Prague Photographic: Chronicling a City

Czech Position

Photo exhibition focuses on Prague – from every angle — with life in the Czech capital the general underlying theme

Prague could be considered a photographer’s dream location. Full of picturesque corners for artsy types, there are many events for action photographers as well as a multitude of people for popular street scenes. For the past 15 years, the Union of Czech Photographers and Society of Friends of Photographs have organized Prague Photographic, a competition and exhibition which composes a photographic view of the city by both its inhabitants and visitors.

“Both the competition and exhibition reflect the development of the capital as well as remind us of its past days and events,” Vera Mateju, Prague Photographic curator and organizer told Czech Position. “The photographers systematically document the progress and changes of the city, and every year contribute to the wider and more colorful collection of compelling images, new facts and places.”

Life in the city is the general underlying theme. Each year, there are four categories, plus two special ones in which photographers can enter their work: Beauty of Prague and its Transformation; Problems of Prague; People in Prague, One Day in… ; and Chronicle of the Capital. The two special categories this year were Children in Prague and Present Josefov. Mateju said that this year’s exhibition as a whole is larger, more diverse and more conceptual than ever before.

“There are fewer experiments; separate photographic collections are comprehensive and thought-out,” she said. “They give away an interest in themes chosen, systematic work and an ability to analyze surrounding circumstances and to detect substantial phenomena and occurrence.”

So many subjects

The Beauty of Prague and its Transformation shows some of the most beautiful works; with photographer Lubomír Martínek capturing a beautiful angle in St. Vitus Cathedral and Timur Suleymanov displaying a selection of haunting street scenes. Mateju said this category often offers untraditional options of what can be considered beautiful. “Many a photographer can see beauty in scenes we would normally consider problematic,” she said.

Graffiti, homelessness, traffic and crumbling facades are typical scenes in Problems of Prague while more lighthearted pictures can be found in Chronicle of the City and People in Prague.

“One Day in… is a probe into the life of the city from genre scenes with doggies on the embankment to a colorful blend of touristic ideas to social shots,” Mateju said. “Chronicle of the Capital takes note of regular events – carnivals, Prague Marathon and similar events influencing the momentary look of streets, their atmosphere and emotions — for example, elections, culture, sports and curious snaps of natural effects like an eclipse.”

Photographer Miloš Komárek’s capture of the eclipse juxtaposed next to the roof of the National Theater is one of the most visually interesting photos on display. Children in Prague is one of the special themes for this year, and organizers have planned something special for Present Josefov.

“The Union of the Czech Photographers will organize a workshop with the aim of finding the spirit of the Jewish ghetto in its redevelopment architecture in this tiny part of the center of the city,” Mateju said.

Photography for all

The beauty of this exhibition is that it is open to everyone. Amateur photographer and Prague resident Pavla Vrbová received an honorable mention for her series “From the Clock Exhibition.”

“I am a member of the “Ceský klub fotografu amatérů – Nekázanka”(The 1st Czech Amateur Photographers Club – Nekázanka) founded in 1889,” she said. “I prefer taking photos of the city milieu, landscape and macro photography of insects. I am also interested in the history of amateur photography.”

Another amateur Prague photographer who will have work displayed is Jirí Kríž. “I take photosas a way of communicating that does not depend on language, ethnic or geographic spheres,” he said. “In Prague you can take pictures of anything, anytime and anywhere so that is why many photographers prosper.”

During the last 15 years, the photographers participating have become visual chroniclers of the city. Their photos offer not only a cultural and artistic value but also historical and documentary evidence. They illustrate not only the transformation of the image of Prague, but also a historical heritage, the life of its inhabitants and visitors and, last but not least, its problems.

“Original ideas and humor as well as an indispensable spice of a healthy look at the world are apparent, too,” Mateju said.

Even after 15 years, photographers still find something new and organizers say frequently exhibited photographs depict a world that no longer exists — structures, views, corners and open spaces. Prague is forever evolving.

“The photos introduce the Czech capital as you cannot know it and you can hardly become acquainted with through routine observations,” Matejue said. “The whole picture composed of the views of individual participants – both professional and amateur photographers — praises the beauty of Prague sights, indicates problems of the city and introduces its inhabitants.”