TRAVELLING IN TIME AND HOPE
In our life, we live through various moments: happy or sad, personal or social. Sometimes those are short periods of time, maybe even seconds that come and go - and we will not see them again any more. Those are the moments most convenient for snapshots and we call those photos documentary photography. Then there are photographs which are documentary as well as artistic. They are not only "documenting", but also analysing those moments or scenes and highlighting all that is complementary and important. The artist is not only concerned with "recording", but also with creating the atmosphere, the situation. He penetrates the very soul of people and the situations he is capturing.
Such are also the photographs by Pavel Štecha, the tutor of photography at FAMU, the founder of Photographic Laboratory at UMPRUM and fine man as well. He is also the author of several books: for instance, the amazing "Prague - its Alleyways and Passages" is a portrait of the secrete world, quite dissimilar to ours. It is - shall we say - 'the world of Egon Erwin Kisch', the writer, who long time ago also wrote the essay "The Monograph of Passages". It is the world that once charmed me as well, the world of people who live their live differently that our hasty generation does. It is the world of "stop and think" that is unfortunately fading away as well...
I was impressed by photographs from the time of invasion, August 1989. I lived through those moments myself, too, right in Prague, but it would take many pages to describe all that Mr. Štecha compacted in one single photograph - and I doubt I would tell it all. Definitely not so well as he does with his artistic eye, the eye of his camera. And what is even more peculiar: I can see that I never looked around so well he did...
I also gained similar impressions at his photos from the time of occupation. I was not in Prague any more, not even in the country. I have left for London and - believe it or not - instead of boarding the plane home, I took the one for Canada. Then came November 1989 and I wasn't back home yet. True, we in exile were all watching TV to get news about our country and yes, we surely welcomed the new freedom with the same enthusiasm. But here, in Bohemia, it must have been different, it was the place the freedom was actually born again. And every face on those photographs is one life lost and gained again, one little story in the large picture of one great epoch. When I look at those photos and think about it, I feel sorry some people already forgot how to appreciate those moments. They were there, but they didn't live through it or feel it. I remember my first great feelings of freedom in London - they simply cannot be described. But I cannot compare them, they were still in the foreign country.
The life of course didn't stop in 1989, but our artist is still true to his mission. Of course, the values and goals changed: the life is not just a bunch of great moments, it consists of many 'little' moments. Those are, like the beads, stringed on the necklace of time, one by one, day by day. Not every day can be a holiday and the life must go on. It is this "poetry of the ordinary day" we also find in the works of Pavel Štecha and his insight is still sharp and deep as well. And what's more: we find there also a great hope, because - let's face it - no man is born as an optimist, he must become one.
© Jan B. Hurych
Flashes over a Quarter of a Century
... right from his childhood, Stecha's life is inseparably tied with the stories of the Czech valley, which he rode in the sidecar of his father's motorcycle Indian on their expeditions over the beautiful country. In the space defined by his own experience he then, being an adult man, collected the flashes, which he is now - word by word, sentence by sentence - compiling into a book of memoirs: "If you recall your past life, you recall static pictures, not kinetic ones. You clearly see photographs," he claims malignantly. "I think that everybody has his own order, his way of composition, which he has inside him probably from his very birth." When one of Štecha's photographs fairly flew around the world in November 1989, hardly one could guess that its model is in a landscape with a head-resembling stone in its right bottom part - that means in a painting that once hang in the photographer's children's room.
© 2001 Pavel Stecha, ArtForum / ICZ a.s.