Antonín Kratochvíl’s Homelands

Antonín Kratochvíl’s exhibition, entilled Homelands, was held at Prague’s Leica Gallery up until
September 9, lt was prepared by photo editor scott Thode from Kratochvíl’s home agency Vll.

Thode summarized his approach to Kratochvíl’s work in this way: “Homeland was never meant
to be taken in any literal way. lwas more interested in the concept of ‘Home’as opposed to
‘Home’ as a literal place… search for home and the meaning of what it is to live outside of your

© Antonín Kratochvíl

Thode thus managed to link what seems to be impossible to connect – Kratochvíl’s war reports
with portraits or pictures of places affected by environmental disasters and parties of Moscow’s
golden youth. Visitors had to cope with subjects that had been uprooted or even cast out.
Kratochvíl’s photos do not portray our world as a Very nice place. Wars, famines or invisible
radiation are situations that the people in his pictures are trying to run away from. Paradoxically,
success can also be such a situation. Successful people have no peace and they are forced to
buy isolated islands or suites that are many floors away from everyday life. Success will
separate them from “everyday” people and will place them in front of the camera where they are
as uprooted as people escaping from the plague. Everyone becomes an expatriate. Everyone is
trying to escape something and is looking for something.

© Antonín Kratochvíl

Photographs that were taken out of the context of the cycles in which they were original|y
presented gained even more power. Due to the small space of the Leica Gallery, quite a large
number of photographs were projected on to a screen in one of the rooms. A monitor was also
placed right by the entrance to the exhibition area and it showed pictures that were changing at
a regular interval. Thus, quite unintentionally, the exhibition showed the broad spectrum of the
ways in which to show photography today. lt showed us data materialized on the screen as well
as expensive autographed “artistic” blow ups. One had to notice the discrepancy between the
High Art and normally accessible pictures of events.

© Antonín Kratochvíl
After entering the digital era Kratochvíl does not avoid video. His cycle Chernobylis opened and
closed by a video, and additional shorter sequences are placed in the projection. Other cycles
included in the projection arc ln America (portrait of the changes in the USA after 9/11), Abu
Ghraib (reminder of the infamous prison and crimes that were committed by its American
guards and investigators), lncognito (focused on portraits), and Homeland. These projected
cycles were shifted between photography and film. Projected photographs (and in some cases
video as well) were accompanied by music (its composer was not specified) which underlined
their relations of chronological order. Visitors could not rewind the projection, choose their own
pace, and create their own story. They were imprisoned in the repetition of the video loop.

For Kratochvíl homeland is not a place but a state of mind. Searching is his home. Searching in
the country where he was born and where he became a second class citizen after the
Communist putsch in February 1948, After his emigration from Czechoslovakia in 1967 he
continued searching all over the World. He could not find peace for a long time. His American
period started in California where he took ‘common’ commercial pictures. However, his desire
to escape from stereotype and search for a better picture brought him to New York, where his
photojournalistic era began. Success did not come immediately, though.

Kratochvíl did not give up his humanist ethos, his pictures are supposed to move us and they
are expressing the suffering of the world. As the author says in the accompanying text: ‘l didn’t
try to integrate”.

© Antonín Kratochvíl

Thode presented Kratochvíl as a story with a happy ending – a photographer who was dragged
all over the world and finally found peace in the country in which he had started his journey.
Let’s hope that we are not jumping to conclusions here and that Antonín Kratochvíl did finally
find his homeland.

Leica Gallery Prague
Antonín Kratochvíl: Homeland
22.6. – 9.9. 2012

published: 23. 9. 2012