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About the Photographer
Czech, b. 1941
Viktor Kolář has devoted his life to photographing his hometown of Ostrava in the Czech Republic, a large industrial city and important source of coal and steel. Kolář was greatly influenced at a young age by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and by his father, a self-taught photographer and filmmaker. Following in their paths, Kolář has worked in a black and white documentary mode for his entire career to capture “decisive moments” of action, when all the elements in a composition come together perfectly for a split second. In his Ostrava series, Kolář’s use of deep tones, textures, light, and contrast creates a melancholic and poignant look at the landscape and people of a single Eastern European city over the course of several tumultuous decades, earning him a place as one of the most important contemporary Czech documentary photographers.
Viktor Kolář was born in Ostrava in the former Czechoslovakia in 1941. He studied at the School of Education in Ostrava from 1960 to 1964 to become a teacher. After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Kolář immigrated to Canada. He was subjected to police interrogations upon returning home five years later in 1973. After years of being unable to professionally practice photography under communist rule, Kolář finally gained international acclaim in the 1990s following the Velvet Revolution (1989) and the fall of communism. He is the recipient of the Mother Jones Award for Documentary Photography (1991) and teaches documentary photography at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague.
Exhibitions include Viktor Kolář Retrospective, Starmach Gallery, Krakow, Poland (2009); Viktor Kolář/Czech Documentary Photography, Leica Gallery, New York (2002); and Figures de la solitude, Musée de l’Elysée pour la Photographie, Lausanne, Switzerland (1998). His work is held in many international collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; International Center of Photography, New York; Musée de l’Elysée de la Photographie, Lausanne, Switzerland; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.