Cameron, Julia M.
Coburn, Alvin L.
Talbot,William H. Fox
Documentary, Landscape, Photojournalism
Biography: Born in a tiny village of Moravia, Koudelka
began photographing his family and surroundings as a teenager
with a 6 x 6 Bakelite camera.
He was trained at the Technical University in Prague and worked
as an aeronautical engineer in Prague and Bratislava from 1961-67.
He had been able to obtain an old Rolleiflex and in 1961, while
working as a theater photographer in Prague, he also started a
detailed study of the gypsies of Slovakia, who were then undergoing
further attempts to "assimilate" them within the Czech
state. His work was the subject of an exhibition in Prague in
In 1968 Koudelka extended his project to gypsy communities in
Rumania and that same year recorded the invasion of Prague by
Warsaw Pact armies. Smuggled out of the country with the help
of Czech curator Anna Farova and published with the initials P.P.
( Prague photographer) to protect his family, the highly dramatic
pictures showing Russian tanks rolling into Prague and the Czech
resistance became international symbols and won him the prestigious
Robert Capa Gold Medal.
In 1970 Koudelka left Czechoslovakia and, officially stateless,
was awarded asylum in England. Introduced to Magnum by Elliott
Erwitt, he became an associate in 1971 and a member in 1974, but
still refused most journalistic assignments: in constant movement,
he preferred to wander around Europe in search of pictures of
a world that he felt was rapidly disappearing, Koudelka has been
the recipient of major grants and awards such as the Prix Nadar
(1978), the Grant for Research Abroad, and an official invitation
from the French Ministry to document urban and rural landscape
in France (1986), as well as a Grand Prix National de la Photographie
(1989) and a Grand Prix Cartier-Bresson (1991). The grants sustained
him through long-term projects in black and white which led to
many exhibitions including a MOMA retrospective and the publication
of several books following Gypsies (1978) such as Exiles (1988)
shot at the edges of Europe in Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece.
After becoming a French citizen in 1987, Koudelka was able to
go back to Czechoslovakia for the first time in 1990 and produced
Black Triangle, a study of his native country's landscape wasted
by industrialization and environmental catastrophies. In these
fold-out pictures, human presence has all but disappeared and
panoramic shots show spaces littered and unkempt stretching out
In 1994, at the invitation of film producer Eric Heumann, Koudelka
accepted a rare assignment to follow the making of Ulysses's Gaze
by Theo Angelopoulos , traveling with the crew through Greece,
Albania, Romania and ex-Yugoslavia until the death of Gian Maria
Volonte, a key actor in the film. In the last few years Koudelka
has continued working on European landscape, adding to his customary
Leicas a panoramic Linhof camera.
More on Josef Koudelka:
- Josef Koudelka
Several of Klein's Images and Information about his Work.
- Josef Koudelka
Several Images from Koudelka's Book Chaos.
End of the Voyage: Joseph Koudelka
Dozens of Koudelka's Photographs, along with Info. about his Work.
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