Dramatic events of 1989 captured in new photography exhibition


The Year 1989 through the Eyes of Photographers is the title of a new exhibition that has just got underway at Prague’s Old Town Hall. It brings together around 300 photographs capturing events preceding the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, and the drama of the Velvet Revolution itself. Daniela Mrázková of Czech Press Photo is the exhibition’s curator.

“We wanted to create something like a picture essay, a picture story of that year and the events which preceded it [specifically protests on August 21 and October 28, 1988]. There are a lot of previously unseen pictures among them. They are very strong because the authors of these pictures are really well-known Czech photographers, professionals mostly.

“What is really interesting is that at that time all photographers took their cameras and went into the streets – not only photo-reporters or documentary photographers, but also portraitists, also those who took pictures of landscapes, etc, etc. So that’s why, I think, the exhibition has a very high standard of pictures.”

Do any particular pictures stand out for you personally?

“Oh yes, I have two favourites. One of them is on the poster [for the exhibition]. It is a picture by Radek Bajgar from an illegal demonstration just before November 1989. That picture shows a lot of students’ hands raised against the police.

“The other picture is by Jaroslav Kučera. It shows the very moment when the writer Jiří Černý comes to the Civic Forum saying that the Communist Party has resigned, and Václav Havel and Alexander Dubček embrace.”

What were you yourself doing on November 17, 1989?

“I have a very strong…moment. It was November 17, the afternoon, and I was working on the catalogue for a big exhibition. My daughter entered the room and told me, mummy I am going out, I’m going to take part in a big student demonstration. But don’t worry, please, I’ll be back.

“So I was very afraid, of course [laughs]. I decided to go with her, and from that moment I was captured, really, by the events.”

The Year 1989 through the Eyes of Photographers runs until October 14.