Koudelka: Shooting Holy Land, the debut documentary film of Israeli-born photographer Gilad Baram, offers a unique and intimate look into the creative process of world-renowned Czech photographer Josef Koudelka.
Since 1986, when I began to work on the landscapes of France for the Mission DATAR with a panoramic camera, I’ve tried to show how contemporary man influences the landscape. But I’d never seen anything similar to this. From my point of view, I could not find a subject more powerful than the Wall that mutilates the Holy Land.
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For nearly five decades, the Czech-born photographer Josef Koudelka has been traveling nonstop. “I never stay in one country more than three months,” he told Lens blog in a rare interview. “Why? Because I was interested in seeing, and if I stay longer I become blind.”
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Koudelka had a number of interesting things to say (all heavily paraphrased here, as I didn't try take notes during the event, but scribbled down the bits that lingered in memory immediately afterward):
I was using this Fuji panoramic — but the problem was everyone stopped developing the film. You can’t get 220 film anymore and you needed to carry about 35 kilograms extra. I went to Leica and they did one camera for me that was digital panoramic, which is this S2 camera, and they make two lines and set it on black and white. I made four trips with it together with the film camera. In the last two trips I realized I was taking more pictures with this Leica and I am enjoying it more. The result is very comparable. The lens was exactly the same.
I don’t like picture stories. In fact I think picture stories destroyed all photography. You needed to have a close-up and you needed to do other things and for me I am interested in one picture that tells many different stories to different people. That is to me a sign of the good picture.
Koudelka also told the audience at the outset that he “never listened much to what [other] photographers say,” and recounted how Henri Cartier-Bresson had asked him to read and comment on the text of The Decisive Moment before that book was published. “I said to Bresson I’m really not interested and I’m not going to read it.” Koudelka added, “I think the best portrait of a photographer are his photographs, so please judge me on my photographs.”
I know of few photographers knowledgeable of the work of Josef Koudelka who do not look upon his life as an artist with a certain level of romanticism. It holds true to a young photographer’s dream to have little by way of possessions beyond cameras, some film and the freedom to obsessively focus on the immediacy of the world through the lens