[Photographer, b. 1938, Biskovice, Moravia, Czechoslovakia, lives in Paris.]
I never stay in one country more than three months. Why? Because I was interested in seeing, and if I stay longer I become blind.
If I am dissatisfied, it’s simply because good photos are few and far between. A good photo is a miracle.
I don’t like captions. I prefer people to look at my pictures and invent their own stories.
[My] photographs are proof of what happened. When I go to Russia, sometimes I meet ex-soldiers… They say: “We came to liberate you….” I say: “Listen, I think it was quite different. I saw people being killed.” They say: No. We never… no shooting. No. No.” So I can show them my Prague 1968 photographs and say: “Listen, these are my pictures. I was there.” And they have to believe me.
Listen, I have never had any hero in my life or in photography. I just travel, I look and everything influences me.
It never seemed important to me that my photos be published. It’s important that I take them. There were periods where I didn’t have money, and I would imagine that someone would come to me and say: “Here is money, you can go do your photography, but you must not show it.” I would have accepted right away. On the other hand, if someone had come to me saying: “Here is money to do your photography, but after your death it must be destroyed,” I would have refused.
When I first started to take photographs in Czechoslovakia, I met this old gentleman, this old photographer, who told me a few practical things. One of the things he said was, “Josef, a photographer works on the subject, but the subject works on the photographer.”
The changes taking place in this part of Europe are enormous and very rapid. One world is disappearing. I am trying to photograph what’s left. I have always been drawn to what is ending, what will soon no longer exist.