Thursday, August 28, 2008

Another way of telling the story

Czechoslovakia, August 1968. Josef Koudelka positioned a passerby to show the exact time that Soviet troops invaded Prague.

Photograph: Josef Koudelka/Magnum

When I meet him today, in the back room of his new apartment in Prague, Koudelka unfolds a battered map of the world he has just found in one of the many boxes stacked along a wall. It is covered in spidery ink trails that trace his wanderings through Europe and beyond, his handwriting providing a runic commentary of the festivals and gatherings he attended along the way. The map dates from the Seventies and looks like a strange work of art, which, in a way, it is. The real art, though, lies in the photographs Koudelka produced when he began chronicling his restlessness - and rootlessness - as well as his newfound sense of freedom. His first major work, published in 1975, was called simply Gypsies, his second, from 1988, Exiles. Their titles alone tell you much about Koudelka's own life as well as the lives of his subjects.

Lovely Sean O'Hagan Observer piece on the photographer Josef Koudelka.

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