The MAXIMUM PHOTOGRAPHY 2007 Exhibition Launched in Pardubice
Exhibition organizer Pavel Lagner said: „The New York-Pompeii series consists of pairs of black and white and colour photographs, confronting the world of Pompeii with the less-glamorous parts of New York. The result is a unique collection of contrasting pairs, highlighting the uniformity of space and time.“
Pardubice"s mayor Jaroslav Deml said Jan Lukas had a personal relationship with his town, since he lived there for a while. „Pardubice is a cultural town and we were honoured to be the patrons of this exhibition. A photographer can record things we do not see, giving us an opportunity to take a fresh look at the world. Jan Lukas" photographs show that there is a beginning in every end,“ said the mayor.
Helena Lukasová remembered how fascinated with Pompeii her father was and how he looked at his favourite New York in a similar way many years later. “My father was fascinated by the human life in all its forms. Life is so fragile, you create things, build your future and before you know, it"s over,“ she added.
The exhibited photographs belong to a series of 48 pictures (24 pairs), whose originals are part of the PPF collection. Most of the Pompeii shots date back to 1963. During the 70"s, Jan Lukas shot their counterparts in Manhattan, a place he liked so much when he first visited it in 1964, that he decided to leave not for the US, but for Manhattan. The photographs are not meant to be a social criticism. „New York is not America, New York is the world,“ is the author"s favourite quote from Mark Twain. „When you walk around Manhattan with your camera, you can find shots that could be from Naples, Hong Kong, Tel-Aviv, San Juan, or Calcutta. In New York, you can find anything, I found Pompeii in Manhattan.“
The exhibition"s graphic design and its poster were authored by Aleš Najbrt.
At the end of August 2006, when the same exhibition just broke a record of 65,000 visitors, sad news arrived, the 91 years old pioneer of Czech documentary and journalism photography died in New York on August 28th 2006.
„The time - of every individual and of the entire human race - which was Lukas" strongest subject from his beginnings, finally caught up with him too,“ said Pavel Lagner of PPF Art. “We are glad that we managed to pay tribute to him by organizing this exhibition.“
The entry to the MAXIMUM PHOTOGRAPHY exhibition is free. The project aims to demonstrate that photographs, when presented suitably, can be part of the public space just as sculptures are. Many obstacles had to be overcome - how to show such large format blow-ups without compromising the sharpness and atmosphere of the original, how to protect the photographs from the weather, what stands should be used and how to fix them to pavement without any anchoring or connection. In the end, the photographs have been printed on large format glass background and are supported by iron stands, designed by the Olgoj Chorchoj studio. The stands are cast iron and made using the ancient cannon and arms casting technology.
Jan Lukas was born in České Budějovice in 1915 and started to take pictures as a 12 year old. He not only recorded the world around him as a journalist, but employed an original sense of composition as well. His work ranges from landscape, through journalism, to portrait photography and he was one of the first Czech photojournalists. His strongest works were genre photographs. In the 1930"s, he was one of the first Czech photojournalists, together with Karel Hájek and Václav Jírů. In 1946, he published his acclaimed Země a lidé (The Earth and the People) book, his other book Moskva (Moscow), had to be withdrawn after an intervention by the Soviet Ambassador to Prague in 1963. In 1965, he emigrated to the USA. After obtaining his American citizenship in 1971, he started working on the Islander series, documenting the life in Manhattan, Jerusalem, the West Berlin, or Taiwan. In 1968, he exhibited his Pražský deník 1938 – 1965 (Prague Diary, 1938 - 1965), which is an essential part of Czech photographic history, as is the New York – Pompeii series.
Only part of Lukas" work has survived. As a person fleeing his country, he was only able to carry part of his negatives, many of those dated pre-1965 have been lost: some were found at the Museum of Decorative Arts, but whereabouts of most of the 1930 - 1965 negatives are unknown.
Jan Lukas died in New York in late August 2006.