Simon Griffee

Josef Koudelka: Formed by the World

20 November 2013

Great interview with the great photographer Josef Koudelka, and part II.

Via my friend John Ryan Brubaker.

I have this deformation, from this Czech period when I was growing up, in many different ways. It goes even to the language. I don’t believe what people say. What was written or what you heard — the contrary was true.

The writer Bruce Chatwin, in a book about aborigines in Australia, called “The Songlines,” says there are a few rules so that aboriginals can survive in a hostile country. The first was to stay in one place means suicide. Second, your country is the place where you don’t put questions to yourself anymore. Your home is the place where you leave from and in a period of crisis you must formulate a way to escape. Also, you should keep good relationships with your neighbors.

bq.. I want to show you this little book I bought 20 years ago in Czechoslovakia. It is the speech of Chief Seattle to the president of the United States in 1854. It is so beautiful. It applies to Israel.

He says the land doesn’t belong to the people — it is the people who belong to the land. The land is the mother and what is happening to the mother is going to happen to the son too. This is the question about selling the land. He said how can you sell your mother — how can you sell the air — and he said if you are spitting on your land you are spitting on your mother.

bq.. Q. What did you learn from visiting all these places and spending all this time thinking about the archaeology sites and the history of man?

A. That nothing is permanent.

Nothing is permanent — that’s also what I learned from the Gypsies. Bresson used to tell me that your problem is that you don’t think about the future, and that’s exactly what I learned from the Gypsies. Not to worry much about the future. And I learned that to be alive I don’t need much. So I never worried about money because I knew in the past if I needed the money I borrowed it so I didn’t lose the time.

And time is the only thing you have in your life, and if you are getting older you feel it a little more. But I felt that all my life.

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