Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Respekt by Josef Koudelka

To follow up on the fine new Josef Koudelka book from Torst, Invaze 68, a friend of mine reminded me of a rare little item that published several of these images before.

In August of 1990, 47 of Josef’s Prague invasion photographs from 1968 appeared in the Czech weekly news-magazine Respekt. This is an entire issue dedicated to this work and moment in history.

The news-magazine itself is on newspaper type stock (which does not age gracefully) instead of the more common glossy print stock. This staple-bound issue is 32 pages in length and includes a brief text by Anna Farove and Josef in Czech.

What is worth commenting on is the design which seems to have set the pace for how the new book was laid out. The photographs play off one another and at times have a cinematic repetition that denotes movement and a sequence of events through the use of consecutive images. Unlike his other books which insist on the authority of individual photos, this is meant to be a barrage that suggests that more than one perceptive “sense” is being called upon to experience. This work alternates between being the visual equivalent of auditory noise and silence. Silence, of course, filled with molar-crushing tension for the participants.

The magazine’s cover shows Josef’s hand and watch hanging over an empty boulevard. To continue this thought of a watch’s second-hand ticking away and the tension of anticipation, the designers have cleverly enlarged the magazine’s page numbers into oversized weighty blocks of type that sit as markers at the bottom of the page. They push the sequence forward hinting at an ominous outcome.

I would assume that this magazine would be near impossible to find now 18 years later considering its disposable nature and construction but who knows -- do you have any friends in the Czech Republic -- maybe it’s time to call in some favors.

Note: We all have Ed Grazda to thank for the loan of Respekt. Thanks Ed.

Book Available Here (Josef Koudelka)


Anonymous said...

An even earlier and more obscure group of the 1968 invasion photographs was published over four days in the French newspaper Le Matin from 17 to 10 August 1981with texts by Petr Kral and Milan Kundera. I would love to get my hands on copies of that. Respekt was easy in 1990, I wrote and asked them for it and they sent it to me no charge.

Anonymous said...

p.s. to the above comment (now that I am home with my notes). Sorry, that is 17 to 20 August 1981. The layouts were all selected and designed by Robert Delpire. There are 62 of Koudelka's photographs in the four issues but they still could not be credited to him in name. It was not until the publication of the Photo Poche book at the time of his exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London in 1984 that the Prague invasion pictures were published under his own name. His father had died and his family was no longer under any danger of reprisal.

Anonymous said...

Million thanks for the info Stuart.

robert said...

jeff ladd- what are your thoughts on fotographer Marc Riboud ? thank you for the pertinent information on Koudelka a true legend both in his time and now, rare.

maybe this is inappropriate here however i'm curious as to your thoughts on contemporary photographers like zoe strauss whom seem to be in the limelight ?
do you think her images will be relevant in the future?

robert said...

jeff- the reason why i brought this up was that sometime ago a blogger made a tree of the worlds most important social documentarians and zoe was on this list. i thought to myself how arrogant as her friend made this list and circulated the tree with branches all over the internet. actually i saw this featured on alec soths blog along time ago. i always felt that her images tended to be exploitative and survived on mere shock value ?

Anonymous said...


I like Riboud but I am not a fan of his books. He has done really fine work for a long time but I never feel the books are very satisfying.

As for Zoe Strauss I only saw one show of hers here in NYC last year and didn't think much of it. I can say that I don't know the work well enough to elaborate. What I saw had no real effect on me though shocking or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, Do you know the Riboud book, Women of Japan from 1959? It is not the best but not bad. And there is Les Trois Bannieres de Chine which has too many of the faults of those mid-50s French books, but it is not too bad... certainly these are both better than any subsequent book he ever did. It is a pity.