My mom was never too fond of being photographed. She was always hiding and resolutely opposed this type of documentation. When I looked through my photos, I realized that she really isn’t in a single picture. She might have been caught walking by or appeared somewhere in the back of the photo, but you could never be certain it was actually her. It’s almost unbelievable that even though I photograph basically everything,… important or not, I don’t have my mother in any of the photos.I browsed through the box with old family pictures. It only proved one thing – her ‘enjoyment’ of being photographed is rooted very deep. Intentionally or not, my uncle did succeed in getting one great picture. A little girl at the time, Alenka was captured washing the dishes with the guidance of her mother standing behind her. It was a simple neatly composed photograph. I was so touched by it, that I took it out and scanned it. I looked back and forth at my mom and the picture and it was as if she hasn’t changed a bit. Her hairstyle is the same and it was probably even of the same length. I decided to shoot this photograph again after 40 years, but was rather skeptical when I approached my mom with the idea. I was ready for her typical uncompromising refusal. I am not sure why, but she was so fascinated by the idea that she accepted. The kitchen is similar to what she was used to when she was a child, so no problems there. The only space that was left empty was after her mom, my grandma; a space that cannot be filled by any other person. I compensated for this by leaving the space behind empty, only filling it with the white tiles on the wall. As a result, I completely moved the ‘punctum’ of the photograph to a whole new level. She used to be here and there is no one that could replace her. It’s so cruel and yet so common.


It’s the best photograph I’ve ever made. It’s not about composition or lighting. For me, this photograph is deep and highly emotional. It made me stop for a moment and think about all the important things in life. We cannot stop time, but we definitely shouldn’t keep wasting it with trivial matters.

Jan Skalican

Triumphant returns

Today, we’d like to introduce a photograph that has brought success to František Ortmann, winning 1st prize in the ‘People in the news’ category at this year’s Czech Press Photo competition. (WoL)The story behind this picture started in 1996, when I made a photo of the Svěrák men, father and son, holding an Oscar, for which I received a prestigious award from Canon.

Then, in 1998, I created a large reportage about the triumphant return of the Czech Olympic ice hockey team from Nagano and organized an exhibition to show these photos at the Old Town square in Prague, from which I had raised money and donated it to the Czech Paralympics Team.


This is the reason why this year on the 24th of May, I once again visited the Old Town Square in Prague to meet the Czech team, where I captured captain T. Rolinek ‘squahsed’ on the front window of the bus, which was trying to get though all the fans, tourists, policeman, pickpockets…

All done with a NIKON!!!

František Ortmann

Zetor in motion

The walking mask of the Zetor 25 is the best and most successful photograph I have ever created. I have been waiting for a similar image to come for years.This photograph has many stories, all of which started with the desire of my father-in-law, Mr.Prčík, to buy the Zetor 25 K tractor. He managed to lay hands on one that was in an immobile state, traveling far to buy it in order to fulfill one of his dreams. At the time, his son František was 12 years old and believe it or not, he easily outshined much older students of the agriculture mechanics and maintenance field. He was as well in an elated state. First he removed the rusty bolts and the mask of the radiator. It was rather heavy, so he lifted the whole thing and kept showing it to everyone that it’s finally down. Since this moment, another tractor was added to the collection of the Prčík family, so today, there are 3 tractors, 50 years old in average, parked in the barn.

This is one side of the story, important for the male side of the Prčík family. There is another story however, connected to the origin of the photograph. I owned a top-notch digital camera with professional optics for documentary making. They claim that the level of equipment does not play a significant role in the resulting images, but I have to admit that in this case, it played a vital role. Everything was on the edge. Maximum ISO, low aperture and a slow shutter speed – all negative factors. When Fanda a.k.a. ‘Walking radiator’ passed by me, I set the camera to capture 8 frames per second at maximum focus. When browsing through what I was able to capture, this image came up. The rest was blurry or badly composed. There was a single image of better quality and I must say that I was quite lucky that it was this one.

Zetor jede

The story does not end here. I entered a series of pictures named ‘Our own Zetor’ into the Czech Press Photo 2008 competition and it won the 3rd prize in the ‘Everyday life’ category. While accepting the prize, I managed to capture an image of Mr. President Václav Klaus looking over this photo. When I showed Mr. Prčík the photo of the president looking at the Prčík family from the tiny village of Slup, he was delighted and honored. The photo now has its righteous place on the veranda and is proudly presented to everyone that comes for a visit.

Last but not least is the story from recent days. I received an email from an amateur band called Dr. Zetor from Slovakia. They are hoping to use the photo for the cover of their album.

Zdeněk Dvořák

The Grin

On both sides of the ‘Legions’ bridge are two towers, originally used for toll collection in the early existence of the bridge. I can’t recall how many times I have passed through here over the past three years and how many times I had a camera with me. I guess it was the right constellation of stars (I’ve heard that luck favors the prepared) and I suddenly noticed a ‘face’.One could ask why this kind of vandalism exists and how and for what reasons did these ‘vandals’ destroy the fence and then carved the first, second and third hole in the protective fabric. At first, I noticed the ‘eyes’ and only when I developed the photographs (40×30) I noticed the ‘teeth’ and the ‘nose’. …Since the composition of the photo was awful, I wanted to take the picture all over again…however, the fabric has been replaced and I don’t intend to destroy something only for my own personal interest of acquiring a better shot. I will be waiting elsewhere for that ‘face’ to appear again.


I can only add: ‘A photograph is the absolute Particular, the sovereign Contingency…. the Occasion, the Encounter, the Real, in its indefatigable expression…. A photograph is wholly ballasted by the contingency of which it is the weightless, transparent envelope…’ (Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, pg. 13)

Lukáš Augustýn

Photo of Mirecek

Even though it was my grandfather who actually took this photograph, the story behind it touches me a great deal and a mere look at the retrieved glass negative film makes my knees shiver.My grandfather was a photographer in the 20s and 30s. Despite regularly documenting the life of his family, there was not a single image of his most beloved middle son Mireček. Although he only lived to see three full years, he was an exceptional child loved by the whole village (in Southern Bohemia) for his remarkably mature behaviour, self-reliance and funny incidents. You could say that my grandgather lived his life for Mireček. ( I just want to point out that I currently have three sons in the same ages as it was in the case of my grandfather at the time).


When Mireček was three years old, he became sick with an ordinary illness, but the village doctor injected the shot incorrectly and Mireček fainted. During this time, my grandpa held him in his hands and continued to hold him for the next two days. And in an act of pure desperation and dispair, he took the only photo of his little boy to at least preserve him in his memory.

A few years later, my grandfather died of cancer. In a way, he was set free, since he spent his last days grieving with remorse and nostalgia.

Vladimir Brunton

The bench

My life’s path has led me away from my original profession as a pastry cook in the Institute of Social Care in Brezany, where I fulfilled my mandatory civil service duties. This experience opened my eyes and I came back to work as a tutor even after my civil service had ended. At that time, there were 170 people living in this village chateau. The tutors made a continuous effort to sweeten their lives with all sorts of events and activities. This time, it was a bonfire. On that given day, I arrived for my afternoon shift and without any real reason, I took my DSLR out of the car with only a tele-lens designed for photographing portraits and details. A moment later, I realized that I would need my wide-angle lens as well, so I had to go back to the car to pick it up. On the way back to my car I passed the one hundred year old lime tree under which lay an ordinary bench; a bench where Bohuska used to sit regularly.I don’t know her real name, but no one ever called her any thing else. However, this time, an elderly nun was sitting next to her, one who lived in the local monastery, which is a part of the chateau. She was the one that used to take care of Bohuska in the past, but on that day, they were simply enjoying the autumnal sunshine together. I immediately made use of my tele-lens and took a single picture. An instant later, the nun stood up and left. I continued to the car, took the other lens and returned to the bonfire to take pictures. For the next two years, I kept passing this lime tree but a similar situation never again presented itself. Bohuska kept sitting on the bench regularly, but all alone.

Na lavičce

I am not sure how long the nun sat next to Bohuska with her face hidden in her hands before I came along, but nevertheless my unpreparedness concerning my photo equipment and pure coincidence helped me capture this unique and very emotional moment.

Zdeněk Dvořák

A sweater for all its worth

I was interested in the history of photography as far as I can remember. I don’t mean history and evolvement of photography per se, also a subject worth exploring nonetheless, but the history of individual images, both the ones that have become a part of photographic history as well as the ones that haven’t. This consumed me right from the beginning at the time I entered this line of business. That is I really believe that literally, every photograph has its history, be it the famous image of Avedon or an ordinary snapshot made when celebrating grandpa’s 60th birthday.As it goes with my photographs, I see their stories interesting thanks to the initial concepts and ideas that make them possible. The thing is, I am usually not the one to invent them, someone from production or even the model herself sometimes comes up with an idea for me. I listen in to what people have to say and what they are discussing – I take a little from there and a little from elsewhere and an idea is born, needed to be realized in the scope of the next few seconds before it fades away. In the case of this photograph, it all started with a sweater, yes, a fairly common (not in my opinion anyway) sweater from Benetton. The day before the photo shoot we were sitting at the local bar of Jandia Princess hotel on Fuerteventure Island with the whole production team. When getting dressed for the evening, I put on this unusually grey sweater thinking that it really looked good on me. At least that was the intention when I bought it for quite a large amount of money. Already at dinner, I admit to feeling rather stuck-up and bigheaded, just like the sisters of Beauty in the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. Everyone was looking at me and so I thought that my charisma built-up from the confidence derived from wearing the sweater was well in place. Throughout the course of the evening, I was rather funny and kept everyone laughing and well entertained. I got into bed with a feeling of total satisfaction, since that night couldn’t have gone better, as I was witty, social and looked good in that slim fit Benetton sweater of mine. Well, what can I say; David Bowie was no match for me.

We got into the production cars in the morning and set out for the windmills in the desert. I drove the car with an all male crew, so I expected openness and sincerity would be in order. On the way to our destination, I learned some facts from the previous night, not really placing me in the state to do something, let alone take important photographs. Namely the female part of our crew allegedly enjoyed their evening at my account, solely due to the fact that the sweater did not suit me whatsoever.

svetr za všechny prachy

We reached our destination and I was completely useless. I couldn’t make proper shots and ideas were inexistent. I wasn’t the usual sovereign and energetic me all of a sudden. The model in the photograph was the last one to be photographed that day. We tried several shots but I knew that everything was out of place. She noticed my current mood and perhaps because she knew that I like black and deadpan humor remarked the following: ‘Well, should I put on that saucy-looking sweater of yours?’ The grin that followed spoke for itself. Before I lost my patience, I looked daggers at her without saying anything. She continued: ‘I’ll at least wear it as if it were pants.’ We looked at each other and exchanged opinions. Suddenly, it was a matter of a few instants. She jumped into the sweater in the nude and went crazy with it. She rolled on the floor, did all sorts of acrobatic postures, jumped around, and at one moment, raised one leg and stood on the other, just like sumo fighters when they enter the ring. I took the last remaining images and the film was over! It was the last black and white film I had on set that day. How typical of me! But I immediately knew I had the one image I needed. Next time, I’ll take my whole wardrobe with me! Thanks

Adolf Zika

The sewer drain

Not far from my house, there is a larger street that plays a fundamental role in my daily commute. One day, while waiting for the traffic light to turn green, I was on my bike and suddenly realized that there was something different that day.I glanced at the sewer drain ahead of me, or rather below me. The city workers were cleaning the area and, in the course of a long chain of events, probably neglected a very important part of the job – putting the lid back on properly. I immediately grasped the opportunity. I have a personal connection to this photograph for several reasons.


It is one of the three photographs for which I have had to sacrifice my sleep and wake up very early – and surely, nobody likes that. The road is very busy during the day, making any kind of documentation impossible. The only possibility that remained was to go Sunday at dawn.

I enjoy this photo in particular, since it shows how little suffices, in graphic terms, for a picture to tell a variety of stories. One might ask if the workers were so careless and foolish that they failed to notice that the lid was not placed correctly, if they noticed their unintended joke but left it as it was, or if they did it ‘just for fun’. No one but them will ever know..

What I like about this photo the most is the fact that it proves how traveling to different parts of the world is not the only way to discover new things. The sewer drain is situated 150 meters away from the entrance to our house. I remind myself of that every time I see this photograph.

A few months later, the street was reconstructed and the white lines were gone. The only thing that remained was my photographic documentation of how ridiculous the world can be.

Robert Thiele

Children of Zvolen

When my longtime friend and founder of WoL Adolf Zika addressed me with a question, whether I could pick a photograph from my archive and share it in form of the section ‘Stories behind pictures,’ I immediately thought of Romany kids from the city of Zvolen. This photograph evokes several ‘stories’ in me and I’d like to share them all.

Story number one – origin of the photograph. While walking around the city of Zvolen with my friend, photographer Jiří Lux, we ran into a group of Romany kids at the end of the street full of brick houses, located between a chipboard factory and a locomotive repair factory. Once they spotted us with our SLRs strapped around our necks, they immediately started to beseech us with requests ‘Hey grandpa, take a picture of us’. I didn’t hesitate for one second. Jiří, who noticed my eagerness to document these kids, walked over to one of the houses and protected my back in the way that he started chatting to the tenants, who were clearly the parents of the children. I kept to my task, but with one eye I observed how Jiří was doing. He seemed quite successful (he even managed to take a picture of me photographing the kids), only until a moment when the parents noticed that their children were being documented. Children were immediately called in with the phrase: ‘Stop posing, no more photographs!’, and the girl (on the far right of the photograph) that was initially most active when begging to be documented, suddenly changed her mind and ordered the other kids to stop posing at once. The children obeyed without any protest and before an elderly lady finished shouting the words ‘We don’t want any photography here’, they disappeared. We instantly felt the urge to disappear as well and left them with the words ‘The kids wanted us to take pictures of them’. The whole ‘photo shoot’ lasted about 2 minutes and I managed to make exactly 30 images.


Story number two – Approach to photography. Some time after I looked at this photo and realized how my attitude towards photography had changed thanks to the gradual shift to digital technology. In the times of celluloid films, it was unimaginable to produce 30 images in just 2 minutes. This goes hand in hand with times when I cooperated with Adolf Zika on his project ‘The Last Book of the Century’. On the day dated 10.10.2000, I depicted one day of life of the Czech Republic along with 130 other photographers. I received 20 celluloid films for 24 hours worth of photographing. When I handed in THREE!!! films to Adolf a week later, saying that it was all I used, I wasn’t really seen as the most trustworthy person in the world. In spite of that, we did choose 5 photographs for the Last book of the century. At that time, I was positive I had something on the three 36 shell films (108 images altogether) and I was quite self confident about it. Today, with an SLR around my neck or rather a viewfinder against my eye, I’m never sure if I can find the proper image within the 108 used image slots.

Story number three – Utilization of the photograph. Since 31.1.2006, I pursue the field of photography and present my results in form of a photographic diary on the internet. On the way back from the block where we met the Zvolen kids, I knew right then that I had a perfect photo for my diary. Once I got home, the photograph was portrayed on the internet and safely placed into my archive. About a week later, my friend who acted as our tour guide in Zvolen contacted me. She asked if it would be a problem for a non-profit organization called Návrat (The return), which advocates for the return of orphan children to families, to use (for illustrative purposes) the photograph in its magazine. I joyfully accepted and was glad the photograph would not only be a part of my internet diary, even if it did not have power to actually help such children. And two years after the photograph was taken, here it is on WoL in section ‘Stories behind pictures’ with yet another purpose.

Radek Štumpauer


Acquiring such a photograph took me quite a while. I intended to grasp the atmosphere of the Barcelona Grand Prix and I succeeded in the end.

I managed to capture a reflection of the commotion minutes before the start, all portrayed on the helmet of J.P. Montoya, held by his assistant standing at the starting grid. The resulting image was then cut out from the original photograph and at first sight, it seemed more like a painting rather than a photo.

In 2003, I sent the photo to Paris to compete in an international contest in the category ‘The outermost photograph in motorsports’ – see Photographs were not the only category, as the competition expanded to best film, best race car, best racer and best team.


The International Committee made up of artists and fashion designers wondered how I was able to take such a picture and if it wasn’t some kind of a forgery. It came to the point where I had to send them the original photograph to prove that there was no computer editing involved.

Later on, in the catalogue, they expressed their opinions. They stated that my photo silenced all of the skeptics, who were claiming that there is no more room for innovation in the world of photography in motorsports.

I received the award in person in a spectacular hall at the Ritz in Paris.

Jiří Křenek