Acclaimed Czech photographer shares his vision with Amman audience


AMMAN — Closing the 5th Image Festival in Amman, three photo series by renowned Czech photographer Josef Koudelka were shown at Institut Français earlier this week.

Koudelka’s passion for photography has taken him to more than 45 countries over the past decades.

The three photo series are “Invasion”, “Gypsies” and “Chaos”, and are all in black and white. 

The photos were taken in a number of different countries, including Romania, Hungary, France, Spain and Lebanon. 

The first photo series depicts the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops in August 1968.

The images earned the photographer the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award in 1969 and have since served as documentation of the events at the time. 

“I never photographed anything that you might call ‘news’,” the photographer told The Jordan Times.

“I took these photographs only for myself because it was my country, and it concerned me directly,” he said.

“This somehow shows that what I photographed only for myself eventually became what many people consider one of the best photographic reportages after the second World War.” 

The series “Gypsies” was taken between 1962 and 1971, in what was, at the time, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, France and Spain.

The photos, humorous yet with some haunting elements follow the daily lives of Gypsies, their culture and traditions. 

Koudelka said he felt a certain connection to the Gypsies because he loved their culture and music.

“I started taking photographs in 1962, which was an early stage in my photography and I discovered Gypsies back then. I guess when you’re doing something, you never know whether you’ll succeed or not. I think in the case of Gypsies I was interested in them and I wanted to say something generic about human life.” 

The final series, “Chaos”, is a selection of panoramic photographs taken over a period of 10 years from France, Greece, Lebanon and the Czech Republic. 

The selection is meant to directly showcase the aftermath of war, pollution and man-made evils. 

Contrary to the title of the series, however, the photographs do not show chaos, but rather show empty streets and neighbourhoods as well as damaged, torn and deserted buildings and landscapes. 

“My publisher suggested the name, and I exclaimed ‘but it’s not chaos’, he said to me: ‘it is chaos, but you take the chaos and organise it in the perfect way through your photographs’,” the photographer recounted.

The screenings were followed by a discussion with Koudelka and the audience. 

Darat Al Tasweer founder and event organiser Linda Khoury underlined the success of the Image Festival, which aims at creating a platform for local, regional and international photographers to meet and expand their outreach. 

“This year, we focused on inviting photographers from all parts of the world,” she said. 

“That’s why we are very happy to host Josef Koudelka and have him attend the official closing of the fifth edition of the Image Festival in Amman. Koudelka is a very interesting character, a person who likes to be active everywhere and his photography and work is of course of great importance.”

This piece was published in The Jordan Times


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