I Hereby Proclaim My Loyalty to the Republic
31. 8. — 28. 10. 2018
The exhibition follows the photographic tracks of eleven men who have represented our independent republic over the course of the last century. It captures the stories of Czech and Czechoslovak presidents on the background of historical events.
Photos from the exhibition
Photos from the exhibition opening
In the mass of expositions, conferences, symposiums and other events dedicated to this year’s jubilee of 100 years since the constitution of our republic, we looked for a different and a unique way to lead the viewer through the modern history of our country – from the republic’s first days to it’s present.
A chronological overview of the most important events seemed to traditionalistic as well as too expansive. On top of that, we didn’t want to present a history textbook in the form of photographs. The intimate setting of Leica Gallery asked for a narrower selection of photos, it demanded a contracted timeline that would still be expressive and would encapsulate the whole history of our modern statehood.
As the excerpt from the Presidential pledge “I hereby proclaim my loyalty to the republic” that is used as a title suggests, we decided to follow the trails of the eleven men who lead the country.
We found this choice the most fitting; not only does it give insight into history’s peripetias but it also tells the story of often conflicted men who have united their lives with the fate of the nation.
If we were to look at only the changes to the wording of the Presidential pledge over the years, it would already be indicative enough of the political and geographical changes the country has gone through over the years. There were many names of our country between the original “Czechoslovak republic” and the contemporary “Czech Republic” or “Czechia”. The names reflected the lesser or higher emphasis on the federative arrangement, not to even mention the territorial losses. The political changes are being reflected in the Presidential pledge as well, yet in nuances so subtle, they can lie solely in the use of dashes.
It is not our aim to enter the realm of the professional discourse of historians through our exhibition, nor to critically rate the importance of each of the presidents. We approached this project as pictorial documentarists whose goal is to collect photographs that would be of the highest quality available and that would be unknown to the public. To collect photographs of the people who, through their state work, influenced and in a way still influence our lives and the lives of the previous generations.
The exposition also has another dimension to it. Looking at the photographs in the context of the time of their creation allows us to see the transformations in the photographical concepts. These shifts were, of course, influenced by multiple factors: the development of the photographic equipment, the quality of content and print of the medium the photographer worker for, the atmosphere within the society and finally the respect or injustice towards the question of the freedom of the press in different historical times. In the first half of the 20th century, bulky and heavy large format cameras were still used – these allowed good quality, but at the expense of candidness and authenticity. In contrast to images taken in this time, contemporary digital cameras allow high dynamics and processing speed which is much appreciated by media both printed and electronic. The horizon of the passing time shows not only the gradual liberalization of the castle protocol but also the liberation of the photographical concept from the unduly respect towards political variables.
We feel the need to comment on the fairly narrow selection of authors of the exhibited photographs – photographing “in the Castle” is a very specific field of work that wasn’t always opened to everyone. The regulations were set by both societal and political conditions but also by reasons having to do with space and security. For instance, ČTK (Czech Press Office), which is the most represented author wise, has had a small team of “castle photographers” that had a permanent accreditation to take photographs in this privileged location up until 1990. A wider selection of photoreporters from other media was possible only under certain circumstances.
When it comes to the origins and formal aspects of the photographs exhibited, the ČTK (Czech Press Office) was the most substantial source – in its photoarchives one can find images that are remarkable both in quantity and quality. The names of the authors aren’t always included under the ČTK photographs – the explanation lies either in the issues of security, copyright or maybe even carelessness.
If we were to attempt to formulate the mission of the exhibition, it would be appropriate to use the words of Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, whose legacy is followed by the nation most unitedly; “I was elected President of our republic four times; hopefully this gives me the legitimacy to ask you, the people of Czechoslovakia and all other nations, to remember this during the government administration: states are kept up by the same ideals from which they were born from. I myself have always kept this in mind.”
Dana Kyndrova, Dusan Vesely – the curators
Dana Kyndrova (*1955) is a leading Czech documentary photographer, curator and author of many photographic exhibitions and publications.
Dusan Vesely (*1955) is a Czech journalist, educator, former long-standing editor in chief of the Pictorial Newsroom of the CTK (Czech Press Office) and co-author of many photographic exhibitions and publications.