Josef Chuchma

CUT-OUTS (OF NORMALIZATION)

13. 9. — 3. 11. 2019
The exhibition is a selection from Josef Chuchma’s archive – it shows works taken during the seventies and eighties that were, with a few exceptions, never published. The works are from a time when Chuchma wandered through the streets of Prague with a focused aimlessness or when he repeatedly visited certain locations in his hometown that he tried to immortalize and chronicle. He frequented concerts and music festivals, he traveled to Poland and to the religious festivities in Tchenstochova, he made portraits. Normalization – the twenty years after the suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968 – had its specific esthetic and social atmosphere. The way of living was slow and organized, anxious and with little delights. The author believes that his photographs carry normalization’s imprint.

Josef Chuchma selected the photographs for the Leica Gallery Prague exhibitions from hundreds of images taken from 1975 to the second half of the eighties. Their genre could be described as a humanistic document which is interlinked with the classical black and white photography technique. 

The author presents two theme lines. First is a more cohesive selection from photographs of military oaths in Prague and religious pilgrimages in the Polish Censtochova. The other, more voluminous, theme line is based on individually standing photographs as some of the images – for example, the shots from summer dance floors – come from a thematically diverse collection. The emphasis placed on the particular installation of solitaire and multi-shot works lets the photographs be considered in a broader social and thematic context. The exhibition is a reminder of the times beginning with the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet armies and ending with political stagnation. The images tell a story of a neglected environment, monotonicity of clothing and shapes. The hopeless attitude spread throughout society speak to us in the form of echoes – echoes of the images of desperate dispersion of crowds or desperation spied out in the faces of individuals. The regime managed to influence the existential situation of its citizens to the extent that was unknown to the people themselves.

The oldest image comes from a visit of Josef Sudek – it belongs to a collection of portraits of initiation personalities. By the way, the shot also documents that at not even sixteen years old the once-to-be star Chuchma already had an understanding of the possibilities of the photography medium. Finding his own voice early on was aided by his friend’s father-photographer, whose book collection was Chuchma bringing in for an master's autograph.  

It’s worth to note that the majority of the images are shown to the public for the first time. Author’s previous exhibitions were focused exclusively on the portraiture of writers. Since graduating at the Faculty of Journalism of Charles University in 1984, Chuchma profiled himself as a publicist, critic and an editor of multiple cultural sections as well as of multiple publications. His early portraits retain a youthful freshness of an inquisitive and curious outlook. Realistically captured motives give us the opportunity to reflect back on the time that was diametrically different both socio-politically as well as visually and photographically.

Josef Moucha, curator


(CV) Josef Chuchma (*1959)

He was born in Prague. He studied at the High School of Electrical Engineering and later graduated from the Faculty of Journalism of Charles University (1984). He began working in the culture section of the weekly magazine Mlady svet (Young World) and in 1993 he joined the cultural section of the Respekt magazine. From April 1994 to the end of 2002 he headed the cultural section of Mlada fronta DNES where he also worked as an essayist up until the summer of 2013 when he moved to Lidove noviny (The people’s newspaper) where he lead the newspaper supplement “Orientation” department until 2017. He then began working in the Czech television as a project manager and editor of the website Artzona.cz (“Artzone.cz”) which falls under the CT art channel. In the years 2014-2017 he moderated the critical debate show Clear Speech of Josef Chuchma that was aired on the Czech television. For many years he lead a seminar on critical photography review at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University.

Chuchma began photographing intensively at around thirteen years old. Very soon after he began to win prizes in youth photography competitions. From early eighties he devoted himself to photography as a publicist and a critic – first he contributed mostly to the Czechoslovak Photography magazine. Photography was also the focus of his university studies including his dissertation. He illustrated books through photos, examples are the selection of verses Home Cinema from John Updike (1998) and Ludek Svoboda’s commemorative volume The Antique Shop and I (1999). As an editor he worked on Vaclav Chochola’s monograph (2003), he also authored the texts in the monographs of Hana Jakrlova (2006), Tomki Nemec (2007), Jaroslav Brabec (2013), Jaroslav Benes (2016) and Josef Koudelka (2018). He wrote essays that were included in books like Ten years – the events of 1989-1999 in MF DNES photographs (1999) or Anna Farova & Photography (2006). He is a co-author of the publication Torst: Twenty years of the publishing house (2011). He had two (in 1991 and 1996) solo exhibitions in Prague that both showed photographic portraits of writers.

 

(CV) Josef Moucha (*1956)

Josef Moucha graduated from journalism from the Charles University. Since the seventies, he does freelance photography and exhibits it. He is also active as a curator. Since the eighties, he regularly contributes to both professional and more accessible publications. 

He worked as an assistant professor of photography at the Faculty of Journalism of Charles University (1985-1990) and as the editor in chief of the Photography Revue magazine (1990-1995). Throughout this time he was also active in his freelance work. He was one of the founding members of the Prague House of Photography gallery in which he was an active member between 1991 and 2007. Since 2013 he is a docent at the Institute of Creative Photography at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of the Silesian University in Opava.

He is the author of texts in tens of photographic publications. Some of his writing regarding photography was published in the books Experience of the arena. Essays about the history of photography and technical images (2004) and Images from the history of Czech photography (2011). His photographic work gave rise to books War in the cold (2017) and Corpus delicti moments (2018). He also published the prosaic By the way (2004).

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