Petr Sirotek

Glimpses of Time

1. 4. — 19. 6. 2016
The exhibition Glimpses of Time presents two important cycles from the rich oeuvre of the Czech photographer Petr Sirotek (b. 1946): his still life studies and his travel pictures from Nepal. In the still lifes, Sirotek sees not only unusual objects that might catch an observant eye, but also – and primarily – a part of the lives of the people who surround themselves with them. For him, ‚still life‘ is not the dead world of things discarded or abandoned, but a means of supplementing the world of the living and thus anchoring our memories. The travel photographs of Nepal date from Sirotek‘s visit to that country in 1973, when he spent six months with a mountaineering expedition to the Himalayas as photographer and cameraman. His photographs brilliantly capture the everyday lives of the local people, both in the towns and in the extreme conditions of the countryside. The exhibition Glimpses of Time coincides with the publication of two new books celebrating Petr Sirotek and his lifetime‘s work, which will be formally launched at the opening

Petr Sirotek is a truly unordinary occurrence in the Czech photographic sphere – his professional focus on his work as a cameraman (in which he is still active ever since the 70s, especially in the field of documentaries) is closely linked with his photographical work – both the commercial and the artistic.

During his thesis at FAMU, he was already focused on the link of the pictorial expression in the work of a cameraman and the work of a photographer. He formulated his opinion on the tasks of both professions; he considered a photographer to be a “creator” and an artist, while considering a cameraman to be a member of a creative team. He appended and even succeeded this opinion of his during his work as an excellent cameraman, as well as being faithful to both of these professions during his whole following creative life.

We can still come across him in the two worlds parallel in perception and reflection – the world of documentary and art film and the world of completely free photographical work, where he works on commercial orders on one hand, but also on a very authentic visually poetic commentary of the fascinating world of the second half of the last century with all of its exciting aspects on the other hand. Our exhibition is dedicated exactly to this very last aspect of his work.

His photographical work captures brilliantly the theme of time and it’s passing by. In the exhibited file Still Life we are taken away from the real world to witness only seemingly stylistically creative processes as well as wide group of artists (both Czech and international) of the second half of the twentieth century. The results of his magical journey differ greatly – we don’t follow any didactic work serving various ideological nor cultural principles. A truly sensitive viewer is spoken to by the true stop of time, the silence of the still work – the photographs emphasize the true meaning of this term. Sirotek works with distinctive poetry, he uses light and shadow as his weapons and if he is presenting objects with the aspects of absurdity, he doesn’t command them to put on an overly exaggerated role. His still work is still full of energy and not cheap modernity, even after all the years. That’s why this file opens the door into the world of true mastery of abeyance, forgetting, slight melancholy and a recognizing nod to the other side of reality.

The other part of the exhibition called Nepal is equally as interesting. It was created during the six months long expedition in 1973 and with a huge amount of creative energy captured the almost virginal land visited during the travel. Virginal because Sirotek was in many places truly the first one to professionally portrait the local natives, the first one to discover and record the extraordinary and unusual beauty in the faces deformed by the hard life, even more beautified by the gorgeous environment not yet touched by modern world that the photos were shot in. A file was created that brings to the table more than a documentary value; it also presents us with creative beauty, when we can read in the portraits and follow the same monotonous pattern of work, stories and most of all life, whose beauties remain hidden to us and which we can only look at through the faces recorded. As the first Czech photographer, Sirotek discovered the immense visual richness in the at the time still untouched world.

– Josef Vomáčka, curator –

 
PETR SIROTEK - biography

1946  Born at 13th of May in a Prague district New Town
1956  Becomes interested in photography for the first time when meting a street photographer
1963–1956  Studies to become a photographer
1965–1969   Studies artistic photography and film camera on Film faculty AMU in Prague under the guidance of professors Ján  
Šmok, Václav Hanuš and Ilja Bojanovski
1968  Exhibits his photos on the photography fair Photokina 1968 in Cologne
1969  Creates a series of photographic reportages from the funeral of Jan Palach and the following events; works as a cameraman in the Norwegian TV NRK
1970  During his years in the military works in the Army film; becomes a member of the Union of Czech artists; is awarded with the UNESCO price for his exhibition at Photokin 68
1971 Works as a pictoral editor in the Pressfoto publishers, prepares an intersection from the works of famous photographers and cameramen (for example of Josef Sudek)
1972  Discovers and saves an important photo documentation of the work of the poet J. V. Sládek and co-creates the following exhibition for the J. Funke atelier in Brno
1973  Takes part in the 6 months long expedition into the Nepali Himalayas as the photographer and cameraman of the expedition; records a material for four documentaries and photographed hundreds of portraits and still-life; the author movie Himalayas 73 was awarded with the Price of Ministry of education, the author movie The land under the Himalayas became the best-selling Czechoslovakian documentary for many years onwards
1973  Works for Short film Prague, where he creates a number of documentaries of different focus; his films represented the Czechoslovakian film on multiple international film festivals
1973  Starts to focus more on artistic photography, takes hundreds of portraits, focuses on the theme of still-life for the first time
1974  Cooperates on the creation of a number of art publications, such as Through the land of musical instruments; the Olympia publishers issues travelogues with his photographs from Nepal – The river called alpenglow and Shiva’s great night (author: J. Wolf)
1974  Takes photographs for the covers of gramophone records of the companies Panthon and Supraphon, series of posters and commercial movie clips (both musical and of advertisement), as well as photos of architecture; exhibition in the Cabinet of photography of J. Funke in Brno
1975  Subsumed into two important photographical dictionaries: Camera Obscura and Maximillan Biographical; wins the Ministry of culture price for his work as a cameraman on the movie Birthday (directed by Milan Peer); exhibition of photographs in the Gallery of photography, Warsaw
1976  Wins the Ministry of culture price for the work as a cameraman on the movie What color is Písek (name of a Czech city) (directed by Milan Peer); exhibition of photographs in the Wolla Gallery, Warsaw
1977-1989  Works as a cameraman in the Short film Prague; dedicates himself to product and advertisement photography, creates calendars, posters and covers of gramophone records
1984  Exhibition of photographs in the theatre Na Zábradlí, Prague; takes part in the exhibitions Czech lyrical photography (London) and The Czech photography (San Francisco)
1989  Documents the Velvet revolution for the CNN
1990  During the expedition in Barma shoots two documentaries called Yravádí for the German TVs ARD and ZDF
2000  Series of travelogue movies from all over the world published (Africa, America, etc.)
2002  Exhibition of photographs in the Golem club, Prague
2004  Exhibition of photographs in the Soho Gallery, Prague; takes part in the collective exhibition Czech photography, Prague
2005  Shoots a visually-musical film Praga musica
2006  Collaborates on documentaries for the Baťa company in Zlín ateliers; photo exhibitions in the theatre Bez Zábradlí, Prague and the Museum and Pojizerska Gallery, Semily
2008  Shoots two documentaries: The Charles’s Bridge and Czech cubism
2008  Creator of the pictorial part of The Beauty and the Beast musical in the theatre Bez Zábradlí (directed by Pavel Toman)
2009  Takes part in the creation of a Czech television series The Czech Himalayas adventure as a cameraman and photographer
2016  Issues two publications summarizing his whole work: Still-work and Nepal

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