Another photographer whom I admire immensely is Josef Koudelka who is a Czech photographer who shot to fame in 1968 when he returned from a long spell in the field photographing gypsies (Roma) to find the Soviet Union invading the country. His photographs of the entry of the Soviet troops, tanks and all, into Prague and the horrified reactions of the Czech people are iconic photographs of the 20th century. Naturally, with the crackdown that the invasion announced, Koudelka’s photographs were considered to be ‘nyet cool’ by the freshly installed, and ideologically reinvigorated leadership. He fled to the West in 1970 and has been photographing ever since. When I first discovered his work I was drawn to the images of course, but also to his total dedication to his art. He has never married and spends most months working on his projects. There are times in my day when I simply cannot resist fantasising about the romance of such a life.
I found his book Gypsies in the local library the other day and had to bring it home. I was surprised to learn that these pictures were some of his earliest work dating back to 1963. The boy had talent from the git go! I was not surprised to read that Gypsies is considered to be one of the world’s most important photography books; every shot is simply outstanding. He captures gypsies across what is now Slovakia, Romania, Czech Republic as well as France and Spain in their homes and fields, at their funerals and weddings and with their horses and dogs. The portraits are powerful and intimate. Obviously, Koudelka enjoyed their trust and you can feel the rapport between him and them. A stunning book. And so here are just a few of these amazing photos. Followed by two of my own.
In 1991 I travelled to South India from Pakistan to the area between Mysore and Bijapur. The following two pictures were made in the bazaars around Bijapur.