Czech Republic and Canada on Film | Viktor Kolář
Viktor Kolář is a Czech photographer who makes beautiful, powerful images that look as though they were caught with the blink of an eye, if that were possible. Obviously a master of looking, and waiting, and of preempting an image, his photographs that document Czech Republic and Canada from the sixties onwards are regarded as some of the most important documentary photography in Europe. This one below is the first of Victor Kolář’s images that hooked me in, and is still one of my favourites.
It’s all good – the light to dark, the contrast (of all kinds) the depth, and reflection of all grid-like wires that string a tram city together.
Influenced hugely by his photographer and filmmaker father, Viktor Kolář Sr., Kolář started taking photos around his home of Ostrava from the age of 12. After studying at the Photographic Institute in the same city, he continued to document this world as well as Canada, where he also lived for part of the sixties.
In an interview with Frank Viviano (published by Addison-Wesley in 1993), Kolář tells why he stayed in and recorded the crumbling, Eastern Bloc city of Ostrava – before the fall of the Iron Curtain – instead of fleeing to cities like Paris or Montreal, as a photographer might. It’s a comment that gives huge insight into his work, and him. He says, “You see, a world was vanishing around us, and I felt compelled–yes, that is the word–I felt compelled to move fast, to record it before it was too late. When things are about to disappear, the inner dynamic is at its most evident. It is stark, inescapable.”
His photos are often of the banal and in-between moments, which is maybe what makes them so powerful and intriguing. The balance he gets between landscape and people, and the faces he catches, create the sense there’s much more beyond the image, capturing the time and place more fully. In a write up from the Galerie hlavního města Prahy, about a retrospective exhibition of Kolář’s, it says, “His photographs reflect the intransigence, roughness, but also personality and poetry of Ostrava and the Canadian landscape,” which I think is quite spot on; these images are definitely multi-layered.
Although Viktor Kolář is a very interesting man with a very interesting life and body of work, his photos are essays in themselves so I’ll stop there and put a few more below.DOOR OF DOORS and Live Journal.