Czech Republic

Josef Koudelka

Koudelka's photographs in Black Trinagle series "show a devastated countryside, a war zone of blasted trees and vegetation, a landscape as atrophied and as wrecked as anything in a Paul Nash painting of the Somme. Pulling out the accordion fold, one is faced with an enormous panorama of destruction. The gouged earth and felled trees make a powerful impression, and here and there in the images trails of smoke rising up on the horizon tell us that the power stations are still wreaking their environmental havoc". Western tip of the infamous Black Triangle, the foothills of the Ore Mountains North Bohemia. Jutting out into Poland, it was one of Europe's worst devastated territory, but it is also a region that shaped the origin and future development of the Czech state. Coal mining, the first record of which dates back to 1403, has been the region's enormous wealth as well as its curse. The industrial revolution facilitated an unprecedented upsurge of the living standards but at the cost of irreversible changes in nature. 'Man is not an omniscient master of the planet who can get away with doing whatever he likes and whatever may suit him at the moment'. That introductory quotation of Václav Havel is illustrated by Josef Koudelka's photographs of the land dominated by head frames, waste heaps, factory stacks and dried-up lakes.

Czech-born French photographer known best for his black-and-white images of Europe’s itinerant Roma people. Koudelka graduated from the Czech Technical University in Prague in 1961 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. He pursued a career in engineering but was also an active amateur photographer, having been introduced to the medium as a teenager. His photographs from the early to mid-1960s include the Prague theatre for the magazine Divadlo and the Roma people of Czechoslovakia. The Roma became a lifelong interest for Koudelka, who was drawn to their music and culture. He spent extended periods living with them. The more time Koudelka spent with the Roma, the more nomadic and simple his own life became. By 1967 he had abandoned his engineering career to pursue photography full-time.

When the Soviets led an invasion of Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia in 1968, Koudelka documented the chaos as it unfolded in Prague. Though lacking a named photographer, the series was recognized by the Overseas Press Club’s Robert Capa Gold Medal (1969), awarded for the best published photographic reporting from abroad. Koudelka was granted asylum in England in 1970. Soon after, he joined the Magnum Photo Agency. Though he officially became a French citizen in 1987, Koudelka spent his life traveling and photographing disappearing landscapes and lifestyles, often capturing vast expanses in panoramic format. He also photographed destruction, chaos, and war wrought during the fall of the Berlin Wall and its aftermath (1988–91) and the war and its aftermath in Beirut (1991). He was the recipient of many awards and honours such as the French Prix Nadar (1978), the Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1989), the Henri Cartier-Bresson Award (1991), the Hasselblad Prize (1992), a Centenary Medal from the Royal Photographic Society (1998), and the International Center of Photography Infinity Award (2004). He became a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1992. Koudelka produced numerous books, including Gypsies (1975), Exiles (1988), Black Triangle (1994), Chaos (1999) and Wall (2008-2012).

Naomi Blumberg, www.britannica.com

Josef Koudelka:Black Triangle (Ore Mountains). 1992. Bývalý Jeniřův újezd, skrývka

Josef Koudelka:Black Triangle (Ore Mountains). 1992. Bývalý Jeniřův újezd, skrývka

Josef Koudelka:Region of the Black Triangle (Ore Mountains), 1992, Coal mining

Josef Koudelka:Region of the Black Triangle (Ore Mountains), 1992, Coal mining

Josef Koudelka: Region of the Black Triangle (Ore Mountains) 1992

Josef Koudelka: Region of the Black Triangle (Ore Mountains) 1992

Josef Koudelka: Region of the Black Triangle (Ore Mountains) 1992

Josef Koudelka: Region of the Black Triangle (Ore Mountains) 1992

Josef Koudelka:Region of the Black Triangle (Ore Mountains) 1993

Josef Koudelka:Region of the Black Triangle (Ore Mountains) 1993

Josef Koudelka:Region of the Black Triangle (Ore Mountains),1993, Radovesická výsypka, zakladač

Josef Koudelka:Region of the Black Triangle (Ore Mountains),1993, Radovesická výsypka, zakladač