A couple of minutes past six o’clock, the street is empty. It’s August in Prague and this is the silence before the tanks start coming in and take control of the city. It’s 1968, year of the Invasion.
Young Koudelka takes this picture and then takes about 5000 more, showing the Czech protesting, opposing, reacting. Almost 50 years later, these images feel just as piercing as back in the time, when they were first published in the Sunday Times, under the name of PP (Prague Photographer), for safety reasons.
The following years, he became working for Magnum, travelling through Europe and photographing gypsies, becoming a nomad himself. He continued to document life in different countries, such as Italy and Spain, and published this large part of his work in a book named Exiles. Old women, horses, hats and flowers, funerals, rites, angel wings, seagulls over waves, cats. He photographed life as it was, all true, nothing fabricated.
Another part of the exhibition, Wall displays the most recent works of the photographer, where you can see the massive wall that Israel has built in the West Bank, claiming a purpose of defense against terrorism. It is quite different from his other series. The tension, this time, lies in the geometries of a space that is being redefined.
Decades later, his photos feel powerful, undeniable and actual; either the ones reflecting the lives of nomads, or showing protests for one’s land, defending a home, or not having a home. “I try always to be an insider, both as a photographer and as a man. I am part of everything that is around me.”
he says in an interview for The Guardian.
It takes a lot of new perspective and content for photojournalism to have an lingering effect today, but Koudelka’s photos can still do that, can still go through and stay for a while.
Invasion / Exiles / Wall
C/O Berlin Foundation Amerika Haus