Wednesday 21 December 2022

Prague, the photo capital of the world


When I visited Prague in late November 2022, the city was full of tourists who took photos of historic buildings and other impressive landmarks. Since I did not feel like competing with what PR-professionals are good at, I decided to concentrate on what I could spot by the side of the road. This is how the above pic came about.

I do not recall to have come across as many photo shops and gallerys as in Prague – it surely must be the photo capital of the world. The first store I wandered in by sheer accident was Centrum Foto Skoda, a place filled with used and new cameras, camera bags, filters, special bulbs, tripods, a repair facility, postcards and photo books.

When I asked the assistant manager whether he could recommend a photo exhibition nearby, he informed me that communist totalitarianism of forty years had been replaced by money totalitarianism – and that the result was, well, what would I expect?

Was I interested in Czech photography? He showed me photobooks by photographers that apart from Josef Sudek I had never heard of. Jaroslav Kucera, Jan Reich, Miroslav Kubes, Daniel Sperl, Frantisek Dostal. The Prague impressions by Dostal turned out to be one of the best composed photo tomes I have ever laid eyes on.

We talked about whether photos need words or whether they should be able to speak for themselves. Interestingly enough, only the previous day I had come across a quote from myself on a Finnish website that read Most photographs do not work without an explanation.

Photographers who think otherwise are in my view people who are a bit cheap: They throw images at you as if to say Do with them as you please! Needless to say this is fine for me as long as you do not expect me to be interested in your motives – if you've had any in the first place, that is.

In my view, most people (and that includes photographers) do not know why they do what they do. Our rationalisations are done in hindsight. Sudek, the assistant manger at Centrum Foto Skoda said when putting one of his books in front of me, is all about harmony. With this in mind I do appreciate his images even more.

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