130 gloomy yet alive-feeling photographs document the Prague Sudek called home in the mid-20th century.
Somewhere between chilling apocalyptic visions, distressing personal recollections and historical documentation, Josef Sudek’s photographs portray nature as utterly beguiling and unknowable. His scenes never contain any humans, they simply portray a silent but living, breathing, constantly evolving natural backdrop, shot through with an almost disturbing sense of despair. His lens often zooms in on the finest of organic details, like a mysterious beam of light that shines through the fog, drops of steam that settle on windows, or moss-infested tree stumps.
‘Le Monde à ma fenêtre’ – literally, ‘the world at my window’ – is an insightful new exhibition of the little known Czech photographer’s work at the Jeu de Paume, aiming to retrace his day-to-day movements around Prague over a number of years in the mid-20th century. Whether it’s his meticulously arranged still lives of banal everyday objects or his nightly scenic walks around the city while it was still occupied by the Nazis, in each of the 130 images collected here you can certainly discern a trace of some sort of action or movement. In this way, the photos themselves appear to be somewhat alive. It might be the otherwise imperceptible growth of a plant, or simply the perspiration of an out-of-shot man, but it’s precisely the tininess and invisibility of these usually unnoticeable natural gestures that make this one-off exhibit so enthralling.
TRANSLATION: HUW OLIVER