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)