JOSEF KOUDELKA: EXILES
One of the most striking series of the famous photographer will be shown for the first time in its entirety outside France
In 2016 Josef Koudelka bequeathed all 75 photographies of the Exiles series to the Pompidou Centre.in Paris, the city where they were first exhibited in 1984. Iconic images are interspersed with hitherto unfamiliar pictures specifically printed for the occasion.
Koudelka’s spiritual and physical journey around Europe in the 1970s and 1980s begins with a picture that could look quite different but is fortunately just the way we know it to be. In the foreground we see the photographer’s wristwatch showing 12:22, and in the background there is the empty Venceslas Square. The lack of people and all kinds of action is a relief. A relief that the peaceful protesters of the Prague Spring did succumb to the provocation from Moscow and cause an incident that justify the invasion of Warsaw Pact troops in the capital of Czechoslovakia. Less than two years after shooting this picture Joseph Koudelka left his home country in search for a political asylum. He spends some time living in London and Paris then travels around Europe with an open heart and an open mind. This is the time when he makes some of his most striking pictures, brought together in the Exiles series.
“To be an exile means to leave your country with no right to return. Every exile is different, it is a personal experience. I, for my part, wanted to see the world and capture it on my camera. That’s why I have been travelling for 45 years. I have never stayed anywhere for more than 3 months. I knew it was time to go when I ran out of things to shoot. When I took the decision not to return, I realized I needed a perception of the world that I couldn’t even imagine while living in Czechoslovakia.
Josef Koudelka in an interview with Christian Caujoll for Le Monde, 23 May 2015.
Josef Koudelka was born in Moravia in 1938. He got into photography while he was still in school. Then he studied engineering at the Czech Technical University in Prague. In 1961 he graduated with a diploma in aviation engineering - and got his first photographic exhibition. He spent several years working as an aviation engineer but continued to shoot, in the beginning mostly theatrical projects. In 1967 he became a full-time photographer and one of his first projects was a 1968 trip to Romania where he took pictures of Romanian gypsies.
Mere days after his return to Prague he became a witness and a chronicler of the invasion of Warsaw Pact troops. His negatives were secretly taken out of the country and delivered to Magnum Photos so they can be shown to the world – and so the world could see what was happening in Czechoslovakia. The pictures were published in the Sunday Times Magazine and signed with the initials P.P. (Prague Photographer) as there was a real danger of the regime taking revenge on his and his family. These pictures earned him, albeit anonymously, the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa Gold Medal.
A year later Koudelka left Czechoslovakia and applied for a political asylum in Great Britain with the recommendations and protection of the Magnum photographic cooperative he would shortly be joining. In the next ten years Josef Koudelka stayed in Great Britain and kept travelling around Europe with his camera. In 1987 he received a French citizenship, and in 1990 he returned to his homeland for the first time in 20 years.
His first book, Gypsies, came out in 1975. Exiles appeared in 1988. Koudelka went on to publish 12 over 12 more books, one of the latest being Invasion 68: Prague, published in 2008.
Josef Koudelka is the laureate of some of the most important awards in the world of photography: the Prix Nadar in 1978; the Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1989); the Grand Prix Henri Cartier-Bresson (1991); the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation Photography Prize (1992), etc. His exhibitions have been part of the programmes of all major museums and art centres in the world, including the MoMA and the International Center of Photography in New York, the Hayward Gallery in London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Изложба на Центъра Помпиду, Париж / Национален музей на съвременното изкуство / Център за художествено творчество, предоставена по изключителен начин на Френския институт в България и на Софийската градска художествена галерия