Czech Press Photo
The Czech Press Photo is a competition for the best photographs of the year taken by Czech and Slovak photographers. Last week, the results of the 8th Czech press Photo were announced at Prague City Hall. The eight-member international jury was busy for three days to select the best photos in eight categories, a single photo and a series in each.
The Czech Press Photo is a competition for the best photographs of the year taken by Czech and Slovak photographers. Last week, the results of the 8th Czech press Photo were announced at Prague City Hall. The eight-member international jury was busy for three days to select the best photos in eight categories, a single photo and a series in each. I spoke with Thomas Hoepker, a member of the jury from Magnum Photos in the United States and began by asking him if this was for the first time as a jury member for Czech Press Photo:
"Yes, it is, this was the first time I was invited here."
How would you asses the level of this year's competition?
"I think it's a high and professional level, it's probably not as good as the World Press Photo, but that's no wonder, this is a small country, and at World Press in Holland you get all the world, but in general I think the professional level was very high."
And was it difficult to choose the winning photo, was it a hard work?
The winning photo I think was the easiest. Especially for me. I walked into the room on the first day and I saw the picture of the drowning elephant and it became immediately clear that this was a very unusual picture and that it will probably make the first prize.
Can you describe the picture to our listeners?
"It's a photo taken from above and you can see a lot of water, and in the water you see parts of the elephant, who is already submerged, you see the trunk coming out of the water, you see the ears, and the rest is already under water. And when you understand that the animal did not survive and had to be shot, because he could not survive the situation, then it's a very sad picture, but also it's quite a symbolic image of the floods, it's the essence of the flood, because it's condensed and you only see a few elements but you immediately know what's going on."
Were pictures from the flood prevailing at this year's Czech Press Photo?
"Well, of course, certainly, that was a big event of the year and there were lots of flood pictures, not all of them good, of course, but this was the main theme this year, yes."
What were other pictures about? Did you know the meaning, because I could see some Czech politicians photographed?
Well, we had caption information and we could ask our colleagues about the background, so yes, we knew what the background was and who the politicians were, we had all the information available.
You talked about the winning picture, about the elephant - did all the jury agree on this single picture?
"We had nine jury members and eight voted for the elephant and one was a dissenting vote."
From what countries were they?
"Well, the whole jury - I think there was one Czech, one Slovak, one Russian, one Italian, one French American and I'm a German American, so it was quite an international cross-section".
In America, are you also in juries for competitions?
"Now, I'm a photographer, I'm with Magnum Photos, I live in New York and I've been a photographer for all my life, and occasionally, yes, I'm invited to a jury, so I was at World Press jury twice, but this is something that happens every five years".
You said you were for the first time here for the competition - but is this your first time in Prague?
"No, it isn't. I've been in Prague before but it's a long time ago, last time I was here was in 1968, the infamous year, and I covered the events in 68, so I see an incredible change, and I'm totally enthralled by the wonderful city of Prague which really has changed for the better and I really fell in love with it."
...and taking pictures...?
"Very little, I don't have time, you know, because the jury duty is really a full time job, so I had little time yesterday to go out and take pictures."
The author of the winning 'Photo of the year', called 'The last moments of elephant Kadir in flooded Prague ZOO', was freelance photographer Rene Jakl:
"The photograph is from August 13th, when the floods in Prague were culminating, and this particular photo is from Prague ZOO in Troja, which was hit very hard. And the photo pictures an elephant, his name was Kadir, who died during the floods and we may say that Kadir was the biggest victim of the floods".
How did you get into the ZOO, it must have been very dangerous?
"It wasn't that dangerous to get to the ZOO, because from the top part of Prague it was possible to get there. The area was closed for the traffic by the police, but it was not closed for passers-by, so I got there, went in and saw what was going on and I saw that the elephant was not doing well, it was a strange situation and I even felt it wasn't appropriate to take photos in such a situation but as a documentation I did it. The photo was published in Mlada Fronta Dnes, which is the largest Czech daily newspaper, but I don't have any feedback yet."
What did people from the ZOO say?
I don't know, I haven't talked to any of them after the photo was published, so I don't know their reaction. I was thinking about some way how to help them through this photo to recover the ZOO, maybe the photo could go in an auction and the earnings could go to the funds of Prague ZOO. I will have to discuss it with them now."
You can see the winning pictures on our web-site, while the photos which won awards at this year's Czech Press Photo will be exhibited at the Old Town Hall in Prague from late November to January.