The newly reconstructed Stone Bell House on Prague's Old Town Square, is currently hosting an exhibition of photographs made by one of the most important Czech woman photographers of the second half of the twentieth century. Emila Medkova was born in 1928 and died in 1985 and one of her quotes from the only published interview she gave in her lifetime describes her work best: "If there is no mystery in a photograph, if its reality has no other design, then it is empty. It is not a matter of description of objects, it is not a matter of describing a head, a face inscribed in another object, but rather a matter of what is evoked." Lenka Bydzovska is one of the authors of the exhibition:
"Emila Medkova was very interesting, not only because she was a good photographer, but also because she had a very close relationship with artists from other fields and reacted to the creative development of art as a whole. She used the latest trends in painting and plastic moulding, for example, in her own photography."
Emila Medkova's main goal was to demonstrate that her unique perception of things could prove that surreality is included in reality itself.
"What was typical about her was that she looked around her, in the city of Prague, for minor details that no one else noticed. She would look at an old wall and see a face or head or a phantom. Her photography pulled the detail out of its original context - sometimes she'd turn the photograph around by 90 or 180 degrees. So, it was not only about seeing a face but it was about using her work to show all the possible interpretations that a place may offer at the same time. Basically it's a sort of call for the continuous search for hidden meanings."
Emila Medkova studied photography at the State School of Graphic Arts in Prague. In 1951, she married her friend and source of inspiration, painter Mikulas Medek. His rich cultural background and close contact with poets, dramatists, musicians, and theoreticians, soon put her into an artistic environment, which had an important impact on her life. After the Communists took over in 1948, many of these artists were stripped off their rights to exhibit their work. Emila Medkova, though was one of the luckier ones...
"As far as her work was concerned, Emila Medkova did not allow for herself to be limited but it is important to note that her work came to being under rather difficult conditions. Her husband, Mikulas Medek was a persona non grata in the 50's and he didn't have the chance to exhibit nor publish his own work. So this strong pressure on their existence obviously had an effect on Emila's work. She had to get a job to care for her family and could only work on her art in her spare time."
Despite the pressure put on her artistic life, Emila Medkova refused to be the average professional photographer and decided to express her imagination in her own way - a way that still manages to capture the attention of people today...
"So far, we have received a very positive reaction. It's interesting because many people who walk through the exhibition have a feeling that the photographs depict something they know, but know differently. There are works, for example, from areas close to the Stone Bell House, such as the Old Town Hall or the Charles Bridge, but they are minor details that the photograph's title say exist but that one only notices if they are pointed out. So many people find that they have a personal closeness to Emila Medkova's work although it is far from easy to pin down what it is."
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