04 October 2008

Koudelka Again

In The New York Times yesterday was this short notice by Roberta Smith of the exhibition at Aperture in NYC of Josef Koudelka's photographs of the Warsaw Pact invasion and Czech resistance in Prague 1968. I've posted about Koudleka's work in this regard a couple of times recently - here and here. Smith is appreciative and offers a couple of insightful remarks. First, there is the way Koudelka focuses less on isolated individuals than on groups or crowds within which individuals are located:
"There are few individuals in these grainy images. Occasionally an anguished face asserts itself, or you may be surprised by the blank youth of the soldiers who emerge from the tanks. But mainly these pictures capture an eerie ebb and flow of crowds. People line curbs or overpasses watching the arriving tanks; they stage sit-ins on cobbled streets; they talk or argue with soldiers or stubbornly surround their tanks; they run through the streets with flags or climb on the tanks wielding sticks."
Second, there is the aesthetic quality of the images:
"Strangely, none of these photographs are less than beautiful; some combination of emotional urgency and Mr. Koudelka’s instinctive artistry makes them so. His restless vigilance created a historic and historical document that is less a series of photographs than a slow-moving film that we absorb one still at a time. He was there, and to an extraordinary and anguishing degree, so are we."
You can find a terrific presentation of the images from Koudelka's Invasion - Prague 1968 here at the Magnum web page. But these two features of the images are worth noting in large part because they seem to run counter to standard photo journalistic conventions.



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