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Jindřich Marco, Warsaw, 1947

For three years, the Czech photographer Jindrich Marco (1921 - 1999) documented the clean up after the deadliest of wars in Europe. More than on the ruins of the destroyed cities he concerned on people trying to re- build their houses, schools, railway stations and factories again as well as their everyday lives. He created extremely powerful set of dozens of images, which within Czech documentary photography can be compared only to Zdeněk Tmej’s series on the total mobilization of young Czech men, published in the book The Alphabet of Spiritual Emptiness (1945, new edition New York, 2011). Marco’s photographs are not concerned with the external drama, they are not pathetic and show neither killing nor fires, but through the deep conviction and the author’s personal experience portray the lives of ordinary men, women and children, radically changed by the war. We find no generals or presidents there, but people just like us. They depict the negation of the usual order and of normal values, ghostly ruins of once imposing palaces, churches and houses, human pain, suffering, humiliation, despair, fear and fatigue, but also hope of return to normal life. These pictures are true documents of Berlin, Dresden, Warsaw, London, Budapest and other cities immediately after World War II and although they do not capture any battle scenes, they represent the valid symbols of barbarism of war on more general level. Like the photographs of Robert Capa, Margaret Bourke-White, Leonard McCombe, Werner Bischof, Yevgeny Khaldey and other photographers of that time, they show the suffering, but also the people who even after all the horrors, all the impoverishment and mental and physical mutilations did not loose the power to struggle for their lives. Most of Marco’s snaps catch our attention immediately and we often have the impression that we are standing unseen by anyone in the middle of the scene. Marco had a sense for eloquent detail and for creative confrontation of different motifs, which contribute to the fact that his photographs carry, often alongside the intentionally captured scene in front of the lens, also a more symbolic second plan in the subtext of meaning, that reality is not just displayed by them, but interpreted.

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