Toward an Emancipation of Photographic Vision: “Visualism” Under Czechoslovakian “Normalization” (1968–89)

Gortazar, P. 2019. Toward an Emancipation of Photographic Vision: “Visualism” Under Czechoslovakian “Normalization” (1968–89). Photography and Culture. 12 (2), pp. 151-170. https://doi.org/10.1080/17514517.2019.1596598

TitleToward an Emancipation of Photographic Vision: “Visualism” Under Czechoslovakian “Normalization” (1968–89)
TypeJournal article
AuthorsGortazar, P.
Abstract

This article discusses photographic approaches that emerged in the Eastern Bloc and in Western Europe during the 1980s, with reference to the theories of Andreas Müller-Pohle from West Germany, Bořek Sousedík from Czechoslovakia, and Jerzy Olek from Poland. In their search for emancipation from externally imposed ideologies and ways of understanding their surrounding world, these photographers articulated a series of similar ideas that called upon photographers to see their medium as a means to express their inner views of reality rather than as a mere representational instrument of ‘the real’. This article demonstrates how their discussions of photography contributed to promoting social and political emancipation specifically in Czechoslovakia, at a time in which the communist regime strove to normalize its rule, after an internal attempt to reform the political system in the country had been oppressed. The text begins with a discussion of the period of ‘normalization’ (1968–89) and how it redefined the scene of art photography in Czechoslovakia. It then analyses the theoretical and practical work of Müller-Pohle, Sousedík, and Olek. It argues that, although the theories of these three photographers were known by some practitioners in Czechoslovakia, it was Olek’s theory ‘Elementary Photography’ and pedagogical program that was most influential in their practice. The article explains how the involvement of Czechoslovakian photographers in the activities of Olek’s gallery in Warsaw contributed to the development of a so-called ‘visualist’ style in Czechoslovakian photography that embraced an entirely subjective approach in the depiction of reality, and that signalled the decline of the communist power in Czechoslovakia during the 1980s.

KeywordsPhotographic theory
Czech photography
Andreas Müller-Pohle
Jerzy Olek
Bořek Sousedík
JournalPhotography and Culture
Journal citation12 (2), pp. 151-170
ISSN1751-4517
1751-4525
Year2019
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Accepted author manuscript
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/17514517.2019.1596598
Web address (URL)https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17514517.2019.1596598
Publication dates
Published07 Aug 2019

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Permalink - https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/item/v604y/toward-an-emancipation-of-photographic-vision-visualism-under-czechoslovakian-normalization-1968-89


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