Markéta Luskačová at the Tate

Markéta Luskačová is a  Czech-born documentary photographer who moved to Britain after the hardening of communist rule following suppression of the ‘Prague Spring’ (Tate Britain wall notes). She currently has an exhibition in one of the galleries of Tate Britain. I took the opportunity to visit after viewing the McCullin retrospective.

IMG_2087

I have re-photographed some prints with an iPhone for this blog. Better versions, and more of them, can be found in the sources hot-linked under ‘Further viewing’ below.

In the Czech language, the verb to photograph means to immortalise. When I came to Britain in 1975, I was shocked to learn that in English, the equivalent is to shoot. Even after 37 years here, I find that notion fairly foreign. (Markéta Luskačová, quoted by Phillips 2012)

There are three distinct groups of photographs on show, all monochrome. From the early years are examples from two sets on rural Slovakia, ‘Pilgrims‘ and ‘Šumiac, the Mountain Village‘. These are about communities that were ‘under the radar’, too small or unproductive for the communist government to take notice and, therefore, relatively undisturbed.

Seaside, North East England‘ (1978-80) is a quirky set shot (or should that be ‘immortalised’?) on the beaches of North Shields, South Shields, Redcar and Whitley Bay. Luskačová was particularly touched by boisterous family outings and by the older women determined to enjoy the day, whatever the weather (Tate wall notes).

Finally, two sets of London from the mid-1970s and later, ‘London Street Musicians‘ and ‘Photographs from Spitalfields‘ (which mainly looked at market traders). These sets overlap, in both date and location, some of McCullin’s images of poverty in East London but they are very different in style and character. The overall impression is of “hard up but happy” rather than grinding poverty. The comparison is instructive and illustrates how subjective documentary photography can be.

The linking theme for the exhibition is Luskačová’s feeling for communities, which comes through in all three locations.

References

Phillips S. (2012) Markéta Luskačová’s best photograph: Ginger the musician | Art and design | The Guardian [online] Available at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/aug/22/marketa-luskacova-best-photograph [Accessed 16 February 2019].

Further Viewing

Hyman Collection artist profile

Markéta Luskačová website

Tate artist profile

Tate exhibition preview

 

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