The photographs that the teacher, writer, historian, curator, and, mainly, photographer Vladimír Birgus made during the twenty years of re-established hard-line Communist policy after the crushing of the Prague Spring reform movement are black-and-white. This corresponds not only to the general conception of documentary photography in that period (into which, however, Birgus introduced a strikingly subjective perception), but also to the overall gloomy atmosphere of those years – the grey scale of the black-and-white photographs perfectly captures the unchanging nature of those days and nights. The exhibited works return us both to the towns
of Czechoslovakia and to Moscow, Tallinn, Riga, Warsaw, Sofia, and other Eastern Bloc capitals – places dominated by ubiquitous decay, alcoholism, depression, the contrast between the public world and the private, in other words,
a ‘general sense of hopelessness’. They are not primarily political, but they do show wobbly wandering figures, silent gloomy men and women in search of goods that were either scarce or entirely out of stock. The towns were becoming crumbling backdrops of apparently hopeless human lives.
The exhibition is accompanied by a book with
Czech and English text, published by KANT.
Vladimír Birgus is a photographer, curator, historian of photography, professor and head of the Institute of Creative Photography at the Silesian University in Opava. His photographs have been exhibited in 65 one-person exhibitions and are included in many collections. He is the author and co-author of 40 books, including Tschechoslowakische Fotografie der Gegenwart (Cologne and Heidelberg 1990), Czech Photographic Avant-Garde 1918-1948 (Prague and Stuttgart 1999, Cambridge and London 2002), Photographer František Drtikol (Prague 2000), Jaroslav Rössler – Czech Avant-Garde Photographer (Prague, Cambridge and London 2003), Tschechische Fotografie des 20er Jahrhunderts / Czech Photography of the 20th Century (Bonn 2009, Prague 2010). He has curated and co-curated number of exhibitions in many museums and galleries, for instance Modern Beauty: Czech Photographic Avant-Garde 1918-1948 (Barcelona, Paris, Lausanne, Prague, Munich 1998-1999), Czech Photography of the 20th Century (Prague 2005, Bonn 2009), The Intimate World of Josef Sudek (Paris and Ottawa, 2016-2017) and Avant-Garde Photographer Jaromír Funke (Prague and Paris, 2017).