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David Bláha

Between Document and Art: The Relationship Between Fine-Art Photography of Miroslav Hák and His Documentation Work for ÚTDU ČSAV

The relationship between the artistic work of the photographer Miroslav Hák and his employment as a documentary photographer at the Institute of Theory and History of Art at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (ÚTDU ČSAV) between 1954 and 1967 may seem minimal at first glance. Yet, on closer inspection, there are convergences between these two worlds. The introduction to this article briefly places Hák in the context of Czech art history. The following text describes the nature of his employment at the ČSAV and summarizes the projects in which he participated as a photographer. It then outlines the peculiarities of Hák’s personal approach to the then-common practice of including commissioned photographs in the portfolio of one’s artistic work. This practice is then compared with the way in which Josef Sudek used it in his work. In the following text, the author analyzes the photographs Crucifixion (1957) and Kamenná (1957), interpreting them based on his research in the photographic library of the IAH CAS (formerly ÚTDU ČSAV). He concludes that these photographs, included in Hák’s 1959 monograph, are directly related to his work for the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. The final part of the text discusses the relationship between Hák’s photography of Gothic wall paintings for the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and his earlier interest in abstract wall textures and images, later explored by Emila Medková and other artists. The tension between the physical wall and the content its surface carries is explored simultaneously in both the ‘artistic’ and ‘documentary’ situations, with the radically different connotations and consequences these approaches bring. At the end of the article, the principle of finding images on the surface of a wall meets the photomontage discovered among the archival cards in the IAH CAS. The most direct link between the worlds of fine-art photography and documentary work for the Academy of Sciences is thus not to be found in a catalogue of Miroslav Hák’s art photography but in a place where experimentation and creativity seem fundamentally out of place: the archive of documentary photographs of artworks at the IAH CAS.

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DOI: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.54759/ART-2023-0203

Full-text in the Digital Library of the Czech Academy of Sciences:

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