Josef Koudelka


Although these grainy black-and-white shots of Warsaw Pact tanks crushing civilian demonstrations during 1968’s “Prague Spring” are wrenching, photos of the posters that the Czechs hung all over town are equally devastating. In a cartoon-style diptych, one half, labeled “1945,” depicts a little girl offering flowers to a Soviet soldier after the defeat of the Nazis; “1968” shows her dead at his feet. Buses were papered with signs reading “SOS-UN,” but the world did nothing other than issue diplomatic protests. Although he had previously photographed Gypsies and theater companies, Koudelka rushed to the streets during the invasion, and captured his countrymen confronting tanks and pleading with the heavily armed invaders to withdraw. His photographs were later published abroad—anonymously, to protect him from Communist reprisals—where they won the Robert Capa photojournalism award. These images of average citizens brandishing their bodies and reason against guns and bombs are enduring documents of moral courage.

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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 23, 2008

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