Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New book on Josef Koudelka from Aperture

When asked to cite a photographer whose work and books interest me the most I usually mention Josef Koudelka and Robert Frank. The urge to say both names at once is strong. More often though I will pull one of Josef's books off the shelf than Mr. Frank's. Still it's a close call.

Aperture has just published a retrospective book of Josef's work called simply Koudelka. As usual, anything new published on Josef will be added to my shelf and this title was no exception. It is beautifully produced and houses 158 images. The reproductions are well done and the design allows them to be seen clearly. The paper stock is nice and thick. For anyone not familiar with his work, this title would serve as the best introduction.

Being a retrospective book it covers his whole career divided into chapters: the early work including panoramics (I believe cropped medium format images unlike the actual long frame cameras he would utilize later) through experiments (high contrast works) and theater work and continues with chapters on Gypsies, Prague, Exiles and Chaos. The later chapters contain the recognizable images for those familiar with his other books.

My only problem with the book is the lack of images that I haven't seen before. I might dismiss this criticism because the book is serving as a retrospective but I can't help wanting more from an artist of his caliber when something this substantial is created.

It is known that he is very controlling (as perhaps one should be) of his archive. Several years ago he stopped his dealers from selling his prints. He hides his identity on some images with a photo credit that just reads "JK." Granted that is not hard to figure out but he definately seperates them into a lesser worth staus. Why however have images like the following not made it into a publication?

Perhaps, like with other artists, it is hard to look back at older work. One wants their newer images to be at the forefront of attention and looking back may seem like stagnation. His interest for the last dozen years has been in using the long frame cameras which I also admire. But I can still hope that one day I'll be able to crack the spine on a book's worth of the unseen Josef Koudelka photographs. The work exists. It is good. It wouldn't dilute the known work. I can't see how it would be a detriment to publish it.
So, please Josef, lighten up on the reins.

Book Available Here


Jeremy said...

hi, Just found your blog and I'm enjoying it. Many thanks. Lots to read and think over.

Have you seen the Koudelka book 'Periplannisis' ? That has a few images which we don't usually see....

best wishes,

Unknown said...

Jeff I feeel the same way about not being able to see other newer images by this living legend in the history of street photography. The images go beyond photography itself they are simply a part of his existence, which is a veru difficult thing to achieve. Let's keep our fingers crossed that new images and book by JK will be out soon.

Ernesto Bazan

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the book is now out of print and the price raised quite a bit.

However, I saw that Thames and Hudson has a book that looks identical, but with a different cover. This book is listed on the UK website of T&H, but not on their USA site. It is readily available at list price, while the Aperture has gone into collector territory.

What is the relationship between T&H and Aperture ?

Is there a reason (such as production quality) why the Thames and Hudson appears less desirable ?

Anonymous said...

Koudelka has been the inspiration of my work for many years and maybe it has been one of he most influential photographer since the birth of photography.
Gypsies and after exiles have been on my shelves since theirs first publications. Since then I had photographed the gypsies myself in Italy and elsewhere and had discovered what probably koudelka did many years before.
Besides all the cliché on street photography is amazing the integrity that this man and beloved photographer has kept for all this year.
Exiles is probably is best books in which he exams in a profound sense his state as a human being.
Gypsies was the state of being outside of a comunity, exile is the affirmation of his state of being out.
I did not see his last book (the one you are describing in this post), but I think there are non hidden photographs of Joseph kodelka.
Exiles is probably is ultimate and profound gift to the art and photography community. But obviously that book should be seen by any human being that would investigate in life and the existence of it.
The human being is most of the time alone and more alone are the people that have a loss in theirs lives.
Kudelka is one of this human being.
For me Gypsies and Exiles are Joseph Kodelka,and is not without any reaso that the book that followed this two was called,caos.
Caos of a man alone .
Kudelka has already given with this two books(Gypsie and Exiles), to any person capable of understanding his message in life, a clear sense of the ultimate suffering for any human being.
There are no hidden photos from kodelka,I’m pretty sure.

Anonymous said...

you see the best part of koudelka's work is the limit he pushes an essay. im sure he has tons of images that are edited out by book designers and publishers. what i would like to see is a set of contact sheets of his work on the gypsies. I havent seen the book but images in random from it. It wud be nice if a publishing house reprints it with contact sheet images in sections and then a few larger one's per section.
arif mahmood, Karachi, Pakistan