Stern Light, Socially Conscious Photography in Interwar Czechoslovakia

    No Title (Family in front of a House), the 30s / © Ilja Jozef Marko Later print (the 60s), gelatine silver print, 172 x 239 mm

    The exhibition as a whole gives evidence of the exceptional unity of aesthetic and political aims of the time, while illustrating changing opportunities given by the swift technical development of the media.

    In the variegated political environment of the First Republic, the leftist movement had held strong position, strengthened further by the economic crisis. In striving for the improvement of living conditions, the photos published in newspapers and magazines played a crucial role. From a perspective of historiography, the later use of the photos by the communist propaganda as a means of criticising capitalist political system is interesting. Aside from the progress of printing techniques, two exhibitions organised by Lubomír Linhart under the auspices of the Left Front in 1933 and 1934 had pivotal importance for the development of the genre. In Slovakia, the Sociofoto group was active at the same time (1933–1937). Some of the authors represented at the exhibition were not only socially conscious journalists on a political mission. Beginning with the twenties, the photography started to free itself from technically complicated cameras and with the boom of “fast hand-held cameras”, artists familiar with the newest trends set out on the new journey as well, as the pictures of Irena Blühová, composed in avant-garde style, convincingly show.

    A couple of dozens of the exhibited works belong to a private collection of socially conscious photographs located in Prague, part of which was shown at the international exhibition of socially conscious photography Camera as Weapon in San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts in 1993. The last major presentation of this kind, A Hard, Merciless Light: Worker-Photography Movement 1926-39, organised in Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid in 2011, has been an inspiration for us in naming the present show.

    Curator: Pavel Vančát

    Represented authors: Tibor Honty, Irena Blühová, Oldřich Straka, Karol Aufricht, Ilja J. Marko, Josef Kubin, Ján Halász, Sergej Protopopov, Josef Zeman, Karel Hájek and Viliam Tóth.

    • Exposition du 14 septembre au 28 octobre 2012
    Building a Timber Support of Corridors, 1927-29 / © Sergej Protopopov Later print (the 50s-60s), 231 x 175 mm