Photos and films of Václav Havel at DOX

The former president's life was captured by two photographers and a filmmaker

The DOX Centre for Contemporary Art has an extensive exhibition on what would have been Václav Havel’s 80th birthday. The Havel exhibition, which runs to Feb. 13, 2017, features hundreds of photographs by two Czech photographers, Tomki Němec and Bohdan Holomíček, both of whom for a number of years recorded important historical events as well as ordinary moments in the life of president and playwright Václav Havel. The photos will be accompanied by documentary film footage of the last three years of his life by documentary filmmaker Petr Jančárek.

Tomki Němec was Václav Havel’s official photographer from 1989 to 1992, and during 1997 to 2003 he was invited to document the president’s official life as a member of a newly created team of photographers. In 2001 he published a book with a selection of photos from Havel’s first presidential term. He has received two World Press Photo awards, once for his photo of Václav Havel caught by an incoming wave on Portugal’s Atlantic coast.

He is currently publishing a photo book titled Václav Havel – Tomki Němec – Photographs, which will be launched at the DOX Centre on Nov. 24. From some 67,000 images, about 250 were selected for the book. About two-thirds of the photos in the book are part of the exhibition.

“The mood of the 1990s was amazing and so chock-full of energy that often one realizes this only when looking back. Images that 15 years ago I passed over without notice are much more relevant today. This is one of the reasons why both the book and the exhibition contain a lot of photos I haven’t published before,” Němec said in a press release.

Bohdan Holomíček met Václav Havel and his wife, Olga, in 1974, and began documenting social and cultural events at their house in the countryside in Hrádeček, and elsewhere. He photographed countless people, from the most ordinary to well-known dissidents. His photo installation method has become part of Holomíček’s signature approach. He writes dates and comments on his images, and installs the photos side by side in multiple rows.

“It’s a kind of mosaic of our lives, and Václav is sort of a guide through it. One could also say that it’s a cross-section of our lifelong friendship,” Bohdan Holomíček said. he is also currently publishing the photos in a book that captures Havel’s dissident years as well as his presidential era.

The film footage was shot by director and cameraman Petr Jančárek. He worked with Havel from 2003 as a creator of audiovisual programs that were sent to various parts of the world, and together with Martin Vidlák he then co-produced a documentary trilogy for Czech Television from Havel’s federal presidential era titled Václav Havel, Prague – Castle, with the first of the three films receiving the Jury Prize at the Politics on Film festival in Washington, D.C.

In 2009, Havel asked Jančárek to “shoot the rest of his life.” He recorded the rest of president’s official and private life in detail on camera. Havel died Dec. 18, 2011, at his country home.

Some of this footage will be featured at DOX in the form of short artistically produced videos. The footage will also be used to produce a feature documentary film intended for worldwide distribution.

“I lived through truly amazing times with Václav Havel, and most of all I miss his delicate sense of humor, his courage, and his strength. But it would be stupid to hide behind tears over his departure; on the contrary, we should do something worthwhile and let ourselves be inspired by his ability to loudly and publicly call things by their proper names,” Petr Jančárek said.

The exhibition’s side program will include discussion, film, and music/literature evenings, mostly requiring Czech language skills.

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