Gypsies is without a doubt one of the most important works of photography of the 20th century.
Presented by Forma
, this exhibit, a world premier, faithfully follows the sequence and mock-up of the book Cikáni ("gypsies" in Czech) which Koudelka had planned in 1970 before he left Czechoslovakia, leaving the book long unpublished.
The volume, reconstructed by Contrasto, testifies to the spectacular visual theatricality that Josef Koudelka developed through his photographic survey of the gypsy communities of Eastern Europe.
All 109 images from the book will be on view, sumptuously printed (under close supervision of the artist) expressly for Forma.
These images recount the everyday life of gypsy communities in the sixties in Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, and occasionally France and Spain. But they also testify to the penetrating, uncommon gaze of the artist, whose ability to find moments that are unique for their perfect formal composition and the pregnance of action, catching scenes of familiar life, moments of celebration, play, and collective ritual. One after another, these images comprise a true fresco of great power and melancholic poetry about the end of an era, and the end of a journey: that of gypsy nomadism in Europe.
An essential 'cult' classic for generations of photographers, Gypsies maintains its power over time and reaffirms Josef Koudelka's place among the greatest photographers alive today.
This exhibit is presented in collaboration with Magnum Photos.
Josef Koudelka, born in Moravia, made his first photographs while a student in the 1950s. About the same time that he started his career as an aeronautical engineer in 1961 he also began photographing Gypsies in Czechoslovakia and theater in Prague. He turned full-time to photography in 1967. The following year, Koudelka photographed the Soviet invasion of Prague, publishing his photographs under the initials P. P. (Prague Photographer) for fear of reprisal to him and his family. In 1969, he was anonymously awarded the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa Gold Medal for those photographs. Koudelka left Czechoslovakia for political asylum in 1970 and shortly thereafter joined Magnum Photos. In 1975, he brought out his first book Gypsies, and in 1988, Exiles. Since 1986, he has worked with a panoramic camera and issued a compilation of these photographs in his book Chaos in 1999. Koudelka has had more than a dozen books of his work published, including most recently in 2008 Invasion Prague 68. He has won significant awards such as the Prix Nadar (1978), a Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1989), a Grand Prix Cartier-Bresson (1991), and the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (1992). Significant exhibitions of his work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography, New York; the Hayward Gallery, London; the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam; the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Fondazione Forma, Milan and Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome. In 1992, Koudelka was awarded the Chevalier de lOrdre des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of French Culture. He currently divides his time between Paris and Prague.