Bare Walls and a Flexaret
Jan Saudek was born in 1935 in Prague, Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia). As children, Saudek and his twin brother Karl were put in a concentration camp by the Nazi’s. They both narrowly escaped being experimented on by Josef Mengele.
Saudek got his first camera, a Kodak Baby Brownie, at age 15. He studied Industrial Photography in Prague and became a photographers’ apprentice in 1952. In 1959, his wife gave him a Flexaret 6x6 camera. He still uses this camera today.
Saudek started creating his staged photographs after he had seen a catalogue of “The Family of Man" exhibition in 1963. The images inspired him to use photography as a means of artistic expression. When he began his own art photography, he photographed mainly in black and white. He always stages his shots, often using the bare, mottled, damp walls of his rooms as the backdrop.
Saudek worked in a factory until 1984. Saudek’s work was becoming quite well known in the West during the 1980s and this made the Czech government suspicious of his activities. He became a freelance photographer when he finally received a membership card from the Czech Visual Arts Fund. Since the 1980s, Jan Saudek has become well known all over the world and has even received the “Artis Bohemiae Amicis," the highest award you can achieve as an artist in the Czech Republic.