Great Czech photographer Eva Fuková dies at 88

Eva Fuková, photo: CTK

Eva Fuková, one of the most distinctive Czech photographers of the second half of the 20th century, has died at the age of 88. Fuková began her career in her native Prague but produced some of her most important work in the United States, where she spent much of her life.

Eva Fuková,  photo: CTK
Eva Fuková passed away suddenly on Wednesday, a representative of Prague’s Leica Gallery, where she had her final exhibition two years ago, told the Czech News Agency.

The photographer was not a household name in the Czech Republic, perhaps in part because her work had a distinct avant-garde flavour.

On top of that, she had spent much of her life in the US, where she moved in the 1960s with her husband Vladimír Fuka, a well-known artist.

When we spoke in 2007 at her charming home at the foot of Petřín hill, I asked Eva Fuková what had prompted her to up sticks and move back to Prague when she was already in her 70s.

“The reason is my daughter is living in France and I thought, I'm aging and I don't want to leave the house and everything for her to take care of, so far from Europe. So I decided that as long as I still had the strength I'll do it myself.

“Another reason was I had been visiting Prague a couple of times and I thought, such a beautiful city, what am I doing in America?

“But I think the main motivation was I wanted to take all my belongings, Vladimír's pictures and my photos to Prague, so that they don't stay alone, lost in the States.”

A great number of the couple’s pictures and photos had actually been lost several decades earlier.

The pair – who had been close friends with Jiří Kolář and other leading Czech avant-garde artists – took few possessions when they left surreptitiously for America, sacrificing everything they had produced to that point.

Suzanne Pastor worked with Eva Fuková both in the US and in Prague, putting together her first catalogue, and was a close friend of the photographer’s.

“I would describe her as ageless. She was very wise. She suffered a lot and she gave a lot – she gave, gave, gave.

“She supported her husband until his death. He was diabetic and very difficult to live with. They had a difficult life after leaving for America in 1967.

“Then she married again in America, and again survived her husband.

“What kind of person was she? Kind. And smart. And knew to speak of matters of the heart.”

Many of Eva Fuková’s works made use of a technique she dubbed “multiplage” – essentially overlaying negatives to create unlikely juxtapositions, overload the picture with similar images or create a ghostly effect.

But how important a figure was she in Czech photography? Suzanne Pastor again.

“She represents maybe the last wave of surrealism – which I can only call poetic surrealism.

“She was very important I think, because there are very few women you can list as top photographers of a certain era. That would be Běla Kolářová, less [significant] than her. It would be Emila Medková, certainly equal to her. But who else? There are very few.”