Emila Medkova (B. 1928) was a prominent photographer working in the Czech Republic during 1940 – 1985. Her work provides an example of surrealist documentary photography working within the avant-garde period in the Czech Republic. She was a key figure in the post war Czech surrealist group, which was an intellectual circle that enjoyed only a relatively short public appearance.
Similarly to France, surrealism became a popular style in the Czech Republic after the Wolrd War II. However, when the style became lesspopular in France, it flourished in the Czech underground scene. The establishment of the Stalinist state with the Soviet Union marked the beginning of an extended period of cultural repression that lasted for the next 40 years.
Emila Medkova’s main aim was to show that surreality is part of reality itself. Like other photographers working within the surrealist style, she was always in search for hidden meanings. She looked for minor details around her, retracting these details from their original context to demonstrate all the different possible interpretations there could be from one object.
She was part of an artistic environment, attending the School of Graphic Arts in Prague and married a highly praised Czech painter. She was exposed to leading avant garde figures within her own country as well as the highly acclaimed international avant-garde artists. In Mekova’s earliest works, she created constructed photographs that were typical of pre-war surrealism (similar to work by Man Ray).
In her image entitled Negro, Medkova completed her composition by adding an additional item to the frame. She created a visionary portrait of a silhouette of a human profile that she saw in a piece of scrap paper and added and artificial eye. Negro 1950
Medkova, like other surrealist photographers working in the first post war years, was concerned with revealing the poetry that could be found in everyday life. With the influence of the ‘New Objectivity’ movement in the 1920’s, there was an interest amongst the surrealists to highlight and accentuate details of surface structures.
Photographers such as Medkova, Brassai and Jean-Pierre Sudre searched for and created compositions within objects, surfaces and man-made by products, that were then interpreted symbolically and metaphorically by the photographers imagination.
“If there is no mystery in a photograph, if its reality has no other design, then it is empty”
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