Photographs by Josef Koudelka.
Aperture, New York, 2008. 296 pp., 250 duotone illustrations., 9½x12½".
In 1968, Josef Koudelka was a thirty-year-old acclaimed theater photographer who
never photographed a news event. That all changed on the night of August 21, when
Warsaw Pact tanks invaded the city of Prague, ending the short-lived political liberalization
in Czechoslovakia that came to be known as the Prague Spring.
Koudelka had returned home the day before from photographing gypsies in Romania.
In the midst of the turmoil of the Soviet-led invasion, he took a series of photographs,
which were miraculously smuggled out of the country. A year after they reached
York, Magnum Photos distributed the images, credited to an unknown Czech photographer
to avoid reprisals. The intensity and significance of the images earned
still-anonymous photographer the Robert Capa Award. Sixteen years would pass before
Koudelka could safely acknowledge authorship.
Forty years after the invasion, this impressive monograph features nearly 250
these searing images-most of them published here for the first time-personally
selected by Koudelka from his extensive archive. Though they document a specific
historical event, their transformative quality still resonates. A compelling introduction
and chronology by three Czech writers provides a nuanced examination of