Professional skin diving

(In memory of Andrea)

At the beginning, it was coincidence, a short meeting and a simple question, as it usually is with interesting projects. Words became action and coincidence turned into an extraordinary set of photos. I photographed a job order where the main theme was a woman’s body; a nude woman’s body to be exact. For these kinds of projects, I usually choose the models myself since picking the wrong ones tends to turn against you at one point or the other. This time, I let the casting agency choose one for me. This small exception to my habits paid off in sense that I met a ‘perfect object’ for one of the most interesting calendars I’ve ever photographed.

This so called ‘object’ was called Andrea Absolonová and she was 20 years old. It all started with a question directed at her body and that it looks as if she was some kind of a professional diver. The answer was rather apposite. Andrea Absolonová was a multiple state champion in the Czech Republic and a bronze medalist of the European Championship in diving. Another question came to mind, regarding the reason why such a successful athlete has to earn money on the side being a model. This answer was no less apposite as the previous one. Andrea simply had to earn money to be able to afford rent for the swimming pool. Her situation then was not at all easy. After being denied an utterly clear and deserved nomination for the Olympic Games in Atlanta by public officials desperate to travel themselves, her main objective and goal was to qualify for the Olympics in Sydney in 2000.

It doesn’t take long for a photographer to realize how to combine a young athlete, a conflict based on the short-sightedness of the bosses up top and the correct expression of an opinion into a common ensemble full of controversial photos. The idea was born; it was only a matter of capturing Andrea performing her ‘Olympic jump’ naked, with nudity symbolizing independence and the ability to break the bond with anything that can hamper human endeavor. The problem was that this kind of production costs money and someone has to pay for it, so I started thinking about who to offer these fairly demanding photographic images to in today’s world full of corny adverts and misunderstood artistic intentions. However, it did not take long. Fully explaining the idea, I managed to inspire the mind of Miroslav Houška, the former creative director of I.P advertising; perhaps this was even the beginning of trust and confidence in this company, since later on, I became the creative manager of the branch in Prague of this firm, already with a new name W.I.P. advertising – but that is a different story….
The final decision was made – a company calendar for the year 1999.

The implementation of the project obviously began with a conversation between me and the actress herself, Andrea, since it’s not common for professional platform divers to jump into the water in ‘Eve’s robe’ – naked. This part of the project was a total success, as both parties involved shared the ‘let’s do this’ attitude. The premises chosen for the execution of this project was the sports facility in Pardubice, where Andrea’s ‘home’ swimming pool was located.

Jen tak si skočit bez plavek

Along with the creative director of the already mentioned advertising agency, I arrived to the place a few hours earlier, before the public closing hours of the swimming pool. Yes, closing hours, because I simply cannot imagine doing my job as a photographer in a fully operating swimming pool, especially with such an interesting and perhaps controversial project at hand.

For quite a while, I pondered about which photographic equipment I should choose for this project, especially since I deliberately wanted to exclude any kind of flash apparatus in order to maintain the feel of the lucid atmosphere. Kodak helped me make the decision, supplying the cine film Kodak T-MAX 3200 ISO. I picked this celluloid for two reasons; Firstly, for its unique ability to expose objects in the toughest luminary conditions. Secondly, for a relatively large amount of noise, supposed to create the atmosphere of a document and a report simultaneously. I brought along most of my photographic equipment as usual to make sure everything continued according to plan. I was ready for every situation, at least at that moment, I was sure of it. The bigger the surprise when I took out the first lens and realized it was misty and steamed-up from top to bottom. I tried the remaining lenses, but the same problem remained. Simply speaking, I did not realize humidity can cause such problems so I was slightly taken by surprise. It took me almost an hour to get rid of this small technical problem and press the shutter button for the first time. We finally began roughly around half past nine. Well, not exactly, as we needed to choose which jump will fit our cause the most and what level of height will suffice before anything else. We were also trying to decide between a 7 meter platform and a 3 and a half meter springboard. For larger proximity and better water surface reflection we went with the 3 ½ meter springboard. First tests and practice jumps were made with the swimsuit on in the presence of a video camera and all members of the team waiting for ‘that’ moment. Nevertheless, Andrea continued her jumps ‘dressed’ and was rather reserved, hesitating to take her swimsuit off. So, we sent all the redundant ‘producers’ away and pursued our goal. Andrea carried on with her jumps, but still in her swimsuit. I started to be a little nervous, but at the same time I didn’t want to be the one to give the ‘take everything off’ order. After the next jump, I was afraid that we have misunderstood each other when arranging the terms, so I carefully implied that now is the time for real action. Another jump in the swimsuit followed and I started to feel the whole project will become one large fiasco, only to gaze upon the spring board to see Andrea in the dress code we have arranged, finally being able to document a thirty minute performance of the most interesting jumps in Andrea’s life.

In less than half an hour, I captured roughly fifteen jumps and used up about ten celluloid films. Naturally, I had little time to think about any kind of arrangement in such swiftness of a human body, therefore I used motor-driven winding and was able to take almost 6 images per second. I used my favorite lens Nikor 85mm 1.8 D; a larger one would perhaps make great photos of a person standing on the platform, but would not be able to capture light conditions correctly. I stayed within the shutter speed frame of 250 to 500, wanting to keep at least F2.8 due to the light conditions; and for better movement I used a tripod with very loose articulation. Out of all my cameras, I picked my favorite Nikon F4. I made all calculations manually at three positions and made the respective diameter in the way that even the slightest reflection of water was visible on her naked body.

While picking out the best out of 400, we came to realize that the resulting 6 images were all on 2 celluloid films only. Perhaps even more interesting was the fact the three of those photos were captured consecutively and at the very end of the celluloid, images 35, 36 and 36A. Boldness and courage simply take you further. The whole photo shoot was a success and it continued with a billboard campaign in the Czech Republic and Austria, sponsored by W.I.P. Advertising Ltd.

After the calendar was done, I haven’t met Andrea for more than three years. Then one day, I met with a friend and found out that Andrea abandoned her dreams, closed the chapter of professional platform diving and became a porn star. She must have transferred her Olympic ambitions into this field, as she was supposedly well known world-wide. Even though it shocked everyone who knew her, Andrea lived her life as if there was no tomorrow. According to her friends, she was finally able to afford and indulge in her favorite adrenaline sports, a dog and a house, where she planned to establish her own ‘home’ with her partner. In the eyes of others, Andrea lived her life on full throttle. In 2004, some reporter stopped by and wanted to have a chat about Andrea Absolonová. I had no idea what it was about. He informed me that earlier that year, Andrea lost the fight with a deadly type of cancerous brain tumor. It was a very frustrating and sad afternoon during which I failed to speak a single word. The fact that I knew Andrea’s story made the news of her death even harder to accept. It has touched me and affected me for a long, sad period of time.

Autor: Juao Carlos Autor: Juao Carlos Autor: Juao Carlos
Autor: Juao Carlos Autor: Juao Carlos
Adolf Zika

Live weight

There’s always something happening at the Prčík household. Mr. Prčík is simply that sort of person who cannot spend his entire day in front of a TV or in a pub with a beer in his hand. This may be one of the reasons behind owning not only a pig, hen and goats, but also three horses.

his ‘animal farm’ obviously consumes a whole lot. Self-produced hay is long gone and therefore, it is purchased in bulk. It is then stacked in the hay-loft above the stable with a fork lift. It’s important to measure both height and length, so that the hay actually fits into the door. Physics plays its part here and so does the lever along with gravitation. The front of the tractor is light and tends to flip over when dealing with heavy loads. Initially, a 50kg weight is placed on the front axle to balance it out. However, with these heavy loads it’s not enough. So, most of the time, it was my wife Lenka who dropped in and assumed the role of the so-called ‘live weight’. This bale of hay however, extremely compressed and hence very heavy, needed an even larger weight to balance the tractor out, so I stepped in myself. My 80kgs next to the original 50kg weight was still not sufficient. The front wheels of the tractor still appeared to float in the air. What now?

Živé závaží

Someone from the crowd said: ‘Well, it’s time for grandma (Mrs. Prčíková) to get on the tractor’. Naturally, it was an exaggeration for the moment and humor was the only intention. But who would have thought that at that precise second, she would hop on a platform and climb onto the front of the tractor without hesitation and any real problem. She lay down on her belly and presented herself as ‘live weight’ for the first time in her life. The bale of hay was under the roof in no time and grandma was able to climb down again.

Simply speaking, this was an incidental moment typical to life in the village, where everyone needs to be practical and deal with obstacles on their own, even if it means using your grandma as ‘live weight’.

Zdeněk Dvořák

Uncrowned king of the Underworld

After a long search, I actually picked a photograph that was 15 years old. It was for a job order, meant for the cover page of a periodical. In those days, Disco land Sylvie (named after the owner’s daughter), owned by Mr. Jonák, was frequently occupied by the ‘elite’ of the decade, along with Karel Gott, Lucie Bílá, Paľo Habera, Petr Janda, the ex-minister of culture Jandák and many more. Many parties and celebrations ended there, album release parties took place quite often, simply speaking; it was the place to be seen and noticed.

However, it was no easy task to get an audience from Mr. Jonák, it was rather scary in fact. In the end, I was quite lucky as a very well known lawyer made it happen, whom I portrayed in the past. I made a coverage of the place and people in show business, later published by several magazines; this opened the door for me to Ivan Jonák.

And finally regarding this portrait, receiving an honorable mention at the CCP in the category ‘Most talked about people’, succeeding in Europe as well. It was then claimed that he ordered a hit on his wife and her lover, in the year 1994 (sentenced in 2002 to an unconditional 18 years in prison, serving his sentence in the Valdice prison), was shot himself with his car also being a target of a ranged attack. The whole documentary portrait started when I called Mr. Jonák to ask him if he was willing to be portrayed. He agreed and was even willing to leave his ‘castle’, meaning his club, which resembled a fortress, entirely from concrete and behind bars, with an apartment at the top. We arranged that he’ll wear his traditional white suit and on the way to the studio, he asked me if we could stop by ‘his’ jeweler; he was very proud of his jewelry and wanted it to be polished. For instance, on his gun-handling arm, he had rings and a bracelet in the shape of a trilobite, which he supposedly found in his childhood, all in white gold and dotted with diamonds.

Nekorunovaný král podsvětí

In his armored car, his bodyguards were obviously present, as well as his two months old son. We arrived at the studio 3 hours later, with the way approximately 15 kilometers long. Already in the studio, I asked him if he could hold his naked son in his hands (still in his suit then) along with his gun which he always carried around (he purchased this kind of gun supposedly because A. Schwarzenegger had the same one), with the ‘son-gun’ scenario being my intention from the start. After a while, roughly 2 cine-films later, the atmosphere lightened up and mainly thanks to his son, who was in great mood and loosened up so much, that the formerly white jacket was no longer white. That was only a small step towards acquiring this picture. I wanted to portray everything, basically his whole life, as he was the ‘uncrowned king of the underworld’ based on public opinion, along with being a proud father. This is the story behind one of my documentary portraits and you can judge if I was accurate and spot on by the medium of WoL.

František Ortmann

The Story of Lost Photographs

In 2004 I photographed in Romania. At the time I was still shooting on film. I had all films cut from roll film and placed in unmarked cassettes. After exposing a film I took the cassette out of the camera and labeled it with a thick felt tip pen, placed it inside a box, sealed it up and put it to the other side of my camera bag. A sure system of avoiding double exposing films that were already exposed once.

It all took place in Easter and I already took beautiful images and was very content with the whole trip. Near the end of my trip I arrived in the town Putna. There, at the corner of one house stood an old man. When he saw that I was taking pictures with a couple of friends, he started scanning us, he hung an old reflex camera around his neck and said he was also a photographer. I wanted to get closer to him and photograph him and so I reached into my bag and took out a few boxes of film and gave them to him. Mr. Photographer, his face lit up, he was on cloud seven. Later he even invited us to his home. Several images arose from this encounter and it was a very nice day. But that’s not the end of the story.

Polibek z Humberta

Later, at home, I developed all the films and three of the exposed films were completely and utterly white, that is unexposed. I was overcome with horror, I cursed myself for wrongly mixing the chemicals and I began wondering how it was possible, because those films should have contained the best images from the whole journey. Then I realized that the exposed images were left in the town of Putna with one old man. I realized that I reached into the wrong side of the bag and gave him the best I had. To this day I tempt myself to believe that perhaps the man didn’t even photograph much and some of my best images are still resting on a kitchen shelf of one small house in Romania. That one day, when I drive around, I will find them there and develop them, and get my best photographs back. But for the time being, all I have is a portrait of a Romanian photographe

Polibek z Humberta

Daniel Kaifer

Kiss from Humberto

Last spring one of my many children’s dreams came true: to become a circus performer. At the beginning of their tour, my dreamt-of Circus Humberto came to Znojmo.

I was brazen and during a break, I addressed the circus director, lion tamer, and horse trainer with the artistic name Bob Navarro. He agreed to my offer of photographing life around the big top. After several months I started for Zlín, where I spent my first circus night by the largest tent in the Czech Republic. I was falling asleep under the occasional snicker of beautiful white horses, bears growling, and the majestic lion’s roar. In total, I visited Humberto five times. I had driven more than 2000 km.

Kiss from Humberto

With every visit I gained the trust of people around the circus and most importantly, I had an opportunity to get to know a great human being—clown master Janusz, who had the nickname Mr. Chap. I found a photograph from this setting, one which will probably not be accepted by some. A kiss from a young female bear to her tamer. He later showed me the same thing even outside the cage. Those days, their tamer, Hynek Navrátil jr. was not the only one who proved to me that the animals were surrounded by love and care.

Zdeněk Dvořák

Girl with Apples

The photograph I would like to tell you about may seem ordinary to some of you, but for one girl it meant a major change in her life. I took this photograph ten years ago in the town of Baška on the island of Krk off the Adriatic coast.

Girl with Apples

Between 1995 and 2002 I lived in Prague, where I took refuge after the war which had tormented a beautiful country. There I also searched for work as a freelance photographer because I couldn’t find a job teaching German, which had been my profession in the former Yugoslavia. I visited one Prague agency to apply for a photography job; they asked me if I could show them my portfolio. I showed them mainly my black and white photographs of people and life as it had been around me. When they saw this particular photograph (the girl with apples), they stopped and stared at it as if it were a miracle of some kind. I had no idea what was going on at that moment. They told me to immediately make a call to the girl’s mother and tell the girl to go to Vienna at once (where the headquarters of the Prague branch office was located) for test shooting, that they would pay for everything and that her mother should come, too. And so it happened. I called the girl’s mother the same day and the following day they left for Vienna. The shooting was more than successful, and, in the end, the girl (Dijana) was asked to leave straight away to Istanbul for a fashion show, and they wanted her to be in more and more photo shoots.

At the time, she couldn’t because she still had to attend school but it didn’t take long and things took a fast turn. Dijana took off in the world based on one photograph that I had showed to someone a thousand kilometers from her home and for an entirely different purpose. I followed her later progress, and indeed, she became a successful top model working in fashion capitals all over the world, places like London, Milan, Paris, and New York. To this day, I feel good whenever I think about it.

Stanko Abadzic

How to Photograph a Boeing

Just as a motorbike is sometimes a motorcycle or tunes are music, in shooting there are also moments, when shooting seems more like photographing. By this I mean moments that are bound not to occur again in the near future and thus mere words do not suffice. True, I am primarily a fashion and commercial photographer but I just could not say no to this photography boon.

It all started a few years ago somewhere on the island of Ibiza during a work conversation with the owner of the once very successful travel agency Václav Fischer; I ran across a photograph that no airline should lack—an airplane in the clouds, real ones, unretouched by computers. Such a photograph is as symbolic for an airline as a photograph of a shiny car standing on the edge of a cliff at sunset is for any car manufacturer. I had this realization immediately upon my return and I wasn’t sure which way to go. After many emails amongst FISCHER AIR, Aero Vodochody, various air authorities and Mr. Fischer, the whole production was ready to start less than a month after the idea was born. But let’s get back to the beginning.


Before I start though, I will answer one question in advance. Many people have asked why we didn’t hire a specialist photographer. Yes, we could have, there even is one such photographer here and perhaps he doesn’t like me now, but try to step into my shoes. Models, supermodels, topmodels or submodels, wouldn’t you feel like getting away for a while, especially into the clouds? As Fischer’s main photographer at the time, I decided that I would assign this task to myself and that I would prepare for it personally.

The first question was how, where, and from what vantage point can such a photograph be taken. My first idea, which involved a second Boeing, was very naïve. Not only for the difficulties with maneuvering such a huge aircraft, the price of fuel, and limited outward visibility, but mainly because a much more professional method existed, indeed more interesting for the photographer, though a little uncomfortable. This method is called an air fighter, or more precisely, an Albatros L 59 training air fighter. This proved the most ideal companion for this type of photography. Whereas negotiations took place between Fischer Air and Aero Vodochody–the company that offered the most professional solutions–I attended a special course to try to understand why it isn’t a good idea to fire off the cabin cover while in the air, or, for that matter, to look at anything, even dare to touch anything.

The training took place two weeks before the production itself, and essentially it was sufficient, unlike elementary school, for me to finally comprehend that what you learn at the bottom, you’ll appreciate knowing twice as much once in the air. But I could not have imagined that I would HAVE to look for anything. Just to illustrate, ejection takes four tenths of a second and the g-force that you experience is very similar to the pressure that Mr. Bean sometimes exerts on his face as well as the faces of many of his television viewers.

But let’s get back to the preparations. I don’t have to remind you that we still photographed on film back then; after all it’s only been ten years. The biggest problem was how to mount the second reserve camera body using a bracket made specifically for this occasion, one which I insisted on having on board. In the end, we found a spot in the dashboard, through which I partially saw the pilot, who was sitting in front of me in place of the test pilot. Yes, the danger the whole flight was that for my better outward view, the pilot was sitting in the front position, which is assigned to the test pilot during training. This implies that if I touched anything in the back, we would both laugh till we dropped; literally.

Two weeks before the actual date, all the conditions for the concerned parties, including rewards and insurance, were agreed upon. The length and direction of the route were devised and the essential permits from respective authorities were signed. The airplane was specially prepared for this occasion and could not carry even a single passenger on board apart from the pilots. In the cabin of our L 59 Albatros it was much easier. Other than the pilot, myself and my two cameras, there was only room for the flight schedule and a hundred grams of fear under the seat on each side. Our crew took off with a ten-minute head start exactly at 9:37 AM. After a few minutes, during which I half-fainted and woke up again in turns (even though I had spent hundreds of hours in the air in commercial planes), we came through the clouds, where we moved according to the instructions of the control tower and waited for it to connect us with the ‘bluebird’. The Fischer Air Boeing 737 took off from the old airport at Prague Ruzyně ten minutes after we had and due to its size, took it a little longer to climb up to our altitude. It eventually emerged on our left. Both planes were navigated from the control tower so that it would be possible to maneuver and change directions even in the air. Both pilots naturally communicated with each other and I was connected to the intercom, to hear instructions in case of any changes.

I think that at the moment I realized where I actually was began the most exciting shoot of my life. Only in the air did I realize the feeling of space around me. I felt as though in the largest studio in the world while giving instructions that I wanted the Boeing on the left, then on the right, downsun or upsun or from below. The cabin of the fighter jet enforced this even further, because I felt as if in an open space. It was a moment where it was possible to forget about the problems of the moment and take the most of the given situation.


At the beginning, I was faced with the problem of choosing suitable lenses to carry with me and which to leave on the ground. The possibilities allowed me two ‘bodies’ and two lenses. Due to security factors, changing lenses was almost impossible; this is why I even had to practice changing film on a flight simulator with straps. After tests at the airport I decided on AF Nikor 85 mm 1:1.8 and „D“ 28 – with 70 as the second choice. A relatively simple configuration, as many professionals may object, but there really was no space for a long lens and you know how sometimes less is more. Regarding films, dia material was supplied by KODAK with 100 SW and S Chrom films and a reserve negative by FUJI for professionals of the same sensitivity. I am not sure if today that this tells anyone anything but I had to state it. I wasn’t worried about the light. It was very constant and even though I had tried to measure it straight from the cabin with a light meter due to an excessive presence of glare, in the end I relied more on the built-in measure of Nikon F 90 (instead of the Nikon F5 that had stayed at home due to its weight; the measure of the 90 however proved excellent). I set the second body of Nikon F4 according to the measures of the 90. The hardest nut to crack turned out to be glares, despite the use of a polarization filter. I had anticipated this situation and in my jumpsuit pocket I had smuggled in a mini bounce, which I used as a light shield. I had about thirty minutes for all the ‘fun’ which, thanks to the patience of the crews, extended for a whole hour. I exposed about eight to ten cine-film rolls, which was an extreme number taking into account that the last time I had felt so ‘relaxed’ was while bungee jumping and on a rollercoaster. For today’s digital photographer, it probably would be woefully little material but that‘s how it was back then. The last shots from a ten-meter distance were, so to speak, in the pocket and so we could afford a greeting in the cabin.

The return to earth was in the name of attempting to win the courage badge. I survived the spiral one hundred meters above the airport head down and thanked everyone politely. I took the smiles of the technicians after landing due to my pale face as the cherry on the top. May I add one more note? It is sometimes said that pilots are bigheaded hot shots; I would like to state that they have a reason to be and once again I would like to kindly thank them. In my next life, I would like to be a pilot, or at least carry a helmet for one.

Adolf Zika

An Ordinary Native American

A question comes to mind: how many of us men, when we were still little boys, played Indians? We would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t. Naturally, I played an Indian, too, and I have to admit that I always wanted to be the chief. That never changed, incidentally. I still have that today. At the time I would never have suspected that one day I would meet a real Native American in person and even become friends with a capital F.

 An Ordinary Native American

The man of red skin is called Willford Pariete and he currently lives in New York. I met him when I first traveled to New York nearly thirteen years ago. For many years he has been friends with my „New York mom“ and for many years he has been her good, albeit very quiet companion. My memories of that time could be summarized in the following simple lines: Will, who sits in front of the television and doesn’t care which channel he’s watching. Will, who showers for two hours in the morning and evening because he considers a shower to be one of the greatest inventions of the age. Will, who never gets angry because there is no longer any reason, because no one can take from him more than what we, the white folk, have already taken from him. Will, who always wants seconds on his plate, regardless of what is being served. Will, who doesn’t know where the North, West, East and South are because he always knew where he went and thus never even needed them. Or Will, who gets absolutely lost with a road map because he does not even have the papers for that devil machine, and all he needs is to find his way in the subway. I could continue on and on!

Few of us could imagine a person who’s lived in the cheapest hotel – a booze joint in China Town – for no less than a quarter of a century (true, he has moved to Staten Island now, but he is no better off by any measure), he has barely ten dollars for a day, yet he is happy all the same. Happy because, after all that happened to Native Americans in the big land, he can at least live in that god-forsaken hotel or dorm. He really is content and takes life as it comes and goes every day. Both his parents were murdered by modern inhabitants and the last time he saw his two daughters was twenty years ago. They are more than thirty years old today! It is not easy to get close to such a person, but not as difficult as it is to photograph one. And unfortunately, that’s what I wanted to do.

It all started in 1997 when, before my departure, I gave him a gift—a T-shirt with Jimi Hendrix. It was not so much about the famous guitar player as about the gift itself. I meant it quite casually and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. Will is not and has never been used to receiving gifts and it could be said that this bold act made him lose his straight face. He fell silent and did not say anything for a whole day! But the following day he swept me off my feet in return, when he gave me a coin he had received when leaving alcohol rehab as the only proof of shaking his alcohol addiction. The only gift that that this Indigenous American had received from the White Man. I didn’t expect that he would respond to my giving him the T-shirt with something as significant as this coin! It was probably the only valuable thing this ordinary Native American owned. I realized then that it was a real friendship between a white and a red man! I left, only to return half a year later.

This time I properly photographed Will for the first time and very closely. It was very strange and full of tension but one could tell that he wanted to give me his face as an expression of trust. It was then up to me not to take advantage of this trust. When I returned to Prague, I had the photographs developed and let them ripen for a few weeks. When I went back to them, I found out that there was something weird about them, it was that tension I mentioned. I had stage fright in front of him. But I really liked the images, and it greatly troubled me that I was not sure whether I could use them in my catalogue. In the end I did not use them. They simply didn’t have what I yearned for. For a long time nothing happened, I didn’t ask Will for anything but I secretly hoped that one day we would do it all over again. A year later I came back to New York and asked him again. After his traditional morning shower, I dragged him out to the backyard in front of the garage under sharp sunlight and started shooting. All of a sudden I felt that it was going well, that we were both relaxed and were creating something that could in the last phase show the whole Native American truth. Or more accurately the truth about Native Americans. I waited for this photograph for three whole years and it was worth it. Then I lost sight of Will.

 An Ordinary Native American

I haven’t been to the US for a long time, so I missed him. After a very long time indeed I was able to see him through WEEK OF LIFE, where I finally saw him in the set of images of my NY mom, Olina. During my recent visit to New York we met again. It was a beautiful meeting and I think a little emotional as well. I will probably never shoot Will again, not that he wouldn’t be a suitable object, but because he already gave me the most he could and he couldn’t have given his portrait any more. Perhaps only his Native soul, but unlike ours, that one is not for sale.

Adolf Zika

Granny Ben

It actually isn’t as much a story of a photograph as it is a story of an old and lonely woman and her small dog. The whole thing took place about ten years ago in one neighborhood in Southern Bohemia in the middle of blocks of panel houses.

Granny Ben

In this ordinary and god-forsaken place, every afternoon small boys played football on the ground between the buildings. The ball was flew all over and bounced in all directions. But of all places, it flew the most into the window of an old woman, who had no one and was a good target for different pranks. And so every other day the same scene occurred, in which the boys begged the old lady for their ball that had dropped into her kitchen and broken dishes or sometimes the window. The lady didn’t want to give up the ball and sent her tiny barking dog Ben at them. It always involved a lot of shouts and tears. And so the lady began to be called Granny Ben.

No one was particularly fond of the lady because Benny got up every day around four o’clock in the morning and the old lady walked him around the whole closed block of homes. As soon as she opened the door at this early morning hour, the dog took a run and barked all over. The lady, still in her nightgown, screamed behind him in a high-pitched voice as loudly as she could: “Benny!!! You bastard, wait!!! Just wait, my darling, just wait till I catch you, I will kill yooou!” Neighbors leaned out of their windows, shouted at the poor old woman various unpublishable swear words and occasionally even threw something at her. And so it was repeated every other morning.

One afternoon, I think it was in the fall, this lady grabbed me under my arm, pressed me against her and said: “Young man, would you photograph me with my little darling? I will hang the photo above the cupboard in the kitchen, so that we wouldn’t be home so alone………”

Sure! Sure my dear, I will shoot such an old hag, who wakes me up every morning, never lets me have a good sleep, not even on Sundays. I will photograph a granny who takes away the football from small boys! And already I was looking for a suitable excuse to quickly and quietly get out of it, but her embrace was so tight that I couldn’t refuse.

“All right, just stand here perhaps, click, click ……….. well and it’s done!!! I will bring you the photo tomorrow.” I didn’t even wait for her to thank me or hug me tightly. The next day I approached the apartment on the first floor of the building, where the lady lived. I had the photograph, 40×50 cm, neatly hidden in a hard paper tube so that it couldn’t be seen at once and so that it would be more difficult to take it out. I rang the bell at the door. “Good morning, here…… here you have the photo….. as you wanted… so, have a nice day and good bye!” I didn’t wait for anything, took the stairs three at a time. Surely when madam sees herself, her embrace would be even firmer and maybe that wouldn’t even be the end of it. Out of breath, I stopped outside under her open windows and I waited to see what would happen. I have never before heard such long and cheerful heartfelt laughter that came and it was one of the greatest rewards I have ever received. Before I moved away from the neighborhood, the lady always nicely greeted me in a high voice across the whole street and once she even invited me to her home for coffee. To see Benny in the golden frame, she said.

Thanks to this photograph I sleep well in the morning. Thanks to this photograph I see the world of old people differently. Since that time I don’t mind dogs barking in the morning.

Incidentally, this photograph was chosen this December for an anthology of documentary photography and photojournalism, which will be published in the USA and which aims to show the ordinary face of this world. But that’s not as important.

Daniel Kaifer

Swimming in the sand

I have long been convinced that camera and a good eye are not the only things that make for good photography. The best images need a little more. They need an unrepeatable moment, courage, and sense of light. Yet at the same time, it is sometimes good to avoid all thoughts about equipment, setting up, or staging the model in any way. One must simply press the release button at the right time at the right place. I am happy that I have taken several such photographs in my life. The one I would like to introduce to you today definitely belongs among them.

Swimming in the sand

It is in no way a new photograph in my archive. I created it on an island in the Atlantic Ocean that I often use as a natural studio for my fashion and art photography. In the same place, for instance, I created the black and white photograph of the half-naked lady who used my sweater as avant-garde pants and performed sumo rituals while standing on one leg. I will introduce this photograph here soon. But now back to the point. I’m simply very fond of this island and perhaps it rewarded me for it. I spent that whole week working on a catalog for the fashion label Fisher Collection and I can say that on the last day I’d had enough. I struggled with high fever, and whereas others walked around almost naked, I was running around with a camera dressed in a sweater and hood. Due to the unexpected illness it was a true photographic hell for me, and even today my memories are still quite mixed. But that does not change anything about the fact that the catalog, which I created there, belongs among the best I’ve created in fashion photography to this day.

I remember the moment quite clearly because swimsuits were photographed last and involved the most difficulties. I had an idea that we would do the last roll of film (yes, you read right FILM) on a huge sand dune and the model would be jumping down to make it seem as though her legs were at least twice as long as her torso. I used a 24 mm focal length lens for this effect. I used it for the whole roll of film and hoped that I had it. When I started to descend the top of the dune on the hot sand down to the car, I noticed that I still had one photograph left in the camera. Or more precisely, the control signaling the end of the film was not on, even though I had exposed 36. Sometimes it happens that the film is longer and there is space for one more photograph. I shouted to the top of the dune to the model, who was about to climb down that she should wait for me; I was coming back for one more photograph. I had no idea at the time that I was returning for one of my best photographs. When I was about two meters away from her, I said, „Hey, Marťa, it’s the last photo, so just jump into the sand as if you were jumping into water.“ I exaggerated a bit but what happened was exactly what I had in mind. The atmosphere, dynamics, and light were perhaps a reward for me coming back. Since then I’ve always exposed rolls of film until the very last shot and it has paid off many times. This was the field labeled 37e.

I had a hard time once again even in Prague though. The original negative of this image was being scanned in the graphic studio for so long as no one knew about it. It took exactly half a year, even though they searched for it several times in the same studio, in the same places, always with the answer that someone must have taken it. I refused to accept that it would not be found. You can imagine how I felt when six months later I went to pick up the lost child filled with fear that it might be a silly joke.

Adolf Zika