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Curriculum vitae

JAN SAUDEK, czech photographer

1935:born in Prague 13.5.1935
1950: he gets his first camera KODAK BABY Brownie - first photographic Attempts
1952: apprenticed to a photographer, he worked as a printing shop worker until 1983
1959: he uses "real" camera Flexaret 6x6, he is also drawing and painting
1963: for ever influenced by the catalogue of the magnificent fotographic exhibition "Family of Man" (Edward Steichen)
1972: he finds his typical WALL composition, which became a sort of projection screen for his figural scenes.
1981: appears his first monography "Il teatro de la vita" in Milano
1983: free-lance photographer - he devotes himself fully to his own work
1990: bearer of the French title "Le Chevalier des Arts and Letters" (Knight of Art and Literature), as the first Czech at all French film director Jerome de Missolz makes a film about him "Jan Saudek - czech photographer"
2005: appears his 14., biggest monography "SAUDEK" (published by Slovart, Praha), accompanied by wide retrospective Exhibition in Praha

Jan Saudek is nowadays the most renowned Czech phoptographer in the world. He has had over 400 one-man shows held at. His photographs are included in the most important world collections.

My mother has a son Karel and me immediately afterwards, as some kind of second helping, and so I am predestined to spend all my life as No. 2
Straight after my birth my family take pictures of me like the ones that are taken of every baby. Later I shall photograph them: the instinctive human attempt to keep a memento of them
I imagine I see Adolf Hitler in March in one of the German tanks entering Prague (but most probably it's a soldier with a similar moustache)
I read Celine's Journey to the End of the Night for the first time. I don't understand much of it - but I'm strongly attracted to his style
I see people dying. By the roadside in fields, shot dead. Sometimes their legs are still twitching, like in a film. They die and ~look as if made of wax, or plaster. I look at them long and close, the way a child does
I have an animal yearning for physical love - but it goes unanswered: I always look five years younger than I am
A mob strings up a German boy-soldier by his legs from a lamp-post. Even a child like me can see he's from the Wehrmacht, and not an SS man. They pour petrol over him and set light to him, roaring: "Mutti, Mutti!". It's the innocent who pay for every war
In some gift parcel or other from America I find a newspaper with a Sunday Comic Section, which has been used as wrapping. I devour the strips together with the strange food: Li'1 Abner, Captain Marvel, Spirit... I am beside myself with admiration
1947 - 1950
In copies of Life magazine see the reportage about Eva Perón by Margaret Bourke-White, Eugene Smith and Giselle Freund. In 1977 Gisella Freund will give me the Rolleiflex which she used to photograph Eva Peron. I use it to this day. "Don't cry for me Argentina"
In a book I come across reproductions of the work of Jackson Pollock, Norman Rockwell (what a combination!) and pictures by Wyeth: I am shattered. At that time in my homeland they are starting to paint pictures in the manner of Komar and Melamid but completely seriously. I've been trying to find them somewhere for years, but they no longer exist. But I am sure that the Pollocks have lasted
I ride my first motorbike (a CZ 125?)
I penetrate a woman. But only for a moment. I have to wait a good three years for any more. And even then I don't do much better. The beginning of the fifties - Frankie Laine is singing and I'm captivated. But Dad's pre-war radio won't tune in properly: it gets punched
I get my first camera, a Kodak Baby Brownie. It works perfectly and I would be using it today if they still made the films that fitted it
I compose my first photo, which I later colour in. Without the slightest hesitation our family doctor, to whom my mother very diffidently shows the photo, pronounces it hopelessly bad, complete and utter kitsch, and what's more old-fashioned. I believe every word and immediately stop taking pictures. (Years later I come across the photo again: it's beautiful, in the way that to be young is beautiful! I wouldn't know how to do it like that now! I've lost the photo again - but at least I saw it just once more - and that's enough. Just once, just once...)
Still a virgin, I make love to another virgin. It ought to be a marvellous moment in a person's love life. And lo and behold: we split up shortly after. For ages. For good
In the army on night manoeuvres I'm dispatched with some message or other and en route fall into a trap with fine nettings stretched across it. For hours until the morning, I struggle desperately to get free. For the first time I feel helpless - and since then I've felt nothing else
Still in the army, somewhere on the Western border, I hear Pat Boone on the American Forces Nctwork from Munich singing "When I Lost my Baby". His voice is so light and natural! Our crooners of the period sing in stentorian voices like in an operetta
With my brother, I ride an Italian scooter modelling myself on the great Italian movies. Here in the far north, we meet with terrifying incomprehension, insults and often even beatings. That bovine seriousness prevails to this day: nobody smiles and everybody puts on a very busy, worried expression
My young wife gives me my first real camera a FLEXARET 6x6 I still use it - the one who gave it has vanished
The Sixties
A copy of the exhibition Family of Man falls into my hands. I'm enchanted and I become determined that I myself will photograph the same kind of book about the family of man. Roy Orbison is singing at this period, and the Rolling Stones sing "I can't get no satisfaction". It has a terrific impact on me. I dance really wild rock `n roll. Sometimes my drunken dancing-partner can't take my frenzied antics and throws up all over me. (Twenty-six years later I sec that what I was trying to dance has finally been invented it's called "break dance")
I read Kafka's The Trial - I'm left breathless. In 1988 I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being in one all-night sitting. (And in English, too) - and history repeats itself
A girl with the strange name of Bojmira turns her bare ass invitingly towards me. At the time I did not know what to make of it, later I looked for it unceasingly