Born in Prague, in 1935, Jan Saudek is the most celebrated Czech photographer of the modern era.
Saudek has been active since the 1950s, compiling an extensive body of work that progresses from the black and white portrayals of birth, life and death of his early career to the eroticised, hand-coloured studio prints of more recent decades.
His early work was inspired by The Family Man, a celebrated travelling exhibition of documentary images curated by American photographer Edward Steichen. Following Steichen’s lead, in the post-war period Saudek captured his own, Prague milieu, photographing family and friends, from youth to old age.
In 1966, he shot Life, a black and white photograph of a man (Saudek himself) clutching a naked baby to his torso. Life was acclaimed, and established a loyal audience of collectors for Saudek outside Czechoslovakia, even while the artist remained bound by the restrictions of life under the Communist regime in his homeland.
From the 1970s onwards, Saudek’s photographs became increasingly provocative. He began shooting nudes in the damp, crumbling surrounds of his basement studio, creating hand-coloured images inspired by nineteenth century erotic photography.
Still at work today as a photographer, painter and writer, Saudek features in some of the world’s most important photographic collections, and his images can reach over $10,000 at auction. He has staged more than 400 solo shows and been published in over 25 books and catalogues. In 2006, he was awarded the Artis Bohemiae Amicis by the Czech Republic government, bestowed in recognition of his ‘contribution to the country’s reputation’.
Jan Saudek’s debut collection for GINZA is taken from the first half of his remarkable career. Life features ten black and white images; a combination of studio shots and exterior photographs taken against the backdrop of fractured post-war Czechoslovakia.