Divadlo (Theater). Nos. 1-10, 1964. All appx. 100-125 pp. Small quarto. 5 issues with front covers by Koudelka: Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9. All with illustrated wrappers. Black-and-white reproductions of photographs and other illustrations.
Issues with Koudelka photographs inside no. 1 (pp. 7-13, 64-67); no. 2 (pp. 18-21); no. 6 (pp. 36-4--Brook, Shakespeare); no. 7 (pp. 74-77--Pere Ubu) no. 9(pp. 58, 60,61--Merce Cunningham ballet).
Before Gypsies put him on the map of international photography, some of Koudelka's earliest professional work as a photographer was for the avant-garde theater company, Divadlo za branou (Theater Beyond the Gate), led by the director Otomar Krejca. As Krejca has recalled, told him that "with us at the Theatre Beyond the Gate he learned to see theater as life and that when he was no longer working in theater, he saw life as theater."
"Exposing a strong affinity for Modernist aesthetics, [Koudelka's early theater photos] toy with line, form and abstraction more than with the 'documentary' possibilities of the photography. Yet, what these visual experiments do share with Koudelka’s later, more celebrated work is a distinct respect for the power of austerity. Distant silhouettes hover over bleak horizons, balancing on what seems to be the edge of existence, and one gets the sense that Koudelka’s eye was attuned to itinerancy, exile and chaos long before he even considered pointing his camera at more literal examples of such experiences.
After exhibiting his work at the Semafor Theater [in 1961]...Koudelka quickly gained commissions from theater companies and publications, and hence an introduction into the evidential as well as the expressive potential of photography. 'With us he learned to see theatre as life, which also led him to see life as theatre,' notes Otomar Kreja, the director of Prague's Divadlo Za Branou (Theatre Beyond the Gate), one of the first companies to invite Koudelka to photograph dramatic performances. There is no doubt that the ramifications of this lesson appear in the following chapters – ‘Invasion, Prague 1968’, 'Gypsies' and 'Exiles' – in which the abstractions of bullet-torn facades, cracked and crumbling plaster and forbidding landscapes recede into the image, acting as a backdrops for the theater of humanity itself. In nearly every one of these photographs, the borders of Koudelka’s frame appear as edges of a stage; the subjects come forward, hit their mark and relentlessly appeal to the audience before them. Like Checkov or Beckett, Koudelka manages to extract a sense of poignancy from the inevitability of the everyday, and finds heartrending drama resonating within even the subtlest of details."--Aaron Schuman from a review of Koudelka's 2006 major monograph, originally appearing in Hotshoe International, December/January 2007
"The character of the visual patterns that identify Koudelka's work is [sic] reminiscent of Cartier-Bresson, but these structures serve a very different sense of life, Koudelka's pictures seem to concern themselves with prototypical rituals, and a theater of ancient and unchangeable fables. Their motive 1s perhaps not psychological but religious. Perhaps they describe not the small and cherished differences that distinguish each of us from all others, but the prevailing circumstance that encloses us."--John Szarkowski, from a press release for Koudelka's 1975 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.