, to me, the greatest of the Czech photographers and one whose work is instantly recognisable.
A good friend of mine once said: "It takes me a minute to realise how little I know about light when I see his photographs." I told my mate he was a bit slow, as it took me three seconds.

Sudek is The Man, the patron saint of "something out of nothing", which for me is the height of photographic seeing. He can be a little too romantic for some contemporary tastes, but the various series he made in domestic gardens around Prague will repay anybody's serious study.

I like the idea of "photographers' birthdays", btw, if you're still looking for ideas for regular slots. I think we'd all enjoy your riffs on the theme of what's notable about notable photographers.

Whilst on the subject of great Czech photographers, don't forget
Jindricht Streit, who is alive & kicking.



another underrated czech photographer worth while mentioning is Frantisek Drtikol (just my opinion). completely different style, though.

"The Poet of Prague" used a large format camera (8X10) one armed, simply amazing. His pictures are lyrical, rather than documentary or reportage. And he would manipulate the scene, such as kicking up dust in an old church, to get the effect he wanted.

I highly recommend this book. The reproduction of the photo's are the best I have seen--Sheet-fed gravure and only printed on one side--every page is a masterpiece in it's own right. If framed they probably are better then the originals.
This is the "SUDEK" Sonja Bullaty ISBN 0-517-56419-X book.
I have another Sudek book-ISBN 1-881616-09-6 nice with different photo's--but the Bullaty book is the charm.
For some reason it's the book I look at when I'm down and out and need a lift. Every page is worth many times the price of the whole book.

I sometimes think American photographers got sucked into ideologies ("straight photography," f64, etc.) that prevented them from doing explorations like Sudek's. His stuff is really wonderful. I tried to buy a windowsill print years ago, checked several galleries that advertised his name among their artists, and none of them had one...

He is not, by the way, to be confused with another Czech with a look-alike name, Jan Saudek. 8-)


Note to Carl Leonardi: I have "SUDEK" by Sonja Bullaty as well. My copy is ISBN: 0-517-532948 and is signed by Bullaty as number 205 of 500 with a 1978 date on the title page. From my offset printing days during school I will say the quality of the printing of the images is outstanding. I'm afraid I do not know the origin of my copy. It is indeed a masterpiece deserving of a nice spot on my book shelf.

Evald Shorm made a documentary film about Josef Sudek, called "Josef Sudek očima Evalda Schorma" (Josef Sudek Via Eval Schrom's Eyes). Here it is on YouTube, in two parts:


I love how in part two, the filmmaker left in all the times Sudek stops, sets down the camera, looks, nothing. Picks up the gear, and on again... Nothing better defines my favorite saying of Sudek's, "Hurry slowly."

Sorry, mistakes in my last post about the documentary! It's called, "Žít svůj život" (Living One's Life) I mistakenly translated the description, the last time. And I spelled almost every name wrong, I thing. Sorry. I'm a photographer, not a brain surgeon. ;-)

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