Photographer Biography – SAUDEK, JAN

Praga, 1935


1935 Jan Saudek born on the 13 May, the son of a bank clerk in Prague where he grows up and goes to school until the age of 15. His father survives the Theresienstadt concentration camp where his six brothers die.

1950-83 Works for a printer. Begins to paint and draw. Describes his first camera, a Baby Brownie Kodak: “The only thing you can do with this camera is load the film and press the button to make a picture; that’s exactly what I did until 1963.”

1953 My Very First Photograph -Jan Saudek views this photograph of his brother as his first important artistic work. Works on a farm.

1954-56 Military service.

1958 Marries Marie with whom he has two children: Samuel and David.

1959 Is given his first ‘real’ camera, Flexaret 6 x 6.

1963 First exhibition of his own in Prague. Decides to become a photographer; inspired by Edward Steichen’s exhibition catalogue “The Family of Man” he wants to make a book about the people of his own time. Only photographs people that he is personally connected with – “You could call it love”.

1966 Takes his most famous photograph: Life.

1969 Travels to the USA where Hugh Edwards encourages him to continue with photography. First solo exhibition at the University of Indiana, Bloomington.

1970 Separation from Marie.

1972 Discovers the decaying’cellar wall’ which is to become a synonym of his artistic work. Growing international reputation from the mid-seventies onwards. Works together with various artists including Paule Pia (Antwerp and Brussels), Karsten Fricke (Bonn), Marlene and Jean-Pierre Vorlet (Lausanne), Pierre Borhan (Paris), Anita Neugebauer (Basle) and David Travis (Art Institute of Chicago).

1977 Travels to Arles for the exhibition “Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie” and also to Paris.

1976-84 Collaboration and exhibitions with the Jacques Baruch Gallery, Chicago. In 1983 the first monograph on Saudek, The World of Jan Saudek, appears in English, German and French. Starts tinting black and white prints (around 1977).

1984 After years of working in a factory he is given a work permit as a photographer and now, freed from the constraints of earning a weekly wage, he is able to devote himself entirely to photography. He becomes a member of the Unity of Czech Artists, having been ignored for a long time. “With my work I am trying to capture all the things I know and love; and above all I would like to leave behind a sign of the times that have elapsed.”

1988-95 Collaboration and exhibitions with the Galerie Torch in Amsterdam, and from 1990 with the publishers ‘Art Unlimited’ in Amsterdam.

1989-91 Fashion pictures for the Japanese firm ‘Matsuda’.

1990 Honoured as a’Chevalier des Arts et Lettres’. The French director, Jerome de Missolz, makes a short film him: “Jan Saudek – Photograph tchéque”.

1995 Publishes his first book, Dopis (Letters), edited by Sarah Saudek. Since the mid-nineties he has devoted more attention to painting, transferring important motifs from his photographic output to canvas.

1998 Major retrospective of his photographs and paintings in Los Angeles, Bergamot Station Arts Center, BGH Gallery.

These are some of his photos:












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