In the Minute With Ivan Kyncl: Photographer Captures The Spirit of Theatre

Photographs by Ivan Kyncl capture the essence, atmosphere and emotion of a theatrical production

“I know the place.
It is true.
Everything we do
Corrects the space
Between death and me
And you.”
― Harold Pinter, I Know The Place

 

Ivan KynclCleansed, 1998 Sarah Kane’s play, directed by James Macdonald and starring Suzan Sylvester, at the Royal Court, London

Cleansed, 1998 – Sarah Kane’s play, directed by James Macdonald and starring Suzan Sylvester, at the Royal Court, London

Dip your head into the little pot of ice-cream and you miss it, that moment in the play that sums up its essence, movement, atmosphere and emotion. Ivan Kyncl (1953-2004) had it covered, his photographs capture performers “in the minute”.

The Czech-born theatre photographer’s images are on display at London’s V&A. Kyncl photographed over 500 plays, operas and musicals. His legacy exists in over a million images (not all exhibited). They’re a far cry from lobby cards and the stilted photos still used on posters and front-of-house boards to show the stars and sets in sharp focus but revealing nothing of the show’s spirit. Odd to portray a play – a word that evokes activity and entertainment – as something solid and complete. But though Kyncl’s lens plays look lively, formed in chiaroscuro and swirls, and most likely better than the actual show.

 

Ivan KynclAn Inspector Calls, 1992 JB Priestley’s play, directed by Stephen Daldry at the National Theatre, London. Set design by Ian MacNeil

An Inspector Calls, 1992 – JB Priestley’s play, directed by Stephen Daldry at the National Theatre, London. Set design by Ian MacNeil

Ivan KynclHello and Goodbye, 1988 Antony Sher in Athol Fugard’s play, directed by Janice Honeyman at Almeida theatre, London

Hello and Goodbye, 1988 – Antony Sher in Athol Fugard’s play, directed by Janice Honeyman at Almeida Theatre, London

Ivan KynclElectra, 1988 Fiona Shaw in Sophocles’ play, directed by Deborah Warner at Barbican Centre, London

Electra, 1988 – Fiona Shaw in Sophocles’ play, directed by Deborah Warner at Barbican Centre, London

Ivan KynclEquus, 1997 Peter Shaffer’s play, directed by Terry Hands at Theatr Clwyd, Mold

Equus, 1997 – Peter Shaffer’s play, directed by Terry Hands at Theatr Clwyd, Mold

Ivan KynclPlenty, 1999 Cate Blanchett in David Hare’s play, directed for the Almeida by Jonathan Kent and designed by Maria Bjornson, at the Albery theatre, London

Plenty, 1999 – Cate Blanchett in David Hare’s play, directed for the Almeida by Jonathan Kent and designed by Maria Bjornson, at the Albery Theatre, London

Ivan KynclTango at the End of Winter, 1991 Alan Rickman in Peter Barnes’ adaptation of Kunio Shimizu’s play, directed by Yukio Ninagawa at Piccadilly theatre, London

Tango at the End of Winter, 1991 – Alan Rickman in Peter Barnes’ adaptation of Kunio Shimizu’s play, directed by Yukio Ninagawa at Piccadilly Theatre, London

Ivan KynclThe Birthday Party, 2002 Harold Pinter’s play, directed by Erica Whyman at Crucible theatre, Sheffield. Design by Soutra Gilmour

The Birthday Party, 2002 – Harold Pinter’s play, directed by Erica Whyman at Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Design by Soutra Gilmour

Ivan KynclJulius Caesar, 1991 Starring Jonathan Hyde and directed by Steven Pimlott at Royal Shakespeare theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Julius Caesar, 1991 – Starring Jonathan Hyde and directed by Steven Pimlott at Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Ivan KynclThe Duchess of Malfi, 2003 Janet McTeer in John Webster’s play, directed by Phyllida Lloyd at the National Theatre, London

The Duchess of Malfi, 2003 – Janet McTeer in John Webster’s play, directed by Phyllida Lloyd at the National Theatre, London

Ivan KynclThree Sisters, 2003 Chekhov’s play, directed by Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre, London. Design by Vicki Mortimer

Three Sisters, 2003 – Chekhov’s play, directed by Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre, London. Design by Vicki Mortimer

Ivan KynclThe Maids, 1999 Jean Genet’s play, directed by Katie Mitchell at the Young Vic, London

The Maids, 1999 – Jean Genet’s play, directed by Katie Mitchell at the Young Vic, London

Ivan KynclThe Seagull, 2003 Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation of Chekhov’s play, directed by Steven Pimlott at Chichester Festival theatre. Design by Alison Chitty

The Seagull, 2003 – Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation of Chekhov’s play, directed by Steven Pimlott at Chichester Festival Theatre. Design by Alison Chitty

Ivan KynclMojo, 1995 Jez Butterworth’s play, directed by Ian Rickson at the Royal Court, London. Set design by Ultz

Mojo, 1995 – Jez Butterworth’s play, directed by Ian Rickson at the Royal Court, London. Set design by Ultz

Ivan KynclThe Balcony, 1987 Jean Genet’s play, directed by Terry Hands and starring Jim Carter at the Barbican Centre, London. Design by Abd Elkader Farrah

The Balcony, 1987 – Jean Genet’s play, directed by Terry Hands and starring Jim Carter at the Barbican Centre, London. Design by Abd Elkader Farrah

Ivan KynclBaby Doll, 1999 Tennessee Williams’ play, directed by Lucy Bailey at Birmingham Repertory theatre. Set design by Bunny Christie

Baby Doll, 1999 – Tennessee Williams’ play, directed by Lucy Bailey at Birmingham Repertory theatre. Set design by Bunny Christie