Jan Reich

Jan Reich

1942 – 2009

Jan Reich was born on May 21st 1942 in Prague, and became interested in photography during his childhood, when he followed his grandparent's life through photos sent to him from overseas. By the late 1950s, Reich created his first photographs of Prague, ushering in the photographer's future interest in the history and architecture of the city. The change which came to the family after the Communist coup in 1948 meant that the family lost their estate. His father was then moved to the Sudetenland where, after some time, Reich photographed the abandoned remains of civilization. After graduating from high school and completing military service, Reich joined, in 1963, a cooperative of bespoke photographers called Fotografia, where he learned to work with a large-format camera. He then worked in various menial jobs and in his leisure time took photographs using photographic film. In 1964, he took employment as a labourer in a circus and travelled for two seasons around Moravia and Slovakia. During these travels Reich took intimate portraits of artists and animal tamers in their own environment. In 1965, Reich was admitted to FAMU (Film and TV School). During his studies, he mostly created cycles of photographs motivated by memories of his youth in the Sudetenland, still lifes and portraits, In August 1968, there came the end of uncensored photography for magazines. Due to the deteriorating situation at home, Reich left at the end of 1969 for Paris, where he photographed extensively After nine months, he returned to a 'normalizing' Prague and graduated from FAMU. During the 1970s, he relentlessly photographed the world of his childhood -the outlying districts of Prague; Holešovice, Libeň, Vysočany, with their abandoned factories, yards, fences and ports. Step-by-step he created the collection 'Disappearing Prague'. From the end of the 1970s the photographer's work changed dramatically. Reich then focused on the systematic documentation of the traditional values of the Czech countryside. Using the original large-format wooden cameras, he captured, over the following thirty years the landscape of Sedlčany county, which bore traces of centuries past. During the 1980s, Reich used his large-format cameras to create a huge photo file of Prague. He photographed historical places without people in view. After 1989, Reich decided to record historic and religious places throuahout the land of Bohemia. For ten years the photographer captured - using the large-format wooden camera - shots of famous landmarks and places almost unknown. Over the following years, Reich mostly devoted himself to capturing the Sedlčany countryside and creating his still life work, full of mystery and contrasts of light. In November sixty seven year-old Jan Reich died.