Josef Koudelka

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Josef Koudelka
Koudelka in Venice, Italy, 1986
Born (1938-01-10) 10 January 1938 (age 85)
Known forStreet photography

Josef Koudelka (born 10 January 1938) is a Czech-French photographer. He is a member of Magnum Photos[1] and has won awards such as the Prix Nadar (1978), a Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1989), a Grand Prix Henri Cartier-Bresson (1991), and the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (1992). 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 Amsterdam; and the Palais de Tokyo, Paris.


Koudelka was born in 1938 in the small Moravian town of Boskovice, Czechoslovakia.[2] He began photographing his family and the surroundings with a 6×6 Bakelite camera. He studied at the Czech Technical University in Prague (ČVUT) in 1956, receiving a degree in engineering in 1961.[2] He staged his first photographic exhibition the same year. Later he worked as an aeronautical engineer in Prague and Bratislava.

Koudelka began taking commissions from theatre magazines, and regularly photographed stage productions at Prague's Theatre Behind the Gate on a Rolleiflex camera.[2] In 1967, he decided to give up his career in engineering for full-time work as a photographer.[2]

Between 1962 and 1971, Koudelka travelled throughout Czechoslovakia and rural Romania, Hungary, France and Spain photographing Romani people.[3] The Romani led a nomadic lifestyle and each summer Koudelka would travel for the project, "carrying a rucksack and a sleeping bag, sleeping in the open air, and living frugally".[3]

He had returned from photographing Romani people in Romania just two days before the Soviet invasion, in August 1968.[4] He witnessed and recorded the military forces of the Warsaw Pact as they invaded Prague and crushed reforms of the so-called Prague Spring.[4] Some of Koudelka's negatives were smuggled out of Prague to the Magnum Photos agency, and published anonymously in The Sunday Times Magazine under the initials P. P. (Prague Photographer) for fear of reprisal to him and his family.[5]

Koudelka's pictures of the events became dramatic international symbols, and came to be "recognised as one of the most powerful photojournalistic essays of the 20th century".[4] In 1969 the "anonymous Czech photographer" was awarded the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa Gold Medal for photographs requiring exceptional courage. Many of his photographs of these events were not seen until decades later.[4]

With Magnum to recommend him to the British authorities, Koudelka applied for a three-month working visa and fled to England in 1970, where he applied for political asylum and stayed for more than a decade.[2] In 1971 he joined Magnum as an Associate Member[2] and became a Full Member in 1974. He continued to wander around Europe with his camera and little else.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Koudelka sustained his work through numerous grants and awards, and continued to exhibit and publish major projects like Gypsies (1975) and Exiles (1988).[2] Sean O'Hagan, writing in The Observer in 2011, described Gypsies as "a classic of documentary photography".[3] 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 many other books of his work published, including in 2006 the retrospective volume Koudelka.

He and his work received support and acknowledgment from his friend the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.[2] He was also supported by the Czech art historian Anna Farova.[6]

In 1987, Koudelka became a French citizen, and was able to return to Czechoslovakia for the first time, in 1990.[2] He then produced Black Triangle, documenting the wasted landscape in the Podkrušnohoří region, the western tip of the Black Triangle's foothills of the Ore Mountains, located between Germany and the Czech Republic.[2][7]

Koudelka lives in France and Prague and is continuing his work documenting the European landscape.[2] He is the father of two daughters, one who lives in England and the other in France, Lucina Hartley Koudelka, and of a son living in Italy, Nicola Koudelka.


Koudelka's early work significantly shaped his later photography, and its emphasis on social and cultural rituals as well as death. He soon moved on to a more personal, in depth photographic study of the Gypsies of Slovakia, and later Romania. This work was exhibited in Prague in 1967. Throughout his career, Koudelka has been praised for his ability to capture the presence of the human spirit amidst dark landscapes. Desolation, waste, departure, despair and alienation are common themes in his work. His characters sometimes seem to come out of fairytales. Still, some see hope within his work – the endurance of human endeavor, in spite of its fragility. His later work focuses on the landscape removed of human subjects.

His most recent book Wall: Israeli and Palestinian Landscapes was published by Aperture Foundation in 2013.[1] This book is composed of panoramic landscapes that he made between 2008 and 2012, as his project for the photography collective This Place, organized by photographer Frédéric Brenner.[8] A documentary about Koudelka's work there, called Koudelka Shooting Holy Land, was released in 2015.[9]


  • Diskutujeme o morálce dneška. Czechoslovakia: Nakladatelství Politické Literatury, 1965.
  • Kral Ubu: Rozbor inscenace Divadla Na Zábradlí v Praze (with Alfred Jarry). Czechoslovakia: Divadelní Ústav, 1966.
  • Rozbor insenace Divadla Na zábradlí v Praze, 1966.
  • Josef Koudelka, 1968.
  • Gitans = Gypsies
    • Gitans: la fin du voyage. Paris: Delpire, 1975. ASIN B0014M0TV8.
    • Gypsies. New York: Aperture, 1975. ISBN 978-0-912334-74-5.[3]
    • Gypsies. New York: Aperture, 2011. Revised and enlarged edition. ISBN 978-1-59711-177-5. With an essay by Will Guy.[3]
    • Roma. Göttingen: Steidl, 2011. ISBN 978-3-86930-388-8. German language edition.
  • Josef Koudelka: I Grandi Fotografi. Italy: Fabbri, 1982.
  • Josef Koudelka. Photo Poche, Centre National de la Photographie, France, 1984.
  • Josef Koudelka. Photographs by Josef Koudelka. Introduction by Bernard Cuau. Centre National de la Photographie, Paris, 1984.
  • Exiles.
  • Josef Koudelka, Mission Photographique Transmanche. France: Différence, 1989.
  • Animaux. France: Trois Cailloux/maison de la Culture d'Amiens, 1990.
  • Prague 1968. France: Centre National de la Photographie, 1990.
  • Josef Koudelka: Fotografie Divadlo za branou 1965–1970. Czech Republic: Divadlo za Branou II, 1993.
  • Josef Koudelka. Photographs by Josef Koudelka. Hasselblad Center, 1993.
  • Černý Trojúhelník – Podkrušnohoří : Fotografie 1990–1994 (The Black Triangle: The Foothills of the Ore Mountain). Czech Republic: Vesmír, 1994.[7]
  • Photopoche: Josef Koudleka. France: Cnp, 1997. ISBN 978-2-09-754114-7.
  • Reconnaissance Wales. Cardiff, UK: Fotogallery/ National Museums and Galleries of Wales, 1998. ISBN 978-1-872771-45-8.
  • Chaos. France: Nathan/Delpire; UK: Phaidon Press; Italy: Federico Motta Editore, 1999. ISBN 978-0-7148-4594-4.[10]
  • Lime Stone. France: La Martinière, 2001.
  • Josef Koudelka. Czech Republic: Torst, 2002. ISBN 978-80-7215-166-0.
  • Théâtre du Temps. France: Actes Sud. ISBN 978-2-7427-4435-0; (Teatro del Tempo), Italy: Peliti Associati; Greece: Apeiron, 2003.
  • L'épreuve totalitaire. Paris: Delpire, 2004. With an essay by Jean-Pierre Montier.
  • Koudelka: Camargue. France: Actes Sud, 2006. ISBN 978-2-7427-6174-6.
  • Koudelka. France: Delpire; Italy: Contrasto; New York: Aperture; UK: Thames & Hudson; Germany: Braus; Spain: Lunwerg; Czech Republic: Fototorst, 2006.
  • Joseph Koudelka Photofile. Thames & Hudson, 2007. ISBN 978-0-500-41083-7.
  • Invasion 68: Prague. New York: Aperture. ISBN 978-1-59711-068-6; France: Tana. ISBN 978-2-84567-438-7, 2008.
  • Koudelka Piedmont. Contrasto, 2010. ISBN 978-88-6965-217-2.
  • Lime. Paris: Xavier Barral, 2012. ISBN 978-2-9151-7385-7.
  • Wall. New York: Aperture, 2013. ISBN 978-1-5971-1241-3.[1]




Koudelka's work is held in the following permanent collections:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Smyth, Diane (24 December 2019). "Barriers, barbed wire and borders in the head: Josef Koudelka's Holy Land". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o O'Hagan, Sean (23 August 2008). "Sean O'Hagan meets photographer Josef Koudelka who captured the 1968 Soviet invasion of Prague". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Koudelka Gypsies by Josef Koudelka and Will Guy – review". The Guardian. 15 October 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d "Time for a revolution: how the art of 1968 caught a world in turmoil". The Guardian. 30 April 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  5. ^ Hudson, Berkley (2009). Sterling, Christopher H. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Journalism. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE. pp. 1065–66. ISBN 978-0-7619-2957-4.
  6. ^ Richter, Jan (2 March 2010). "Art historian Anna Fárová dies at 81". Radio Prague. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  7. ^ a b "BOOK REVIEW / Grim panoramas of a stinking homeland: The black". The Independent. 26 October 1994. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  8. ^ Estrin, James (19 November 2013). "Josef Koudelka: Formed by the World". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  9. ^ "Koudelka Shooting Holy Land". IMDb.
  10. ^ a b "The strange beauty of wreckage". The Independent. 23 September 1998. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  11. ^ Warren, Lynne (2005). Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, 3-Volume Set. Routledge. p. 134. ISBN 9781135205430.
  12. ^ "Josef Koudelka: Hasselblad Award Winner 1992". Hasselblad Foundation. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  13. ^ Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Award Archived 1 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 13 August 2012
  14. ^ "Past Recipients". International Center of Photography. 16 May 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  15. ^ "Auszeichnung für Josef Koudelka". Deutschlandradio Kultur. 7 November 2015. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  16. ^ "The Dr. Erich Salomon Award of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (DGPh)". Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie e.V. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  17. ^ Netherlands), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam (18 September 1978). "Josef Koudelka: catalogue of an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 10 Maart - 23 april 1978". Stedelijk Museum – via Google Books.
  18. ^ "La rétrospective du photographe Koudelka à Arles". Radio Prague International. 10 July 2002. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  19. ^ Gefter, Philip (12 September 2008). "When Prague Spring Gave Way to Winter". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  20. ^ Buskey, Megan (22 October 2008). "Photo Ops: Josef Koudelka Revisits Prague 1968". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  21. ^ "'Stateless' photographer and Czech lithographer in Athens exhibitions, HELBI". Kathimerini. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  22. ^ "Josef Koudelka". Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  23. ^ "Guernsey Photography Festival : Josef Koudelka. Invasion Prague 68". Archived from the original on 27 April 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2010. Exhibition information
  24. ^ Parfitt, Tom (26 October 2011). "Josef Koudelka: witness to an invasion". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  25. ^ AleGlaviano (11 July 2012). "Josef Koudelka". Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  26. ^ "Vestiges 1991–2012 / Josef Koudelka". Marseille-Provence 2013. Archived from the original on 26 December 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  27. ^ "Exhibition Josef Koudelka Retrospective". Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  28. ^ "Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful". Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  29. ^ "Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful – The Getty Museum". Getty Museum. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  30. ^ Shaw, Anny (16 September 2015). "Josef Koudelka: the lonely, rebel photographer". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  31. ^ "Josef Koudelka: Exiles / Wall". Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  32. ^ "ÚVOD".
  33. ^ "Josef Koudelka / National Gallery Prague". 31 May 2018. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  34. ^ "Josef Koudelka Exiles;". Official site of the Sofia City Art Gallery. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  35. ^ "Josef Koudelka".

External links[edit]