STAŠA FLEISCHMANNOVÁ, OLGA HOUSKOVÁ

Photo EYE

10. 4. — 14. 6. 2015
The modern studio Fotografie OKO (Photography EYE) was given its name by the artist and writer Adolf Hoffmeister in 1939. It was founded, however, by the twin daughters of Staša and Rudolf Jílovský. The daughters are now exhibiting under their married names, Staša Fleischmannová and Olga Housková.

The studio was in the centre of Prague, in the loft of the famous Topič publishing house. It achieved renown in portraiture and photos of children. After passing through a small vestibule, customers entered the space with skylights on the sloping ceiling. Here, photographs were made, retouched, and mounted, and sometimes, as well, paperwork and other business matters were seen to. In the darkroom, when one of the sisters was enlarging, the other sister was developing film.

The twins belong to the generation that was profoundly affected by two totalitarian regimes. Without being able to foresee it, out of pure interest in their sitters, they made portraits (many of which, unfortunately, have been lost) of future victims of Nazi terror, including Milena Jesenská, Josef Taussig, Julius Fučík, and Bedřich Stern. Risking their lives, the sisters helped the underground resistance right to the end of the war. The photograph of Vladimír Clementis, a victim of Communist judicial murder, comes from the late 1940s. After ten years of existence, the studio was closed in 1949, when private business was forbidden by the régime.

These two former pupils of Jaromír Funke at the State College of Graphic Arts, Prague, are important figures of the Czech arts scene owing both to their own original conception of photography and to their work’s value as testimony. Their art-college training provided them with firm foundations for their craft, and, above all, helped to give free reign to their vivid imaginations.

The joint retrospective presents unique documents, the different post-war lives of the two photographers and their work, both commercial and non-commercial: in Prague, Olga photographed productions of the Vinohrady Theatre; in Paris, Staša made collages out of her own photographs.

For their willingness to provide valuable help during the exhibition preparations and identification of the exhibited works, sincere thanks go to Anna Housková and Petr and Michel Fleischmann, the children of the photographers, and to Tomáš Vrba, the editor of Staša Fleischmannová’s memoirs, which were published by Torst under the title Vrstvami (Through the layers) in 2014.

- Josef Moucha, curator -

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHERS

Staša Fleischmannová
was born in Prague on 24 September 1919. A graduate of the State College of Graphic Arts, she married Bedřich Stern in 1940. During the German occupation, he was deported and killed in Auschwitz. Their son Jan was eight months old at the time.
After the war, in 1946, she married the writer and diplomat Ivo Fleischmann, who worked as the cultural attaché (1946–50) and, later, as the counsellor of the Czechoslovak Embassy in France (1964–69). After his second diplomatic posting, and following the Soviet-led military intervention in Czechoslovakia in late August 1968, the family remained in Paris, also with two younger sons, Petr Fleischmann, now a political scientist, and Michel Fleischmann, now President of the Lagardère Active ČR media group. Jan Stern (1942–2008) worked in France as a highly respected physicist. Staša began to devote herself systematically to art photography in the 1970s, and has been exhibiting this work since 1982.
Staša Fleischmannová’s memoirs were published by Torst under the title Vrstvami (Through the layers) in 2014.

Olga Housková was born in Prague on 24 September 1919, and is also a graduate of the State College of Graphic Arts. During the German occupation (from 15 March 1939 to 9 May 1945), she was officially responsible for the Fotografie OKO studio. In addition to its regular work, the studio printed photos of concentration camps for the underground press, changed official I.D. photos by retouching, and made pictures for fake I.D. documents (for example, for the Communist journalist Julius Fučík). In the first half of 1945, while the war was still on, they hid concentration-camp escapees in the studio.
During the occupation and the war, Olga and the actor Karel Houska (1916–1987) became close. He helped her in relations with customers and developing pictures. Together they had three daughters, Anna, Barbora, and Kateřina. After the stage of running a business, Olga became the photographer at the Vinohrady Theatre, Prague, and also exhibited her theatre photos.
The Torst publishing house is planning a volume of notes of her dreams.

 

 

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