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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Karel Plicka’s views of Prague

plicka.jpg

Bridge Street, from Prague in Pictures (1940).

A shame there isn’t more of Plicka’s atmospheric photography on the web, his views of Prague present the city the way we usually imagine it from the stories of Kafka and Gustav Meyrinck. This site features a very small selection from the 220 plates that comprise his Prague in Pictures book. Taschen have published a collection of Atget’s famous photographs of Paris; the “Ansel Adams of Czechoslovakia” is overdue for a similar reappraisal.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Giant mantis invades Prague
Atget’s Paris
Barta’s Golem

 


 

Posted in {architecture}, {books}, {cities}, {photography}.

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11 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by Canabbaia

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    Thank you very much, Mr. Coulthart,

    for commemorating Karel Plicka. His photography is great (for all I can tell, not being an expert). But what makes it so extraordinarily outstanding for us today (certainly for me) is, I think, also the technique that the plates in (most of) his books were printed with, namely copper-plate-printing (= photogravure?) (“Kupfertiefdruck” in German).

    In particular the 1940 edition of Prague is not just Black-and-white printing, but sepia-tinted which, I think, was fairly rare even in those days.

    I very much subscribe to your opinion “A shame there isn’t more of Plicka’s atmospheric photography on the web”. Not only his photos of Prague are worth commemorating, but also the 1965 volume “Vltava” (Moldau river; this too contains many pictures of Prague, but emphasizes nature rather than buildings).

    Canabbaia

  2. #2 posted by John

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    Thanks. Plicka is indeed great, I wish I had more books of his work. You’re correct in thinking that the books used photogravure plates, this was a common technique at one time for the reproduction of quality photographs. The art publishers Thames & Hudson produced a lot of books like this, they’re worth looking out for in secondhand shops.

  3. #3 posted by Ryan Jarvis

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    Hello there.

    I have just stumbled across 2, 1st edition photo books by Karel Plicka, (Karel Plicka – Praha 1948 and Karel Plicka – Prazsky Hrad 1965 ” Prague Castle”) and I can’t wait to have them delivered! I have paid £80 (US$160/ 112euro’s) Does anybody know if I’ve paid over the odds for these?? Not that I mind though, the content looks gorgeous!

  4. #4 posted by John

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    Hi Ryan.

    £80 for two books sounds slightly over the odds but, as with anything, book prices depend on variable factors: edition, condition, whether or not there’s a dustjacket, etc. My copy of the book above is a reprint that I was happy to pay £10 for; I would have paid twice that. Photogravure printing and very solidly bound. If anything you’ve made a good investment as collectors are sure to be after them in the future.

  5. #6 posted by Yvonne

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    Wow, what an amazingly atmospheric photo. It must have looked like that when Patrick Leigh-Fermor visited in 1932 in the snow.

    My Prague photos are not as atmospheric but you might enjoy them.

  6. #7 posted by John

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    Thanks Yvonne, I’m a sucker for any photos of Prague, old or new. Still haven’t been there yet; I need to remedy that.

    A couple of the views in the Plicka book are snow scenes and many more of them are as atmospheric as the picture above. Something about those old cameras, I think, and the way they capture the light.

  7. #8 posted by Canabbaia

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    @John:

    If you enjoy photos from Prague, I suggest the following (don’t know whether there are editions in English):

    Prager Alltag by Erich Einhorn (Artia, Prague, 1958) [The poetry of everyday live]

    Praha 1848 – 1914 Editor Pavel Scheufler, Publisher: Panorama (Praha 1986) [old photos] and, beyond and above all:

    Prager Notturno by Ferdinand Bucina (Artia, Prague 1957) [The romance of gas lanterns, photos taken during one night from dusk to dawn]

    A selection of great photos (by, among others, Karel Plicka and Josef Sudek) is:
    Praha Objektivem Mistru, edited (I guess) by Ludvik Baran (Panorama, 2nd edition Prague 1983) with English Summary: “Prague through the Lens of Masters”.

  8. #9 posted by brian

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    HI THERE I HAVE TWO BOOKS BY KAREL PLICKA ONE IS VLTAVA AND THE OTHER IS ZIJEME V PRAZE BOTH THESE BOOKS ARE SIGNED BY BY KAREL PLICKA AND WERE A GIFT FROM HIM TO MY GREAT UNCLE ARE THESE BOOKS VALUABLE.

  9. #10 posted by John

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    Hi Brian. If you want to research the prices of old books, Abebooks is the best place to start.

  10. #11 posted by AS

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    Hi there,I have an edition in russian:

    Praha, artia, 1954 Amazing photos.

 




 

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