Czech Icons - Before They Were Famous

Eyes in 1967 runs until February 3, 2019 at the Prague City Gallery

Gisele Freund, the German-born, French photographer, and the German photographer Timm Rautert continue to spur conversation about Czech writers and artists over 40 years after the click of their shutters in the exhibit “Gisele Freund & Timm Rautert: Havel, Kundera, and Sudek Through the Photographers’ Eyes in 1967.” The exhibit’s curator Noemi Smolik encourages viewers to be a part of history by checking out never-before-seen photos that provide an intimate look into the lives of some of the most impactful figures within modern Czech politics, literature, and photography.

Gisele Freund (born 1908) has intimate portraits of aspiring Czech writers Vaclav Havel and Milan Kundera, and the early 20th century photographer Josef Sudek (born 1896) establish a sense of shared space with the subjects, in turn humanizing them and providing deeper insight into their personal lives. Kundera is seen in his home reading a book, while Havel is out for a smoke brainstorming on a notepad. Freund’s shots are masterfully moody and skillfully capture the thought processes of some important Czech intellectuals and soon-to-be famous dissidents.

Rautert (born 1941) has a photographic series of Josef Sudek accomplishing a similar task of documenting a now well-known Czech photographer in his later years. Rautert follows Sudek through his shoots on Petřín hill and his work in his small, overcrowded studio at Újezd where he worked for the duration of his career. From the comic image of an old man strolling through the park with a huge camera and tripod in tow, to another of Sudek hard at work in his studio overflowing with extraneous pieces of paper and clutter—the series recognizes and underscores Sudek’s quirks while simultaneously making an art form out of them, not unlike Sudek’s enigmatic work itself.

Just one year before the 1968 Soviet-led invasion and twenty-year occupation, Prague was calm… and captured on film by esteemed photographers Freund and Rautert, giving viewers a glimpse into the lives of the individuals that helped shape the future of the now democratic Czech Republic.

“Gisele Freund & Timm Rautert: Havel, Kundera, and Sudek Through the Photographers’ Eyes in 1967” runs until February 3, 2019 at the Prague City Gallery.

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