Koudelka, Ethics, Invasions and editing.

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

The photograph above breaks an oft broken rule of photojournalism - and brings up the ethical problems inherent in posing photographs of 'news' events. However, I'll bypass that argument for now and direct you to this interview with Josef Koudelka on the guardian website.

This image seems somehow appropriate given the recent events in Georgia. Like this photograph, time has been frozen. People fight wars over territory today just as they did 40 years ago, and 400 years ago, and even 4000 years ago. Things haven't changed much, despite President Bush's ridiculously hypocritical assessment that in the 21st Century the invasion of a Sovereign Nation is unacceptable.

But back to the interview. There is no doubt that Koudelka has taken some of the most compelling photographs in the history of the discipline and two quotes stood out for me, for different reasons. The first is regarding the editing of around 5000 photographs Koudelka took during his week in Prague, 1968. The original edit numbered 10 photographs. It is only with the release of this book 40 years later that some of the others have been made public.

'Originally, I did not want to make the book or the exhibition,' he says. 'I knew already I had selected the 10 best. And, to be truthful, when I was working on this book, I did not discover one that I would have added to these 10. They are the ones that have a universal value. In them it is not so important who is Russian and who is Czech. It is more important that one man has a gun and one man has not.'

The second makes me wonder what kind of man he really is.

When pressed, Koudelka talks with pride about his children, but one detects regret too. 'Listen,' he says, when we meet the following day over a beer, and I broach the subject of family and commitment, 'I am not a family man and I can never be a family man. But I am very happy, I have children and I hope that they are happy that they exist. From the beginning I make certain rules with my children and one is that I can't be with them all the time. I tell them that when I am with them, I am for them, and when I am not there, it is best they should try to forget that I exist.'

At least he's honest. Which is more than can be said for those directing the tanks, both then and now.

1 comment:

gabriele said...

mega interview w Joseph Koudelka on the current Aperture issue.