Jan Reich (1942-2009) was one of the Czech Republic’s most celebrated 20th-century photographers. Using an older large-format camera, Reich spent decades photographing the crumbling buildings of Prague, evocative still lifes, and melancholy Bohemian landscapes.
Reich graduated from the renowned Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague during the school’s intellectual and creative heyday in the 1960s. The politically repressive atmosphere created by the 1968 Soviet invasion led him to move to France, where he spent several productive months photographing people on the streets of Paris. After less than a year he returned home to Prague, but found his homeland to be much changed under Soviet occupation. In a 2007 interview with Radio Prague, he remarked, “The borders were now closed and all the magazines I had worked for were no more. I was without work and the whole situation was bleak: a police state.”
Reich turned his lens from people in the streets to the streets and buildings themselves, and his famed Disappearing Prague series was born. Reich’s reputation was founded upon these brooding images of Prague’s decaying buildings and abandoned industrial areas. He went on to achieve acclaim for his elegant still life compositions, reminiscent of 17th-century Dutch old masters. Reich’s contemplative images of the Bohemian countryside were published in the 2005 volume Bohemia, which earned him one of his country’s highest creative honors: the 2006 Book of the Year prize in the Magnesia Litera book awards.
Top: Jan Reich (Czech, 1942-2009); Zlonice, 1996; 8 x 10 inches; Silver gelatin print; Courtesy of Tom Van de Ven, Savannah, and Galerie Novy Svet, Prague
Bottom: Jan Reich (Czech, 1942-2009); BezdÄ•z, 1996; 8 x 10 inches; Silver gelatin print; Courtesy of Tom Van de Ven, Savannah, and Galerie Novy Svet, Prague
Gallery Talk by Courtney McNeil, Curator of Art
October 24, 6 p.m., Telfair Academy