Print Review: “Realities”

by Jan Saudek
Arena Editions
224 pages, hard bound

Other writers have described Czech photographer Jan Saudek’s work as “innocent,” but I can’t agree. There’s a sense of witnessing a “moment” when gazing at these images that doesn’t arise from true innocence – rather, from something deeper and more poignant.

Saudek saw the dead of WWII and his work communicates a tenderness toward its subject matter – even those who could be treated cruelly — that speak of understanding pain and seeing beauty in greater abundance because of it. Yet there is a sideshow surrealism about these photographs that is both fantastic and convincing.

Mother-daughter prostitute combos, cigar smoking women in drag and out, sweet faced children, beautiful mothers, a midget, the bizarre and the beautiful, the fat and the pregnant, the nude and the costumed – all seem perfectly outside of time in a dark dreamlike landscape reminiscent of 19th century pornographic posed photos.

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