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Josef Sudek (March 17,
1896, Kolín, Bohemia - September 15, 1976) was a Czech photographer, best
known for his haunting night-scapes of Prague.
Originally a bookbinder, During The First World War He was drafted into
Austro-Hungarian Army. In 1915 and served on the Italian Front until he
was wounded in the right arm in 1916. Although he had no experience with
photography and was one-handed due to his amputation, he was given a
camera. After the war he studied photography for two years in Prague under
Jaromir Funke. His Army disability pension gave him leeway to make art,
and he worked during the 1920s in the romantic Pictorialist style. Always
pushing at the boundaries, a local camera club expelled him for arguing
about the need to move forwards from 'painterly' photography. Sudek then
founded the progressive Czech Photographic Society in 1924. Despite only
having one arm, he used large, bulky cameras with the aid of assistants.
Sudek's photography is sometimes said to be modernist. But this is only
true of a couple of years in the 1930s, during which he undertook
commercial photography and thus worked "in the style of the times".
Primarily, his personal photography is neo-romantic.
His early work included many series of light falling in the interior of
St. Vitus cathederal. During and after World War II Sudek created haunting
night-scapes and panoramas of Prague, photographed the wooded landscape of
Bohemia, and the window-glass that led to his garden (the famous The
Window of My Atelier series). He went on to photograph the crowded
interior of his studio (the Labyrinths series).
His first Western show was at George Eastman House in 1974 and he
published 16 books during his life.
Known as the "Poet of Prague", Sudek never married, and was a shy,
retiring person. He never appeared at his exhibit openings and few people
appear in his photographs. Despite the privations of the war and
Communism, he kept a renowned record collection of classical music.