Josef Koudelka | Gypsies

Posted: October 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Books, Film, Photography, Quotes

Finally.

After 35 years, Koudelka’s amazing Gypsies has been released in a new edition by Aperture. With 30 never before seen images and a design that reflects Koudelka’s original intentions, the book is a gorgeous testament to the life of the Roma between 1962 and 1971 in Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, France and Spain. After being out of print for so many years, I can finally stop my ceaseless hunting in used bookstores, sit back on the couch, and let Koudelka’s eye take me through the lives of the Roma 40 years ago.

Personally, I have had the good fortune of always being able to do what I wanted, never working for others. Maybe it is a silly principle, but the idea that no one can buy me is important for me. I refuse assignments, even for projects that I have decided to do anyhow. It is somewhat the same with my books. When my first book, the one on the gypsies, was published, it was hard for me to accept the idea that I could no longer choose the people to whom I would show my photos, that any one could buy them.

- Josef Koudelka

Slovakia, 1967. From the book, Koudelka: Gypsies. © Josef Koudelka, Magnum Photos

Slovakia, 1967. From the book, Koudelka: Gypsies. © Josef Koudelka, Magnum Photos

If a picture is good, it tells many different stories.

- Josef Koudelka

Bohemia, 1966. From the book, Koudelka: Gypsies. © Josef Koudelka, Magnum Photos

Bohemia, 1966. From the book, Koudelka: Gypsies. © Josef Koudelka, Magnum Photos

I was never paid for anything in Czechoslovakia, so it was easy to accept not being paid in the West. Also, I was used to a lower living standard.

- Josef Koudelka

France, 1970. From the book, Koudelka: Gypsies. © Josef Koudelka, Magnum Photos

France, 1970. From the book, Koudelka: Gypsies. © Josef Koudelka, Magnum Photos

For me, the most beautiful thing is to wake up, to go out, and to look. At everything. Without anyone telling me “You should look at this or that.” I look at everything and I try to find what interests me, because when I set out, I don’t yet know what will interest me. Sometimes I photograph things that others would find stupid, but with which I can play around. Henri as well says that before meeting a person, or seeing a country, he has to prepare himself. Not me, I try to react to what comes up. Afterwards, I may come back to it, perhaps every year, ten years in a row, and I will end by understanding.

- Josef Koudelka

Spain, 1971. From the book, Koudelka: Gypsies. © Josef Koudelka, Magnum Photos

Spain, 1971. From the book, Koudelka: Gypsies. © Josef Koudelka, Magnum Photos

When I travel, I don’t even know where I am going to sleep, I don’t think of the place where I will lie down until the moment I roll out my sleeping bag. It’s a rule that I’ve set for myself. Because I told myself that I must be able to sleep anywhere, since sleep is important. In the summer I often sleep outdoors. I stop working when there is no more light, and I start again in the early morning. I do not feel this to be a sacrifice, it would be a sacrifice to live otherwise. As for my points of reference, I don’t know what they would be.

- Josef Koudelka


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