Slovak photojournalist wins Czech Press Photo with Obama, Masaryk photo

Photo: Joe Klamar, source: CTK

The winners of this year’s Czech Press Photo – a competition recognising the very best in Czech and Slovak photojournalism, were announced on Monday, with the main prize going to Slovak photographer Joe Klamar, who shoots for AFP. Mr Klamar won with an unusual photo from a series covering US President Barack Obama’s visit to Prague in April, including a highly-attended speech on Prague’s Hradčany square. The photo, taken on a misty and overcast day, was awarded for its originality, capturing as the jury suggested, a “symbolic dialogue” between Mr Obama and Czechoslovakia’s first president T.G. Masaryk (whose statue stands on the square).

Photo: Joe Klamar, source: CTK
A little earlier Jan Velinger spoke to the photographer on a line to Slovakia. Here’s how Joe Klamar described working on the winning assignment:

“We had a couple days before he arrived so I went to the Castle site, looked around Hradčany square and weighed different ideas, imagining things beforehand, in this case thinking about the panorama. In this case, I saw the statue of Tomáš Masaryk and I thought to myself how cool it would be if I could connect the statue and Mr Obama, the first black US president.”

I was also on the square that day and remember camera crews behind me complaining about the hazy weather and the difficulty of shooting into the mist with the sun slowly beginning to come through. But in the end, it appears you managed to turn the conditions to your advantage…

“I was one of those who was complaining at first, too! I was expecting to see a little more detail of Prague: the wonderful towers the city is famous for. But in the end the mist added something new: a drama or mystery which I think it made for a better picture than I had planned.”

Joe Klamar, photo: CTK
Given the historic significance of the visit, did this assignment hold a special place for you?

“It always does. But yes of course I was looking forward to photographing the US president and was excited. I had all kinds of lenses and of course wanted to take a portrait for myself. Historically it was significant since it was in Czechoslovakia – yes, I still call it that as you can see {laughs}. It was emotional and it was significant.”