Josef Koudelka

Josef Koudelka, Sledi / Vestiges, 1991-2012

Josef Koudelka, Sledi / Vestiges, 1991-2012 / Magnum Photos

Vestiges 1991-2012

20 May – 3 September 2014

Jakopič Gallery, Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana

WHERE: Slovenska cesta 9, Ljubljana

Josef Koudelka is one of the world’s most acknowledged masters of photography, a member of the Magnum agency and the winner of prestigious photography awards, who has to date shown his work in major centres of photography and contemporary art around the world.

He was born in Czechoslovakia in 1938. He followed and photographed Czechoslovakian Gypsies until 1970 and took part in dramatic performances. After quitting his career of an aeronautical engineer, he became a full-time photographer in 1967. In August 1968, he took photographs of Warsaw Pact troops invading the streets of the Czechoslovakian capital and putting an end to the Prague Spring. His images were published around the world. Initially anonymous, they later earned him the Robert Capa Prize. In 1970, he left his country and became stateless, living in England until 1979. In 1974, he became a member of Magnum Photos in Paris. In 1986, he began using a panoramic camera and took part in the Mission photographique de la DATAR. The following year, he became a French citizen. After twenty years of exile, he returned to his country of birth in 1990, following the Velvet Revolution. His 1968 photos were finally published in Prague. His most important publications are Gypsies (Prix Nadar, 1975), Exiles (1988), Chaos (2000), Invasion Prague 68 (2008), Lime (2012) and Wall (2013).

Vestiges 1991–2012 is an exhibition comprising monumental black-and-white panoramic photographs taken by Josef Koudelka during the mentioned time span in 19 countries by the Mediterranean Sea while he was visiting over 200 ancient Greek and Roman archaeological sites. The exhibition offers an insight into a unique and intimate research journey which has not yet come to an end: Koudelka continues to visit archaeological sites in Greece, Turkey, Tunis, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and other Mediterranean countries where he, displaying limitless perseverance and requiring little help, documents ruins from a different, entirely individual vantage point. In his photographs, Koudelka preserves the world we are leaving behind and losing sight of. However, he does not do this as a photojournalist nor is he driven by a wish to create documentary photographs. Koudelka records monuments, those mighty traces of man’s activity, in periods of the day which allow them to appear in their innermost essence and in the complete absence of any live presence around them. The images convey the photographer’s experience of the monologue conveyed by the silence of the ruins, inviting the viewer to enter through the photographs into this world of glorious witnesses of the past.

The show to be staged in the Jakopič Gallery innovatively presents the photographs as spatial elements positioned on the gallery floor, i.e. embedded in a pattern marking the layout of the ancient Emonan buildings that once stood at the site of the present-day gallery. Making visitors feel as if they are strolling through archaeological remains, they highlight both horizontal and vertical lines deriving from the structural elements of the squares, fora, cities, buildings and building elements of ancient civilisations. Arranged in this way, the photographs interact with the large panoramic photographs hanging on the gallery walls. After viewing these, visitors can observe a projection of 180 photographs which, although they cannot yet be put on display, complement the view of the locations visited by Koudelka.

Marija Skočir