EXHIBITION VESTIGES by JOSEF KOUDELKA
A GREAT NAME FOR A GREAT BRIDGE
From 3rd July to 31st October 2015
The celebrated French-Czech photographer has spent more than 20 years photographing Greek and Roman architectural sites: in Libya, Algeria, Rome, Albania, Orange etc.
He is now 77 years old; since 1991 he has visited nineteen Mediterranean countries, some he has visited on several occasions and some he intends to revisit as work on his project continues. "My project is not finished. Over the years, despite this long journey, my interest has never waned; it's constantly evolving."
The exhibition includes 21 large-format, panoramic photos, 37 stand-mounted photos, scattered here and there like ruins, and finally 300 slides screened in a dark room. Josef KOUDELKA was given carte blanche for the Pont du Gard event and will produce a photograph that will be shown for the first time at the exhibition.
Josef KOUDELKA, the nomad-photographer by Jacques Maigne.
"Vestiges, is a mystical quest, which took more than 20 years, around the Mediterranean - involving visits to 200 sites in 20 countries - relentlessly researching the beauty of the ancient world. But why this dramatic journey? Seventy-seven year old Josef Koudelka became famous for immersing himself in the world of gypsies, living amongst his nomadic brothers; he is uncalculating and makes no attempt to theorise or justify his work. Koudelka, who is a traveller at heart, spent many years stateless, forced into exile, fleeing his native Czechoslovakia after capturing historic images during the invasion of the Soviet troops in Summer 1968; he became a French citizen and member of the prestigious Magnum agency but has never compromised his vision of the world or life.
His only goal and sole raison d'etre - which overshadows everything else - is photography. Josef asks for nothing other than a moment of grace or magic, a moment in which he can capture, in black and white, one of these many images that obsess him - images that are not what we think - and then he explodes with laughter. Comfort, technology, social conventions and professional codes of conduct mean nothing to him. He spent years living with no fixed abode, settling for short periods in London, Paris, New York or Prague, shunning recognition and accolades, gaining the nickname "Mister No," on account of his refusal to engage with press, publicity or current trends or to yield an inch. He is not a "reporter," certainly not a war reporter, or a documentary-maker, landscape artist or anthropologist; such labels don't interest him in the slightest.
A photographer, pure and simple. Nothing else. Now, more so than ever. This old, warm-hearted globe-trotter was converted to panoramic cameras, quite by accident, during the 1980s and then gradually moved away from taking photos of men, focusing instead on landscapes, industrial ruins, mines, disused quarries and then the ruins and traces left by ancient Mediterranean civilisations. Acting without design. These places spoke to him, he followed his instinct and opened himself up to them. For one second of magic; there's no mystery. During the course of this Odyssey, he would spend weeks or months scouring the land, often sleeping on site, under the stars, returning to the same place, two, three or even five times to choose one particular image, or perhaps two. Repeat. Redo. Wait. Wait a bit longer. Monitor the light. Soak up the spirit and the power of the place. Reveal its pure, troubling and inexplicable beauty, in a flash. An act which explains and clarifies everything.
Josef Koudelka is an untrained artist, a traveller untouched by the passing of time or the vagaries of fashion. Josef is a shaman, a visionary. And he captures his visions. And shares them.