How did Czech photographers and artists capture the year 1989? The exhibition in the Trade Fair Palace seeks to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. It also seeks, in hindsight, to examine the year 1989, which was a turning point in many respects; not only for Czech society, but also for photography. The year 1989 was exceptional not only in terms of political events, but also for the medium that recorded them – photography. In that year, several exhibitions commemorated the 150th anniversary of the official announcement of the discovery of photography. Nobody could know that following the revolution, which came soon after, a wave of interest in eastern European art would surge for a short time and Czech photography would be presented abroad at several exhibitions.
The 1989 political events found Czech photography in a remarkably good state. Czech documentary photography had a special position in the 1980s. Standing in opposition to official art, which cherished decorativeness and superficiality, it was accompanied by almost an aureole of truth and moral heroism.
Documentarism was a chance to preserve the genuine nature of one’s existence and find one’s place in the world in a gloomy political situation. Defianceand non-conformity were a natural part of such a stand – but also a disgrace of the Communist authorities. Defiant artists rarely managed to organize an exhibition and photographic documentary books were scarce, too. Yet a number of artists photographed regime symbols (Lubomír Kotek) or shop windows testifying to the miserable economic and political situation (Iren Stehli), critically captured the official holidays (Vladimír Birgus, Jaroslav Bárta, Dana Kyndrová), recorded the underground movement’s activities (Bohdan Holomíček, Tomki Němec), anti-regime protests (Radovan Boček, Karel Cudlín, Jan Jindra, Jaroslav Kučera, Pavel Štecha, Jiří Všetečka etc.) and the social disintegration of the village (Jindřich Štreit).
From a distance of thirty years, the exhibition seeks to critically evaluate the pictorial material created in the course of 1989 and find the best photographs recalling the events of the time. Therefore, major figures are highlighted and the presentation will be designed to distinguish the way of seeing and style of each photographer. Today, we perceive the visual character of contemporary events via photographs that have been selected and published, disseminated and displayed immediately after being taken. We would like to cooperate with their authors by going through their archives and choosing the most distinctive shots, which remain relevant even three decades later and comprehensible in a contemporary context for the generations that did not experience them firsthand.