“I like to tell stories about the life of inanimate objects, to relate something mysterious: the seventh side of a dice,” mused Josef Sudek (Kolin, 1896 – Prague, 1976). “Everything around us, dead or alive, in the eyes of a crazy photographer mysteriously takes on many variations,” he explained, “so that a seemingly dead object comes to life through light or by its surroundings.”
Sudek’s fascination with the inanimate can be linked to his body. Drafted into the First World War in 1915, Sudek, a bookbinder by trade, was shot in his right arm. That led to amputation and a long period of convalescence at the Veterans Hospital in Prague. Unable to continue working as a bookbinder he took up photography.
His view on life is no more acute than when observing Prague through his studio’s window. “All day I had been walking about the city without seeing it,” wrote John Banville, “and now Sudek’s photographs, even the private interior studies, showed it to me in all its stony, luminous solidity and peculiar, wan, absent-minded beauty.”
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