In October, we’ve published an article devoted to pornographic daguerreotypes of the 19th century. The Czech photographer Jan Saudek (born 1935) creates his sensual hand-colored daguerreotypes today, using the photograph as a sketch. Saudek treats the color as a way to accentuate details, like model make-up or her veins.
Fig. 1. Jan Saudek, early 2000s (alchetron.com)
The Camp and the Camera
Jan Saudek and his twin brother Kaja Saudek, being born in the family of a Czech mother and Jewish father, survived the holocaust. The mother died in a camp, but the father was left alive by a miracle as his sons. Saudek began his career as a photographer in 1950 when he bought his first camera Kodak Baby Brownie. Despite being prolific, the photographs made by a holocaust witness living in his youth under a Soviet regime have a dark shadow on them. Saudek often makes his shots in sepia or b&w colors, but even hand-colored photos reminding of vintage works seem disturbing, partly due to their soviet surroundings with scuffed walls and carpets everywhere.
Fig. 2. Saudek’s Pieta. (astrozet.net)
Fig. 3. Standing 69 (blogspot.com)
Fig. 4. Pinterest.com
Fig. 6. WordPress.com
Fig. 7. photographize.co
Fig. 8. astrozet.net
Fig. 9. blogspot.com
Fig. 10. astrozet.net
The Family of Man
At the beginning of the 1950s, Saudek was an apprentice of a photographer. Being forced by the government, he started working in a print shop. In the 1960s, he underwent military service. His photographic activity stopped being a hobby in 1963 after he had seen the catalog of the exhibition of the American photographer Edward Steichen (“The Family of Man”). Since that time, he began studying and working to become a professional photographer. By the end of the 1960s, he traveled to the USA and attended the Art Institute of Chicago.
Fig. 11. pinterest.com
Fig. 12. twitter.com
Fig. 13. ‘The Deep Devotion of Veronika‘ (blogspot.com)
Fig. 14. juzaphoto.com
Fig. 15. blog.libero.it
Work in Prague
After the return to Prague, Saudek had to work secretly not to attract the local police. At that time, he was considered by authorities as a pornographer. Saudek lived in poverty, and his studio was a room in a basement. Its’ modesty can be seen in lots of Saudek’s pictures. In the late 1970s, his works start gaining popularity in the Western world. The first book of his photographs was published in 1983 when he became a freelance photographer.
Fig. 16. astrozet.net
Fig. 17. astrozet.net
Fig. 18. blogspot.com
Fig. 19. ‘Dianus‘ (blogspot.com)
Fig. 20. blogspot.com
In the 1990s, Saudek collaborated with Taschen, which allowed him to be more notable in the artistic world. He still works in lives in Prague. During the 2000s, Saudek’s lost his photo negatives, so his pictures are being displayed on the web for free.
Fig. 21. Taschen book (catawiki.nl)
Motifs and Themes
Saudek’s works contain some recurring motifs and compositions. The same poses are repeated with different characters: adults or kids. The topics are the man and woman relationship, sex, nudity, flagellation, suicide, teen sexuality, male dominance, etc. Saudek’s photographs seem to be a dark carnival world of Dostoevsky’s novels with child prostitution and consumptive blush. Jan Saudek appears to be a witness of decadent scenes of the XIX-XXth centuries in his modest basement studio. During his career, Saudek released dozens of publications. His works became covers of several music albums.
Fig. 22. blogspot.com
Fig. 23. blogspot.com
Fig. 24. ‘The Knife‘ (blogspot.com)
Fig. 25. blogspot.com
Fig. 26. blogspot.com
Fig. 27. The cover of “Anorexia Nervos” (“Black Sheep and White Crow”, 1995), tshirtslayer.com
Fig. 28. theage.com
In 2011, the photograph of a semi-naked prepubescent girl (the work of 1995 “Black Sheep & White Crow”, fig. 28) was removed from the Ballarat International Foto Biennale before its’ opening. For the festival not to lose its’ funding next year, the director decided to withdraw the work depicting a mother prostituting her child.
Fig. 29. blogspot.com
Fig. 30. blogspot.com
Fig. 31. blogspot.com
Fig. 32. blogspot.com
Fig. 33. artsandculture.google.com
Fig. 34. blogspot.com
Fig. 35. blogspot.com
Fig. 36.’Teen Queen‘ (1987) blogspot.com
Sources: Wikipedia.org, blogspot.com, theage.com
What do you think about Saudek’s photographic work? Leave your reaction in the comment box below…!!