MIROSLAV HUCEK

HOMES

26. 4. — 16. 6. 2019
The Czech photographer Miroslav Hucek (1934 – 2013) is renowned mostly for his numerous black and white photographs with very strong humanistic focus and feel. Many photography enthusiasts will surely remember him for his fifteen years long distinct work in the Mlady svet magazine (1960 – 1975). The Homes project, curated for Leica Gallery Prague by the author’s daughter Barbara Huckova, isn’t Hucek’s typical work; the centerpiece of his image isn’t a person as it usually tends to be – instead he focuses on the immediate surroundings of certain individuals, the environment that influences, shapes and characterizes us. He perceives people’s homes as their life anchor. The visitor will be able to peek into the closest intimacy of homes of Hrabal, Hemingway, Michael de Montaigne, Axel Munthe, L. N. Tolstoy, Napoleon and Lenin, but he will also be able to familiarize himself with the closest environment of fictitious figures, such as Dulcinea from Tobos or Sherlock Holmes. All left an imprint on their homes, just like their homes left a mark in their work.

Miroslav Hucek (1934-2013) became well-known as a photographer during his time working in the Mlady svet magazine in the years 1960–1975. If we were to ask most photography experts, they would say that Hucek’s work is intertwined with the lives of young people, their life style and their attempts to be different. From the second half of the seventies, Hucek, now a freelance photographer, focused more than ever on fashion, architecture, ads and plein air art. However, people still remained the center piece of his work and he explored the motif of people’s values. That’s why the Homes series represents an integral part of Hucek’s work, even though people are almost completely absent from the photographs.

The series captures homes clearly left imprinted by the famous people who once dwelled in them – a similar imprint that can be found throughout the people’s works. The shots of Josef Sudek’s burnt out atelier and photographs from London’s Sherlock Holmes museum expanded the original series. It may not be  a coincidence that it’s the homes of the Czech artists, Josef Sudek and Bohumil Hrabal, that are left in shambles, albeit in which a piece of their former life is still traceable. Eighties, the time in which Hucek immortalized those homes, weren’t particularly optimistic or merciful. The author still managed to capture the traces of Hrabal and Sudek’s lives that are reflected in their works – in Hrabal’s literary peculiarity and in Sudek’s images of his atelier’s window view. The remnants of Sudek’s atelier feel like a mournful still-life representing doom.

Other homes or their parts are depicted in the series – the tower of Michel de Montaigne, where the author wrote his philosophical essays; Lenin’s telephone through which multiple lives’ fates were decided, probably including the fate of the last Russian Tsar’s family; Tolstoy’s house in Yasnaya Polyana; Hemingway’s home in Cuba; remnants of houses in Pompey that were commemorated by Plinius; Napoleon’s almost luxurious exile and the mysterious home of Axel Munthe. These still-lives that once breathed the life of their dwellers are undoubtedly a big part of their residents’ works. The homes linked to the lives of literary characters such as Dulcinea del Toboso or Sherlock Holmes let us fantasize about how these characters’ existence came about.

Some homes were preserved and turned into museums, some don’t exist anymore or were changed greatly. The museums transform these homes into temples of muses and muses inspire us and stir our imagination. 

Barbara Huckova, the curator

 

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Essay of Jiri Podzimek:

“If I enjoy a photograph, and if it unsettles me, I dwell by it.” (Roland Barthes) 

Miroslav Hucek’s (1934-2013) path to photography was a complicated and stubborn one, but proportionally to the stubbornness, not a very long one. He already provoked with his peculiarity and civilism in the fifties when peculiarity wasn’t on trend and photocivilism was just waiting for its future emergence. When Hucek speaks about his photography teacher (whom he refers to as Master Jaros) and about the fate of their photographs at the beginning of Hucek’s photography journey he says; “… everybody was constantly calling us out for how grainy and technically inept our work was, that stuck with me ever since. But Jaros… he bought X-ray films and did landscapes on them. So then all of it was just one big grain!” Hucek began working for the Mlady svet (Young world) magazine in 1960 and stayed until 1975 – first, he worked as a technical editor and then from 1963 as a photographer. Amongst other things, Hucek’s “graininess” fit right into the Mlady svet of the time, it became it’s symbol. The magazine purposefully focused on photography and with the number of copies printed well over 200 thousand (up to 285 thousand), it influenced the domestic taste by the millions. In the late 1960s Hucek also published more extensive photoreports: Amusement parks, Montmartre or Sport (Athens). The transformation of Mlady svet after 1969 (in essence, Lustig was replaced by Lipcik) didn’t go down well with Hucek. In the second half of the seventies – in the middle of normalization – he became a freelancer, a photographer of commercial and industrial ads. 

His second group exhibit (in 1960) was called We want to see life in everything and this was something he stuck to even in the advertisement photography of fashion and architecture. Throughout the years he managed to contribute to one of the most wanted books in the last half of a century (Anatomy for artists), he collaborated with the Semafor theatre for decades (on their posters and fliers) and he was even honoured with photographing for the Gods of the time when he captured the Czechoslovak Spartakiad in 1980. The encyclopaedia reads that “in his freelance work, Hucek focuses on genre scenes that life has to offer”. This encompasses Hucek’s intensive travels, the geographical and thematic breadth can be illustrated by the names of some of his photographical cycles: Indian village, Leningrad ballet, Spanish village… but also Zbraslav, Hucek’s place of residence.

Life in the “grey zone” of normalization pushed people into privacy, into mediocrity, into surviving, which bulldozed both artists (Hucek’s cycle Were we like that?) and consumers (Hucek’s cycle Games and dreams). His small monography printed by Odeon (Vladimir Remes: Miroslav Hucek, 1987, Art Photography edition) reads; “He also occasionally contributed to dozens of other publications, he illustrated several fiction books, calendars, exhibition catalogues, theatre programmes and so on.” His photographs depict an Indian villager who resembles Ghandi, a German man dressed in lederhosen looking like Franz Joseph Strauss, a blind man holding the hand of Hans Christian Andersen’s statue in Copenhagen, a wind mill in La Mancha, the square in front of Picasso’s Bateau-Lavoir… homes, everyday people and Dizzy Gillespie, a man with the roundest face in the world, Hrabal, Chytilova, Brejchova, Lhotak… humanism in various forms, a firm declaration of mundanity, rinsed and repeated graininess? In a slight disagreement with the introductory quote by Barthes; the photography of Miroslav Hucek doesn’t always unsettle, yet we dwell by it nonetheless.

Jiri Podzimek

(CV) Miroslav Hucek (1934 – 2013)has been an avid photographer ever since his childhood. He started pursuing the hobby seriously when he moved from Kolin to Prague at the age of 19. He fit right into the amateur photoclub of the Zizkov depot where he compared his works with the one’s of his fellow photographers. He was trained as a locksmith, graduated from a technical school and was subsequently employed as a standardizer at CKD. But the work he was doing wasn’t fulfilling him.

In 1957 he was admitted to FAMU to study at the cinematography department – there wasn’t a separate photography department yet. This was a key formative moment for his career; its during his time he met his classmates such as Petr Weigl, Pavel Juracek, Jaromil Jires, Evald Schrom, Vera Chytilova. They stayed close for the rest of their lives. The discussions they lead helped him in finding his own identity. Hucek was constantly dissatisfied and could hardly cope with the empty talk that surrounded him. 

After two years he dropped out from FAMU and became an assistant director of photography in the Czechoslovak Television’s film production. A year later, Hucek leaves to work for the Mlady svet magazine, a new publication for the young. At the time, Leos Nebor was the photo reporter and Hucek became the technical editor. From 1962 he worked as a key photographer and later, after Nebor leaves the magazine, becomes the head of the photography department. Hucek has worked in Mlady svet for fifteen years. He used mostly small format cameras for his photography work. 

The transformations of the Czechoslovak society taking place during the 60s and their subsequent immortalization on the pages of Novy svet tested the journalists’ ability to communicate these changes. These years might have been Hucek’s happiest and most fruitful.

After leaving the magazine, he started working as a freelancer, yet his themes were still composed in some sort of cycles, into broad reports. This gave rise to cycles such as Yachting, Fishermen, Villages, Youth, Ports and others. During his freelance work mastered color photography and large-format cameras.

He worked with theatres, illustrated and designed books based on his own ideas. His collaboration with Milan Kopriva yielded a number of interesting projects that succeeded in depicting the times they were made in. 

When Hucek was almost sixty, he decided that the post-1989 changes in the press environment wasn’t to his taste. He began organizing various regional workshops for both amateurs and professionals. This yielded projects such as Neratovice – the city brought back to life, Svitavy – a city in motion and the international project So close yet so far apart. Every project culminated in the creation of a publication. He actively worked in the Photojournalism Club and Journalists Syndicate.

After 2000, his health began to deteriorate. He examined and worked on themes manifested in the Zbraslav district, where had both a home and a studio. The In our Zbraslav publication captured the life and traditions of this part of Prague. Towards the twilight of his life he contemplated the “Were we like that?” theme when listing through his own photographs.

This contemplation gave rise to a publication titled with the very question, photographs in which were accompanied by his own text. This is the story of Miroslav Hucek’s very last book. 

Miroslav Hucek adored photography. He regarded camera as device that managed to push photography amongst the 20thcentury inventions that show the direction of time and stir people’s creativity. 

Miroslav Hucek passed away on January 29th2013 in Prague.

 

Solo exhibitions

1962    We want to see life in everything (40 photographs alongside with J. Bartusek and P. Dias), Kralupy nad Vltavou

1964    Tramping – big beat, Prague, Prague cinema (45 B&W photographs)

1968    People, Pilsner, Bory penitentiary (62 B&W photographs)

1971    Paris, Prague, D club (40 B&W photographs)

1977    Yachting – free time, Usti nad Labem, Semily, Museum of the Workers’ Movement (85 B&W photographs)

            Fishermen, ports, Ceske Budejovice, Upstairs Gallery (73 B&W photographs)

            Collective exhibition, Prague, Que gallery (120 B&W and 40 color photographs)

1983    Collective exhibition, Cheb, Art Gallery (125 B&W and 40 color photographs)

1984    Were we like that? Prague, exhibition hall of Semafor theatre (68 B&W photographs)

            Collective exhibition, Brno, Old town hall gallery (142 B&W photographs)

            Collective exhibition, Zdar nad Sazavou, Miroslav Hucek gallery (85 B&W photographs)

1989    Exhibition on behalf of 150 years of photography, Orlova, House of Culture (142 B&W photographs)

            Jazz, Karlovy Vary, Colonnade gallery (82 B&W photographs)

1999    Homes, Jindrichuv Hradec, State castle (45 B&W photographs)

            Homes, Neratovice, Social house (45 B&W photographs)

2000    Why to love life, Prague, Mlada Fronta Gallery (136 B&W photographs)

2001    Why to love life (a selection), Bratislava, Photography month (70 B&W photographs)

2001    Why to love life (a selection), Vienna, Czech center (76 B&W photographs)

2002    Why to love life (a selection), Kiev, University (65 B&W photographs)

2003    The year of 1989 and the In our Zbraslav cycle, Rotterdam, Goethe Institut (75 B&W photographs)

2004    The journey towards dreaming, Leica Gallery Prague, Prague (86 B&W photographs)

2007    A selection of photographs, Certak gallery, Vapenka Certovy schody, Tman (45 B&W photographs)

2009    Retrospect 75, NMF Jindrichuv Hradec (185 B&W photographs)

            Too little music, Chagall art centre, Ostrava (85 B&W photographs)

            A letter to the French, L’Institut Francais, Prague (154 B&W photographs)

            People of Prague, Old town city hall, Prague (154 B&W photographs)

2012    A letter to the French, Descartes Center, Amsterdam (70 B&W photographs)

2014    A selection from large project, on the occasion of the 80thbirthday that wasn’t reached, Zbraslav gallery (92 B&W      photographs)

 

Selection of group exhibitions

1973    Temporary reportage photography, Bratislava

1977    Children and the world, 4thWorld Exhibition of Photography, curator: Karl Pawek

1989    Exhibition on behalf of 150 years of photography, Wallenstein Palace, Prague, curator: Daniela Mrazkova

1990    November days, Manes gallery, Prague

1990    Jan Palach, Old town city hall, Prague, curator: Anna Farova

 

Miroslav Hucek’s work is represented in a wide variety of collections; Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris (37 B&W photographs), Brno’s Moravian gallery (22 B&W photographs), Prague’sIndustrial museum (25 B&W photographs), Association of Czech Photographers collection (37 B&W photographs), Journalists Syndicate collection (30 B&W photographs) and in the collection of the City museum of Benesov (3 B&W photographs).

Hucek’s photographs are a part of a number of art and professional publications, catalogues, magazines, film and television projects. “Miroslav Hucek” is a term included in encyclopaedias, such as; Michele Auer – Encyclopédie de internationale des photographes de 1839 a nos jours. A-K., Geneve, Editions Camera Obscura 1985 (2 B&W photographs); 

Petr Tausk – Contemporary Photographers (Ed. Colin Naylor) 2ndEd, Chicago and London, St. 

James Press 1988, p. 474-476 (1 B&W photograph); Ladislav Solc – Encyclopaedia of Czech and Slovak photographers, Prague, ASCO 1993, p. 128-130 (2 B&W photographs),

Who’s who of Czech republic in the 20thcentury, Prague, Who’s who Agency 1998, p. 213

 

(CV) Barbara Huckova (*1964) 

In 1989 Huckova completed a degree in Art Photography at FAMU, in 2018 she finished her additional PhD studies at Tomas Bata University in Zlin. She is the Executive Director of the Leontinka Foundation, a lecturer at VSE (Arts Management), curator and author of a number of photographic exhibitions and a co-author of photographic publications.

 

 

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