Spartakiad | Zdeněk Lhoták

The exhibition presents a set of photographs from the “Spartakiad” cycle, which has already  become legendary since they were made, not just in our country but also in the world. Not just because the photographer was awarded by the World Press Photo. During the soldiers’ performance, it began to rain and their bodies, smeared with mud, were transformed into absurd statues.

Are these nearly two dozen images produced over the course of a few short minutes a celebration of sport and heroic performance? Or are they a memento, an interception of a marginal situation, a manipulated social bodies?

On Guard | Emil Fafek

On Guard | Emil Fafek

For what would have been the 100th birthday of the Czech photo-reporter Emil Fafek (1922-1997), the curator Dana Kyndrova collated a retrospective exhibition titled On guard, which the author considered to be his professional motto. Emil Fafek contributed to the magazine Mlada fronta for over forty years and became the pictorial chronicler of our country’s post-war development. His greatest passion was sports photography. In 1964 he won third place in the World Press Photo competition in the category Sport.

The photographer Emil Fafek (1922-1997) was born in Kuri u Rican and lost his father at the age of 14. He was a gifted student, but the pursuit of grammar school was not in the cards, since his mother wouldn’t have been able to support him on a cleaner’s salary. He apprenticed as an image retoucher in a printing plant V. Neubert & sons in Smíchov. In 1942 he was deployed to Germany where he fled from in the spring of 1944 to work illegally for the company FOTO-STYLE-CHILDREN based in Prague’s Jungmann square. Emil Fafek was a passionate self-taught photographer. He photographed with his SLR camera Embirflex since he was fifteen, his first published photograph being an image of a crashed lorry Tatra on Prague’s Pilsner Street close by Fafek’s residence. It was the Prague Uprising in May 1945 that represented a key challenge for Fafek, and that started his photojournalistic career. Unfortunately, many of the images were lost when he was stopped in Celetna street by uprising guards as the Old Town square burned, with the guards demanding Fafek expose and destroy his negatives. Despite this, two of his photographs appeared in the first issue of the newly formed magazine Mlada fronta that was first published on May 9th, 1945. Then 23-year-old Fafek accepted the offer to become an in-house photojournalist for Mlada fronta, a magazine he remained faithful to for over forty years.

Throughout his time with Mlada fronta Fafek – referred to as Fafca by his colleagues – became the pictural chronicler of our country’s post-war development. Apart from the Prague Uprising, Fafek also captured the communist coup d’état in February 1948, the socialist zeal of youth constructions, heavy industry construction, rural collectivisation, world youth and student festivals, the first of which had taken place Prague in 1947 and was followed by many Spartakiads (mass gymnastics events) at Strahov. He also documented the occupation of August 1968 and the funeral of Jan Palach, although these images were only released to the public after November 1989. As a photojournalist he naturally captured not only everyday news events, but also life’s absurdities and humorous moments.

Nevertheless, Fafek’s biggest passion was sports photography. Being a sportsperson himself, before starting his work at Mlada fronta he played ping pong, handball, tennis and criss-crossed the entire country on a bicycle. Among his most known sport images are photographs of the athlete Emil Zatopek that mapped not only Zatopek’s sports career, but also his personal life. Fafek was even denoted as the chronicler of Zatopek’s life and career in the book “Emil Zatopek and sport through the viewfinder of Emil Fafek and others” (2001).

His biggest professional achievement was a third place in the competition World Press Photo 1964 in the category Sport for Fafek’s image Schroif’s specialty which captured Slovan Bratislava’s goalkeeper’s unusual tackle. Other than athletics and football Fafek also photographed hockey, basketball, horse racing, table tennis, figure skating, rugby, gymnastics, and tennis. Alongside with his editorial colleague Emil Pardubicky, Fafek became a leading figure of Czechoslovak post-war sports photography.

In 1985, Mlada fronta published his monograph “Emil Fafek / 40 years as a photojournalist”, which he prepared together with his editorial colleague Ondrej Neff. The foreword describes Fafek’s difficult beginnings in life and photography and emphasises the vital importance of a photojournalist being “on guard”. Fafek doesn’t only refer to the readiness to capture an interesting story’s climax; every image must contain something beyond mere watchfulness which can be noticed only by a person attuned to life’s emotionally inconspicuous yet significant moments.

Emil Fafek’s photographic legacy shows that he remained “on guard” throughout his long professional life, with several of his images now firmly embedded in the history of Czechoslovak photojournalism.

Dana Kyndrova, curator

Uncertain future

Uncertain future

Maryna Veklynets – Hahlushka


Maryna Veklynets is a young photographer living and working in Prague. She came to Prague from a small town in Zakarpattia Ukraine in order to devote herself fully to her creative work. In her photography, she deals with current topics of modern times that affect both young people and society as a whole. She uses fashion studio photography to tell stories that reflect the issues of today, such as the environmental crisis, the hypocrisy of big fashion brands and the increasing need of people to escape into cyberspace. Even though she deals with difficult topics, through her photographs we absorb a strong story and surrealistic composition.

Instagram: @hahlushka


Ralph Gibson

Ralph Gibson

„The easiest thing to do in the world is to be a photographer. You just have to push the button. The hardest thing as a photographer is to make an image which you can look at for a long time.”

The liaison between Ralph Gibson (*1939) and Leica has thrived for six decades, having begun with the purchase of his first Leica, an M2, at the beginning of his career. He had to laboriously pay off the camera in instalments, as his work was still far from lucrative; but that camera certainly played a decisive role in helping him realize his own photographic vision. Gibson acquired his first solid foundation in photography while serving in the US Navy, followed by studies at the San Francisco Art Institute. He then assisted Dorothea Lange from 1961 to 1962, and Robert Frank from 1967 to 1968. Gibson’s style was strongly defined, from the very beginning, by graphic compositions with distinct black and white contrasts. Gibson quickly gave up the idea of working as a photojournalist. After moving from Los Angeles to New York in 1966, he worked at the Magnum Photos Agency for a trial period of a few months, but soon recognised that, “doing commercial assignments was not to be my destiny”. On the contrary, he was searching for self-determined content and his own, autonomous visual language. As he clarifies, “My work changed. No longer documentary or concerned with the human condition, it became more surreal, and this led to my first book: The Somnambulist.” The self-published photo book, which appeared in 1970, was a breakthrough; not only from the financial perspective but, more importantly, for the acknowledgement Gibson gained as a photographer and publisher. He continued to develop his imagery over the following years. His motifs, published by Lustrum Press in numerous photo books, were soon to become style-defining and serve as inspiration to many photographers. His work represented a perfect example of the transformation of American photography in the seventies, as it headed in a more individualistic, and less photo-journalistic or documentary direction, resulting in the growing acknowledgement of photography as an artistic medium. Gibson remained faithful to analogue photo technology for a long time, but when he tried a Leica Monochrom in 2013, his attitude changed: “I have not loaded a roll of film since. The photographs reflect my vision. They are the same – but different,” Gibson confirms. His clear, graphic and perfectly composed images, which are frequently taken from up close, are always immediately recognisable. They appear abstract, yet never fully give up a reference to reality. In addition to precise studies of objects, surreal-like compositions, and sponta­neous-looking street scenes, exquisite nude images have a not insignificant place in the photographer’s repertoire. Whether mysterious and emotional, or clearly recognisable; whether analogue or digital, black and white or, less frequently, colour: there is no doubt that, over his lifetime, Ralph Gibson has created a many-layered and exciting body of work, for which he is now being honoured with the Leica Hall of Fame Award.

Ralph Gibson was born in Los Angeles on January 16, 1939. He learned photography in the US Navy, followed by studies at the San Francisco Art Institute from 1960 to 1962. He worked as an assistant to both Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank. Gibson also made photography history with the publishing house Lustrum Press, which he founded in 1969. The company published 40 monographs, as well as numerous compendiums and important works by other photographers. Gibson is represented in the most important private and museum collections. His work has been published internationally; and he is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Leica Medal of Excellence in 1988, and the French National Order of the Legion of Honour. He lives in New York.



Presentation of photographs in Leica Gallery Café



Veronika Maskova is a fitness trainer, an alpinist, and last but not least a photographer. She has been drawn to photography since early childhood. She is, amongst others, interested in exteriorst; her eye for detail leads her to immerse herself in nature’s microcosm, where one can find fascinating scenes.

Her compositions are raw and aim to tap into the nature of coexistence and to capture the dialogue of “everything with everything”. The same aims are reflected in her work on urban sceneries and her goal to capture ephemeral moments of unique everydayness which remains elusive to most.

The author’s collection “Herbarium” is a tender, ephemeral and torn homage to Mother Nature, who wants touch you ……… let her.

Jaroslav Pulicar

Jaroslav Pulicar

The exhibition is a retrospective of nearly four decades of work by the contemporary photographer Jaroslav Pulicar (*1954) from Brno. Although Pulicar is one of the most prominent current documentarists and was awarded the Association of Professional Photographers last year, only a few insiders are familiar with his work. The number of Pulicar’s exhibitions could be counted on one hand, and there are even fewer texts analysing his work. Only last year Pulicar’s photographs were presented to the wider public through two author publication. Jaroslav Pulicar is also known in Brno as a prominent figure in the contemporary photography space; he has been operating an apartment gallery 34 in Brno’s Botanical Street for more than a decade.



Presentation of photographs in Leica Gallery Café

StreetPhoto is not just a Click in the Street

The Art Photo-Group “StreetPhoto is not just a Click in the Street” was established in August of 2014 by Albert Pich, who invited famous Czech and Slovak street photographers such as Rudolf Baranovic, Jan Hlbocan and many others to moderate the group.

The purpose of the Art Photo-Group is to find truer and higher form of street photography and to find new inspiration …

The Group is meant for all photographers who wish to creatively develop their art. The Group’s goal is to give its members space to debate about and publish their street photographs which did not come about through just a click in the street.

Even here people live

Even here people live

The Czech photographer Jiri Turek’s series shows us Afghani people’s everyday life. This collection of colour images is not a photojournalistic attempt to document a war zone; it’s aim is to show Afghanistan as a place of its inhabitants’ everyday joys and sorrows.


Even here people live

His aim wasn’t to capture the war. Despite that, or possibly because of that, Turek’s photographs are the truest and rawest insight into the lives of people who didn’t choose war yet live within it. Ordinary people. The photographs are filled with emotion, fear, barebone life, everydayness, and guilt in the eyes of every person who was lucky enough to wake up alive that morning in Kabul. Photographs of children who grew up too fast for them to still have mischievous or youthful grins. Photographs of boys who are letting out their emotions playing football. Images of women whose faces we rarely get to see, images of men who don’t have time to spare for happiness. Soldiers and quirky grandfathers…

“Every day I was truly pleased with the photographs I created, yet the pleasure was mixed with sadness over what I witnessed that day. Kabul was ravaged by war at the time, but people had different things to worry about, ordinary things. They needed food, drink, and heat. That was and is my message from Kabul: ‘Even here people live’,” says the photographer Jiri Turek.

Despite the photographs being created in 2011, the twenty large-format photographs of Kabul’s inhabitants resonate nowadays more than ever.

Karolina Kovarova

Jiri Turek

Jiri Turek (*3. 5. 1965) has been concentrating on his freelance work for the past 30 years during which he gained an immense amount of experience as well as insight, precision, and perfect photography technique. In addition to his portrait, reportage, and commercial photography work Turek is returning to the original craft of black and white photography by exploring certain “forgotten” techniques such as the “lithprint”. He creates cover pages for prestigious magazines and fashion editorials, as well as for CD covers. Turek is also well known for his photographical contributions to successful marketing campaigns.


Photographs from the exhibition opening

Nova Sedlica

Nova Sedlica

In 1971-1981 Pavel Vavrousek documented Nova Sedlica, the easternmost village of then Czechoslovakia. He captured one of the last islands of rural togetherness where people lived traditional lives only minimally different from ones their ancestors led, in ever-present negotiations with nature. Where people worked with farm animals and their time unfolded in the rhythm of alternating seasons and Orthodox holidays. Vavrousek photographed a community not yet affected by unifying globalization. He noticed the vanishing and endangered and captured it while it lasted. The last village. For the next four decades, the photographs laid unseen in an archive.

Photos from the exhibition opening and launch of the book Nova Sedlica

The last village

Pavel Vavrousek (*1946) started photographing at the age of twenty-three thanks to his friend Pavel Stech. First, Vavrousek documented his friends hiking in the nature or during their weddings, and later he was like many drawn in by the world of the Romany people. He discovered his life’s theme in the easternmost north of Slovakia, in Bukovske vrchy below the Kremenec hill. In the fall of 1971, he visited the area for the first time when hiking with two friends. Vavrousek was fascinated by the landscape, traditionality of the village, Orthodoxy and hospitality and friendliness of the locals. As an introvert, he tended to struggle with approaching others with a camera and ask for their permission to photograph them. But there he was able to photograph naturally, organically. Locals did not feel violated by being photographed; on the contrary, they were delighted that their lives were a subject of interest to a foreigner who decided to live among them. “Here in the Czech Republic, it was much harder to come close to people than there. I’ve spent all my allocated photography time in Nova Sedlice. I was most drawn to the sense of otherness – it would’ve been hard to find a place like this in the Czech Republic, even then.” He continued visiting the family of “aunt” Zimovcakova for the next ten years. “It was important for me that the locals followed an Orthodox, i.e. the Julian calendar. It was inconceivable to me that I would not spend Christmas at home. This way I could spend Christmas home with my family and then leave to photograph Orthodox Christmas.”

In the post-war period and loss of the Subcarpathian Russia, untouched rural life in its authentic and true form could mostly be found in Slovakia only. Martin Martincek photographed Liptov’s mountaineers since the end of 1950s. The pursuit of an expressive visual shortcut and true reflection of the mountaineers’ hard lives lead Martincek to abstract graphism. Marketa Luskacova found her Slovakian village, one of the last islands of traditional rural life in Horehroni, at the southern foot of the Low Tatras. At that point she has already been photographing Slovakian fairs for four years. Within Czech Republic the rural setting has been systematically explored only in Krnovsko and Bruntalsko by Gustav Aulehl, or by Dagmar Hochova as a part of her magazine reportages. Miroslav Pokorny photographed the village Bukova and its surrounding Novohradsko in 1973-1988, and in 1978 he began focusing on the rural Bruntal region, the home of Jindrich Streit, then a director of a small school.

The hilly region of northeastern Slovakia is one of the most documented parts of Slovakia. Following Pavel Vavrousek, the region has been immortalized by local photographers who periodically returned there such as Jozef Ondzik and Tomas Leno (Starina, 1981-1986 and Rusins 1996-2003) or Lucia Nimcova. In the last three decades, the region has welcomed the repeatedly visiting Slovakian reportage and documentary photographer Andrej Ban.

Vavrousek had always been a city man, something which he was humbly and acutely aware of while visiting the rural region. His storytelling makes it clear that when entering the region, he found the place of his life’s feeling. He was struck by the villages with no asphalt roads, where everyday life was interconnected with nature, animals, and the world of Orthodoxy. He was drawn to the distinct faces of the locals, to the landscape without wires or electric poles, to the old cottages with no antennas. Coming from the atmosphere of moral decline of the normalization period, he was refreshed by the hard life lived in the virginal nature in accordance with deep faith.

Pavel Vavrousek captured the imagery of vanishing rurality. He photographed an environment not yet disturbed by the unifying globalisation and tourists, not only full of rich folklore. He aimed to capture the one, original, perhaps even the last village, and the last villagers. He focused on the disappearing and endangered and captured it while it still lasted. He presents us with a timeless image of a traditional village. He shies away from politics and negative aspects of the life such as alcoholism, poor housing conditions, lack of access to medical care, poor transport connection, creeping gentrification, and migration of the young toward cities. Vavrousek is not a socio-critical photographer, he doesn’t want to expose the viewers to the poverty and difficulty of the village life, but he seeks to expose us to a particular lifestyle which to a certain extent harmonizes with his values. To capture it while it lasts. Currently this photography collection presents Vavrousek as a supporter of the humanistic documentary values, which have had many followers in the Czech space since the mid-50s exhibition Family of Man. Vavrousek’s “Family of Man” resided in one of Bukovske vrchy’s village, at the then border between Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Soviet Union. The collection presents us with a raw world of the rural village which gives an insight into what life could have been like in a central European village many decades ago through themes of relationships with animals, agriculture, life in the rhythm of the seasons and Christian holidays and festivities. Throughout the process of photographing, Vavrousek aimed to consciously capture the life lived in accordance with the yearly cycle of spring-summer-autumn-winter, and in accordance with the Orthodox calendar. The editorial traces one year in the rural village from spring to the end of winter, as centred around the seasons and holidays determined by Christian milestones and nature’s processes.

After several years of photographing Nova Sedlice, in 1975 Vavrousek was admitted to FAMU, then the only Czech university offering standalone photography education. He attended the university while working. The same year marked the start of Vavrousek’s childhood friend’s Pavel Stecha’s seminars and documentary photography exercises at FAMU. Stech’s students include a strong generation of documentarians, amongst others Jaroslav Barta, Jan Reco, Dusan Simanek, Iren Stehli, Jan Maly, Jiri Polacek or Jaromir Cejka. They were all connected through the use of reportage candid shots, the emphasis on black-and-white imagery and refusing to interfere with the reality taking place in front of the camera. Vavrousek also takes over Stech’s photographic distance, a certain pictorial candour, and an emphasis on condensed description. As an author he wants to keep a certain distance and remain unseen behind the simple composition. He values quietly serving, introducing the viewer to the villagers’ customs and ceremonies and to capture them while the people who perform them are still alive. As if he wanted to combine the sober documentary poetry with a balladlike testimony.

Pavel Vavrousek’s work has until now only been recalled in a short note by an art historian Anna Farova written for Vavrousek’s exhibition in Prague’s Drama Club (Cinoherni klub) in the spring of 1981: “Pavel Vavrousek photographs village life seriously and meticulously in the form of distinct and clearly demarcated photographic imagery. Their atmosphere is one of finality and festivity. The quest to the village can become an unconscious seeking of something exotic, the pursuit of capturing something unusual and new is the first layer of mapping, which is followed by true understanding. The long-standing focus on this theme tends to overlay the initial exotic and aesthetic excitement. The author has been photographing in Slovakia’s Nova Sedlice, 900km from Prague, since 1971. Orthodox customs and traditions are still maintained here, which form the basis of the photographer’s capturing of the Christmas holidays. Vavrousek’s narration is not drawn out, he succinctly summarises into essence-like images that give rise to photographs classically balanced in their form and content.” As per the quote, the 1981 exhibition presented the author’s work capturing the village’s Christmas. In his subsequent and now legendary exhibition 9 & 9 in Plasy, Vavrousek introduced a selection of horse photography, which he re-exhibited during his independent exhibition at the Nerudovka Gallery.

Through the exhibitions at the foyer of the Drama Club and at Plasy in 1981, Anna Farova placed Pavel Vavruska alongside the strong documentarian generation such as Libuse Jarcovjakova, Dusan Simanek, Borivoj Horinek, Jiri Polacek, Dusan Palka, Pavel Stecha, Ivan Lutterer, Jaroslav Barta, Iren Stehli, Ivo Gil or Jindrich Streit, most of which graduated FAMU in the 1970s. With the culmination of his studies at FAMU where he presents his Nova Sedlice collection as his thesis, Vavrousek’s photography of the last village ends. And without knowing it at the time, so does his interest in documentary photography. After making an appearance in a few foreign photography magazines, the Nova Sedlice collection disappears from the photography scene for many years. After graduating from FAMU Vavrousek mostly focuses on his work and family, he returns to photography only sporadically to capture his other hobbies such as hiking, or to immortalise his bell ringer friends. “In the spring 1981 I graduated from FAMU. It was clear that I won’t be able to make a living as a photographer. Especially as a documentarian, and when it comes to commercial or architecture photography that made a living for Pavel Stecha was something I was neither good at nor interested in. I enjoyed my work at the Telecommunications Research Institute very much. I also got married, my son was born… Perhaps I didn’t have the right Koudelka-esque lifelong verve to pursue photography in spite of everything.”

When the borders opened after 1989, most Czech citizens travelled to first experience previously practically inaccessible western countries. In contrast many photographers such as Iva Zimova, Josef Koudelka, Jaroslav Pulicar, Pavel Hroch, Jarmila Simanova or Karel Cudlin headed east. They photographed in Poland, Transcarpathian Ukraine, and mostly in the Romanian Banat, a village not yet touched by tourism or large agricultural and animal production cooperatives, a village that attracted the photographers not only with its originally Czech inhabitants, but also with its rudimentary and to an extent still authentic relationship with nature and faith. It was the same yearning that drew Pavel Vavrousek to Nova Sedlice two to three decades earlier.

Tomas Pospech, curator

Pavel Vavrousek

Pavel Vavrousek was born on August 8th, 1946, in Prague. He is a graduate of the Secondary Industrial School of Electrical Engineering (1964) and FAMU’s extraordinary photography programme (1975-1981). He was employed at the Telecommunications Research Institute in Prague from 1964. He focuses on photographic documentary from 1971. At first Vavrousek photographed hiking trips, and in addition to his series on the Romany people he created a collection from the science institute showcasing a laboratory with animals, or a medallion of the painter Karel Chaba. His long-standing theme throughout 1970s has been the Ruthenian village Nova Sedlice, the easternmost locality of then Czechoslovakia. He presented the collection of Nova Sedlice photographs as his thesis at FAMU and thanks to the curator Anna Farova showcased it to the public at the Drama Club and at the join exhibition 9 & 9 in Plasy.

Tomas Pospech

Tomas Pospech (*1974) is a university pedagogue, photographer, art historian and curator. He graduated from the FPF Institute of Creative Photography of the Silesian University in Opava (1992-1998), and studied art history at the Faculty of Arts of Palacky University in Olomouc (1992-1995) and Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague (1995-1999). Since 1997 he is an associate professor at the FPF Institute of Creative Photography of the Silesian University an Opava. He is also the curator of the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague’s photography collection.

StreetPhoto is not just a Click in the Street

StreetPhoto is not just a Click in the Street

StreetPhoto is not just a Click in the Street

The Art Photo-Group “StreetPhoto is not just a Click in the Street” was established in August of 2014 by Albert Pich, who invited famous Czech and Slovak street photographers such as Rudolf Baranovic, Jan Hlbocan and many others to moderate the group.

The purpose of the Art Photo-Group is to find truer and higher form of street photography and to find new inspiration …

The Group is meant for all photographers who wish to creatively develop their art. The Group’s goal is to give its members space to debate about and publish their street photographs which did not come about through just a click in the street.


Under the Lids

Under the Lids

Karin Mack is an exceptional Austrian photographer who began analysing her own life situation and image in the early 1970s. The focal point of her photographic journey is the quest to find the unique yet versatile essence of oneself.

Pod víčky

With a degree of irony Mack’s work calls back to the stereotypes of city life and transforms them into her own novel imagery. The stereotypes of women’s drab and mechanical chores are critiqued and through photographic construction and deconstruction Mack demonstrates the end of an illusion of women’s harmonious subservience, and the act of liberation from it. The exhibition will showcase a range of thematic, mostly autoportrait, collections from 1970s and 1980s, as well as recent work from the last decade which resonates with themes of age and care. In this way, the Leica Gallery Prague exhibition of Karin Mack’s work will introduce viewers to the Austrian photographer’s art in a wide temporal and thematic range.

Anna Vartecka, Vendula Fremlova, curators



A retrospective exhibition of the Czech photographer Milon Novotny who would have celebrated his 90thbirthday this year. Novotny, who died in 1992, is considered a pioneer and outstanding representative of the 20th century Czech humanistic photography. Novotny was a photographic poet of everyday life, seeing and capturing deep human contents in seemingly banal scenes.

Milon Novotny (1930 – 1992) belongs to the generation influenced by E. Steichen’s legendary exhibition The Family of Man. Similarly to H. Cartier-Bresson, his photographs were exclusively black and white, he worked solely using a Leica camera and was a practitioner of the so called “decisive moment”. Although we can find photographs capturing the 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia or the funeral of Jan Palach amongst Novotny’s work, his main focus was not reportage. Novotny was a photographical poet of the everyday, his photographs beam with empathy for the situation in front of his camera, with the ability to see beyond the seeming everydayness and his talent to rapidly identify the most fitting moment and detail.

Milon Novotny’s family of origin was a simple and rural one; his childhood was set in his hometown Stetovice in Moravia.  Later he commuted to a grammar school in Prostejov. In his final year of high school he fell very ill with a lung disease and spent a year recovering in Novy Smokovec. It was in this period of existentialist uncertainty that he received his first camera; in that moment, his future was more or less decided. His first exhibition took place in 1956 in Olomouc. The young photographer travelled to Prague to ask the then sixty year old Josef Sudek for help with selecting photographs and writing Novotny’s exhibition a recommendation. A lifelong friendship developed between the two photographers and thanks to Josef Sudek, Milon met the prominent photography scholar Jiri Jenicek who immediately recognized exceptional talent in the young keen photographer. In 1957 Milon moved to Prague permanently, married the beautiful seamstress Alena and began collaborating and publishing in Literary and Theatre newspapers and magazines Theatre and Culture. He captured the beginnings of Laterna magika, photographed in the Na Zabradli theatre and later alongside with the painter and  friend Libor Fara created an original and modern style to the Cinoherni (Drama) Club and its propagation materials. He published around five hundred photographs yearly with most of his royalties spent on travelling. Sixties were Milon’s most fruitful and successful life period that culminated in the now legendary publication London in 1968.

In the 70s and 80s, Literary newspaper to which Milon contributed for years ceased to be published and his photographs gradually disappeared from the pages of other newspapers and magazines. Milon Novotny was relegated to the sidelines like many other prominent figures of Czech culture and he was barred from photographing in theatres. Spending most of his time with his family in their Prysk dacha, he photographed the countrymen from this village in the north of Czech republic, which formed the focus of his work during the normalization period. He made a living by working with the Association of Czech Composers and Concert Artists, namely by portraiting musicians, which didn’t come close to fulfilling his creative ambitions. Nevertheless, even these photographs reveal a sensitive photographer’s touch. The extensive set of portrait negatives is currently stored in the archives of the National Museum.

After the Velvet revolution in November 1989, Milon Novotny was again travelling the world. He celebrated his sixtieth birthday and it seemed as if the upswing of his photographic potential was unstoppable. Unfortunately, he was only granted another two and a half years of life. The few magnificent photographs that he brought back from his last few journeys are a proof that he upheld the reputation as one of the most prominent Czech documentary photographers until his last days. 

Dana Kyndrova,curator

Exhibition Opening

Milon Novotny

1930 Milon Novotny is born on the 11th of April in Stetovice in Hanakia. His father is a locksmith working all life for the sugar factory in the neighbouring town Vrbatky. His mother occasionally lends a hand with field work while raising a son and a daughter.

1948-49 After turning eighteen, Milon falls ill with an infectious joint rheumatism and a lung disease. Instead of completing high school he spends a year rehabilitating in High Tatras. He is enchanted by the surrounding literature and visual art. He begins photographing on a borrowed camera.

1954 Beginnings of serious work; Milon photographs the activities painters usually busied themselves with before photographic technology allowed for rapid exposure.

1956 Exhibition debut in Olomouc, the historical metropolis of Milon’s home Moravia. His work is an upsurge for the Gallery of the Union of Czechoslovak Fine Artists. The catalogue text is written by more than a decade older colleague Jiri Janecek, who considers Novotny a homo novus. Janecek also recommends Novotny to his peer Josef Sudek. This gives rise to a years-long friendship.

1957 The weekly magazine Culture publishes Novotny’s photograph on its title page. Novotny relocates permanently to Prague.

1958 On June 5th Novotny marries Alena Hronikova. He becomes a candidate of the Union of Czechoslovak Fine Artists. He switches from the classical Rolleiflex camera and the negative format 6x6cm to a film roll Leica. From late 50s Novotny photographs for a wide range of magazines and documents theatre for more than two decades.

1962 First son Marek is born.

1964 First short trip to London.

1965 Beginning of intensive collaboration with the recently founded Cinoherni klub (Drama club) theatre.

1966 Novotny is accepted as a full member of the Union of Czechoslovakian Fine Artists. He contributes substantially to the collective image book New York. Throughout mere three weeks he takes the majority of the London photographs.

1968 First publication of London. Expectations are high not only in London or Prague, where the work was initially published by the publisher Mlada fronta, but in other places across the globe. London soon disappears from the shelves of Czechoslovak bookshops and despite the high volume of initial prints – eight thousand – it can be found only rarely in the display cases of second hand bookshops. The work was not coveted only for its masterful photography; London was also a symbol of the free world. Novotny’s work on Prague Spring culminates with him graciously giving foreign newspapers the negatives capturing the August occupation of Czechoslovakia by communist armies led by the Soviets. The period of Novotny publishing more than 500 photographs annually is coming to an end.

1969 Novotny’s photographs from the funeral of Jan Palach, a student who burned himself alive in protest against soviet occupation, grow into a parable about the end of an extraordinary decade. In the 70s Novotny continues working with the Czechoslovak academy of sciences, and he photographs for the Union of Czech composers and concert artists. He mostly contributes photographs to the magazines Gramorevue and Musical Views. He is so self-critical that he destroys bespoke negatives after use.

1975 The album ČSSR (Czechoslovak socialist republic) is published, to which Novotny contributed with a multitude of black-and-white and colour photographs. The escalation of totalitarian repression following 70s and 80s means that London’s lightness and freedom cannot be repeated.

1989 Novotny finds himself in the streets of Prague again while photographing the Velvet revolution.

1991-92 Photographic journeys to the USA.

1992 After a brief illness, Novotny passes away in a Prague hospital on August 9th.

2000 The monograph Milon Novotny: Photographs arranged by Dana Kyndrova reminds Novotny’s flagship project London with more than a quarter of reproductions.

2010 The retrospective exhibition to what would have been the photographer’s 80th birthday is debuted in the Old Town Hall in Prague. Novotny’s creative humanism is demonstrated in the words of the critic Jiri Penas: “People captured in the photographs make one wonder what happened with their destinies, how did their lives unravel afterwards, what happened to them, if and how do they live.” (Where did all those people go?, Lidove noviny, 17. 4. 2010.)

2014 London exhibition in Leica Gallery Prague.

2020 The book Musicians 70s-80s containing previously unpublished photographs of important personalities of the Czech philharmonic is published by Kant.