A Portrait in Pictures: Josef Sudek

AngeloAngelo Super Moderators Posts: 8,937 moderator
edited June 18, 2014 in The Big Picture
A Thread for discussing the works of Famous Photographers - Their images; Contribution to the Art; Social and Historical Significance.

In this thread please participate in a discussion about:






  • JimWJimW Registered Users Posts: 333 Major grins
    edited January 23, 2010
    Josef Sudek (1896-1976)

    “All mystery lies in the shadow areas,” said Sudek, and it’s fair to say his photographs were true to his nature. Not that he was a dark presence; from what I’ve read he had a healthy love for art and music and camaraderie. But when you take his life in total, it is not surprising that he found mystery in the shadows.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    In the early 1920’s Sudek studied the angle of the light in different seasons coming through the windows of the Cathedral of Saint Vitus in Prague, while photographing the restoration of the nearly thousand year old cathedral. On one of the two or three days per year when the angle of the light was just right, he set up his view camera and waited. Sensing the moment of perfect light was near, he scrambled up ladders and across scaffolds and ran around fanning dust into the air. Now we look at those photos and wonder how he could have captured that light. He understood that light is invisible. Without the dust, we couldn’t see the light pouring through those big windows, shown here: <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Nicknamed the Poet of Prague, Josef Sudek was born in 1896 in Kolin, about twenty miles outside Prague on the Elbe River. His father died suddenly when he was two. He lost an arm in WWI at age 19, but still became a legendary photographer in his own time and one of the great early masters of photography. From the flyleaf of Sudek (Takarajima Books), “Sudek’s pictures show not just his mastery of technique, but his unique ability to humanize the inanimate, drawing out the emotion and warmth of a stone cathedral, a tree, or a water glass. Ignoring the ascendant tenets of Social Realism at the time, Sudek … remained a staunchly independent artist, whose vision was deeply personal, haunting and unabashedly romantic.” <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    He eventually had assistants but at the beginning of his career, when he made the photos of Prague for which he is best known, he hauled his bulky large format camera with film holders and lenses in a backpack, and his tripod in his hand, through the streets and countryside of Prague, with just one arm. One has to appreciate the commitment.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    After the Nazis took over his country, he was a landscape photographer when the penalty for that was death. So he turned inward and made a series of photographs in and around his studio and through his windows into the garden. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    In the 1940s, he happened upon a print in a gallery window which impressed him with its quality. He found out that it was a contact print. After that moment, he very rarely enlarged anything again, preferring contact prints. He was not particularly interested in contrast, sharpness or fine grain. For him, a dark, soft contact print was heaven. Today we might look at his prints, especially his pigment prints series, and think that they look flat when compared with the images which fly past our face every day. But at least to some extent, when we take digital pictures and then add a little contrast as we often do, we are actually reducing tonal range and therefore getting further away from the way our brain and eyes see stuff. (That’s a worthy topic for discussion).<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Sudek was shy, loved his classical music, and loved to work at photography. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    All three of the Sudek books I own have good reproduction quality, and are recommended.<o:p></o:p>
    Sudek (Takarajima Books – 1993 - Zdenek Kirschner - duotones).<o:p></o:p>
    Josef Sudek – The Poet of Prague (Aperture – 1990 - tritones). The duotones in the above book and the tritones in this book are important since his work is full of shadow detail. The third ink color on the Aperture book (tritones) warms up the images as compared to the Takarajima book. <o:p></o:p>
    The third book I have is called Josef Sudek – The Pigment Prints 1947-1954 (Cinubia). This book uses four-color process, possibly in order to show the different color papers that Sudek used. This is the book that most often stays open and propped against the wall. There’s something haunting about those pigment prints. They last in the mind.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    For a look at his photos, go to google, click on images, then search for Josef Sudek. Or click here:<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>

    I don't want the cheese, I just want to get out of the trap.

  • TrantaTranta Registered Users Posts: 1 Beginner grinner
    edited June 18, 2014
    i can offer Josef Sudek book from Takarajima and naturally first and second his monographies from years 1956 and 1959
Sign In or Register to comment.