Dagmar Hochová

Dagmar Hochová

1926 – 2012

Photographer Dagmar Hochová is an outstanding Czech humanistic-oriented photographer. A central theme of her work is the individual and interpersonal relations. She takes pictures that show, above all, a specific person, capturing real moments, gestures, faces. Her work is marked by artistic modesty and she does not interfere in events. She does not manipulate, does not deliberately provoke photographic situations, does not want those photographed to repeat their acts. She focuses on, observes and captures authentic humanity (as she puts it: “not to incite and wait for the right moment”). She does not use a telephoto lens or flash as she does not want to disrupt the atmosphere and light that create a specific environment. Authentic expression is always of the foremost important, followed by the picture’s technical and formal perfection. Hochová's photography excels in its immediacy, candidness and authenticity.

Following her studies under the guidance of Jaromír Funke a Josef Ehm at the State Graphic School, Hochová was employed for some time as a photographer with the company Illek a Paul. She met Ján Šmok at Barrandov, where she worked at the end of World War II in the film laboratories, and Šmok persuaded her to study at the Academy of Performing Arts (AMU). After school, she worked as a photographer for magazines (Vlasta, Literární noviny), worked on book illustrations and, in collaboration with the Albatros publishing house, photographed for exhibitions abroad.

Hochová follows several themes in her works that show a deep interest in understanding people: Children, Travels, The Power of Age, Holidays and Celebrations, Couples: Hochová was drawn to the immediacy of children – it was the so “the sole freedom that existed here during the communist years.” Some photographs of rambunctious children can be understood as a metaphor of this freedom: This best captured by the photograph Against a Wall (1959), shows running boys stopped by a wall, or photographs of children playing in August 1968. The photographer, who has always liked to laugh “at everyone, everything and, most of all, herself", found an important theme in children. In 1961 she left with Václav Chocholá on a three-month scholarship to Vietnam where she made her first collection of travel photographs. She later added to this theme with her trips to, for instance, Russia. As with her photographs of Children, Hochová was attracted to what was happening outside society's official life. The collection The Power of Age consisted of photographs of people in rural settings, in retirement homes, in social care institutions in the border areas, or in regular events of legionnaires. Despite their advanced age these people retain their dignity in Hochová's photographs. Since the 1960s she has worked in creating portraits of writers (Vaculík, Váchal, Reynek, Kliment, Hiršal, Grögerová, Prošková, Havel, etc.) and has documented Czechoslovak post-war history over the course of her life: including August 1968, the events surrounding Palach’s burial and the Velvet Revolution. In recent years she has been going back through her archive and gradually publishing individual cycles in book form. 

Hana Buddeus, 2010