Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Joseph Sudek: The Object & Isolation

'Czech photographer Josef Sudek (1896-1976), known as the ‘Poet of Prague’, was drawn to desolate landscapes, simple, solitary objects and the quiet, unpopulated street scenes of Prague, a city to which he dedicated his whole life.' (Huxley-Parlour 2020) Sudek was originally a bookbinder but after fighting in the first world war and losing his right arm he studies photography.  He was expelled from the local camera club for arguing for a more progressive photography that moved away from a pictorialist style. He then set up his own group The Progressive Czech Photography Society in 1924.  Sudek was a shy and retiring person who love his city and became the office photographer of Prague.  people rarely appear in any of his work and between 1940 to 1954 he photographed The Windows of my Studio which were his best known work of still lives and objects within his studio.

I am very interested in the work of Sudek as he created beautiful, poignant still life images that really use light to make an ordinary object extraordinary.  

As can be seen from this simple rose stem in a glass the light streams directly through the bottom of the glass making the water in the glass visible and tangible with the bubbles gently exposed.  The flower stem at the top of the glass is then thrown slightly into the shadow but this contrast is a light grey tone and the flower remains clearly visible with the light just gently touching the edges of the flower and stem to emphasis ts shape and texture.  

This image is one of my personal favourites, an apple or a peach sits centred on the plate with light falling behind it to emphasize its sumptuous shape.  The window the perfect diffused backdrop covered in condensation from the cold Prague outside and the warm studio inside.  Droplets of water run to make small rivulets down the pane and through these extra light from the outside peaks in.  The composition is created perfectly by the tree outside on the edge framing the window along the left-hand side.  Again it is the use of light and the shades of grey tones that really make this image work and stay with you.  A photograph that stays with you and that you can contemplate again and again without boredom is surely the mark of something great.  This composition and idea I would like to try with own objects inside.  I will be using my Olympus E3 and shooting in black and white for this as I then can really control finely the expose and settings.  I want to use just natural light to these have t taken at the right time of the day and I may have to experiment with timings and the amount of sunlight to ensure that I get the right effect.

This window and chair Sudek photographed through time from 1948 onwards so there is a series of thee images that reflect age and time with same window and chair, objects, like people age and transform and I like this idea that the world through the window changes and moves and the chair ages but remains in place, a place to sit and watch the world moving, a chair that has been loved and kept and remains.  Age is strange sometimes you realise something happened 20 years ago and it can seem like yesterday and this melancholy and again beautifully composed image with the light, the trees, the net at the window is an example of capturing time, the moment, this exists here and now forever and in all photographs that sense of belonging in the world is so important. This should exist for eternity.


Huxley-Parlour (2020) Joesph Sudek [Online] Available from:  (Accessed 13/05/20)

28 Vignon Street (2020) Joseph Sudek [Online] Available from: (Accessed 13/05/20)

ICP (2020) Joseph Sudek [Online] Available From: (Accessed 13/05/20)

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