Josef Sudek

Born in the town of Kolin, Josef Sudek began his working life as an apprentice bookbinder. He lost his right arm while serving in the army and then turned to photography instead. He was a member of the Prague Club for Amateur Photographers from 1920-24, and studied photography at the State School of Graphic Arts in Prague from 1922 to 1924. His early work was influenced by that of Clarence White, who espoused a Pictorialist approach to light and form. During the 1920s, Sudek created a series of photographs of disabled Czech soldiers; in 1927 he was one of the founding members of the renegade Czech Photographic Society, dedicated to documentary photography. His series of photographs of the renovation of the St. Vitus Cathedral in which he juxtaposed architectural details of the cathedral with the abstract forms of workers’ tools won him the title of official photographer for the city of Prague in 1928. After his first solo exhibition, in 1933, Sudek’s work was shown alongside that of László Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, and Alexander Rodchenko at the city’s International Photography Exhibition in 1936. Another twenty-five years passed before he received international acclaim for his tender scenes of Prague street life, still lifes, and views from his window.

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