Jan Saudek Photographer - I Have Mixed Feelings

I ran into the work of Jan Saudek last night and was amazed, repulsed and angered all in a short time.

He was born in Czechoslovakia in 1935 and was rather controversial most of his career. He was not only a photographer but a painter as well. He mixed the two forms to make some rather amazing hand tinted images. He often had subjects that for the time where very out there.

One photo that made me sad to say the least was a very young child being kissed in an inappropriate looking way and the child is crying. Another was a girl about ten years of age who was living a night gown and looking alluringly toward the camera - this one enraged me. At the moment I could not see any artistic value in the image but later thought maybe I just don't understand the image. Another one with children was two girls one about ten and one about five walking nude away from the camera on a dark wet road in the early hours of the day toward a rather old and dirty looking industrial city. This was to me astonishingly beautiful in it's contrast of innocence, beauty and harsh gritty reality of the setting. For a change there where not sexualized, unlike other child images.

There where many images of people posing in various states of dress that where hand tinted and very nice to look at, all with a contrast of the rather ugly and old - decayed looking settings. Some where outright sexual with a double exposure of the room and a ghastly image of people having sex. Again, beauty and life contrasted with ugly and decay. I think this is where he shined the most.

There where a handful of images of just buildings but I did not find many and there where very typical of popular style in the era. Some of the cityscape images from above the city on a hill or mountain where rather harsh in nature. A dirty industrial city that was very old and impoverished looking.

There was no just beauty to be found in any of the images. Even in ones that where just portrait, there was harsh tones to them.

To close, I have to say that I was not impressed with the majority of the child based images, although it's for personal reasons they repulse me, but I do get where most of them where going. But removing the child images I found his work to be insightful and extremely artistic - in the manner of art showing not only beauty, but saying something. His style was often like no other at the time, and I can see now that he has been copied many times since. Sill, I'm left with mixed feelings.


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