woensdag 11 augustus 2010

Between photograph and poem: a study of Štyrský and Heisler’s On the Needles of these Days Photography

A classic work in the history of photography, Styrsky's disturbing and evocative pictures are perfectly complemented by Heisler's text.

"This remains a haunting photobook, 50 years after the war. It is a prime example of one of the photobook's great truths--it's not necessarily the individual pictures that count, but what you do with them"(Martin Parr, The Photobook). A "meditation on war and resistance,... the book’s aura of alienation, repression, and anxiety not only captured the war’s home front theatre of the absurd, it anticipated the depth of postwar pessimism." Roth 101 (116). Hasselblad 140.

STYRSKY, Jindrich; HEISLER, Jindrich. Na jehlach techto dni. [On the Needles of These Days]. Design by Karel Teige. Prague: F.R. Borovy, 1945. First trade edition (following the exceedingly scarce "clandestine" edition of 1941), with 28 black and white photographs by Jindrich Styrsky.

Open publication - Free publishing - More poetry

The book On the Needles of these Days was first produced by the Czech Surrealists Jindrich Štyrský and Jindrich Heisler during the Nazi occupation in 1941 and republished in 1945. Bringing together Štyrský’s photographs and Heisler’s poetry, it deserves to be better known as one of the most important of Surrealist publications combining image and text. This essay provides a close reading of a number of different aspects. The book’s design by Karel Teige produces a very finely balanced relationship between the two elements so that neither dominates the other. The connections we might create between them fluctuate between the evident and the willful, their proximity often creating layers of additional meaning. Whether the book is ultimately an impassioned call to arms or a rejection of action is open to question. Indeed, the two seem to co-exist in that dialectic of rebellion and pessimism so important to Surrealism.

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