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World of the blind through prism of photography

Jakub SKOKAN, the author of the art project about the life of a blind autistic boy: “In the Czech Republic there is a great environment for socialization of people with special needs. Lucas is a good student and has been playing the piano for five ye
06 декабря, 00:00

For over two weeks until December 16 on the initiative of the PhotoCULT Cultural Center and with the assistance of the Czech Center in Kyiv “Days of Czech Photography” project will take place in the A-House and Pechersk art galleries. The project presents the work of four contemporary photographers Robert Vano, Martin Tuma, Jakub Skokan, and Milan Bures.

Days of Czech Photography opened with the presentation of the Platinum Collection by Robert Vano, fashion photographer, whose photos are published in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Elle, and Cosmopolitan. Earlier, the same series of works was presented during the Photo Biennale in Moscow and Prague. Author’s highlight in the works of Vano is that he prints his photos in platinotype technique. As a result, the image has slightly blurred outlines and black-and-white photos get warm shades from warm black to reddish and golden brown.

One of the projects that will be presented within the framework of The Days of Czech Photography is connected with Ukraine. This is a series of photographs “Sevastopol” by Milan Bures. In the place, where in 1885 Roger Fenton took the first war images in the history of humankind, Bures photographed war game involving the local residents.

“Four years ago I first came to Sevastopol to visit a friend of mine. I like it very much: the people, the sea, and the city. Next time I brought my camera with me,” said Milan BURES. “I traveled all over Crimea for about 20 days. When I gathered quite a lot photographs from the Crimean cycle I had to make my final diploma project – exhibition and a book. I decided that it will be dedicated to Sevastopol. This project has been already presented in the Czech Republic and this year I showed it in Sevastopol. However, the people who live there did not like the way I saw their city. So I am looking forward to the reaction of Kyiv residents.” It should be noted that Bures creates subjective dossier on city, where one can feel nostalgic notes, in his series dedicated to Sevastopol.

Documentary photography in the project is also linked with the name of Jakub Skokan. His project “Lucas” is a photo story about the life of a boy who suffers from autism. The photos captured moments of the life of Lucas’ family, his communication with parents and peers. Every touch and contact with the outside world is a great challenge for the boy and the photographer accurately conveys this tension. On the opening day of The Days of Czech Photography The Day had a chance to talk to Jakub SKOKAN.

What difficulties did you have to overcome while working on your project?

“The work is not so much difficult as very special. This series is, above all, about a blind boy. I wanted to make a series of photographs about how the blind work and live, but not simply in the style of a documentary. I give each photograph careful thinking; I focus on the topic, and so I have read a lot about blind people and their lives. At the same time, my work on this series was very rewarding, because I know the boy’s parents well and know him from his birth – my mother was the nanny of the little Lucas. Hence there were no psychological difficulties. Lucas is a great child. He is an excellent singer and pianist. By the way, each photo at the exhibition in Kyiv has music accompaniment, so this exhibition is also intended for the blind, who will ‘see’ each photo in their special way.”

In order to play the blind convincingly, actors practice walking around with their eyes blindfolded. Did you try anything like that while working on the series?

“Yes, for example, I went to see the Invisible Exhibition in Prague. There you find yourself in the world of a blind man: you are in complete darkness, in an unfamiliar space and you can find your bearing and identify objects only by touch. But I mostly just watched the boy.”

How long did you work on the project?

“Six months. This was diploma project at the university. It has been almost a year since I completed the first part of the project, and now I want to continue it. Now I am working with organizations that care for the blind. I will do a project with Lucas every five years. This way I will be able to show how he changes.”

What do you think of Lucas’s future? In Ukraine, the blind have a hard life.

“I am sure that he has a bright future and will become famous. The Czech Republic takes good care of the blind. There is a music academy for the blind in Prague. Another organization pays for books and textbooks – they have paid for many books in Braille for Lucas. He is an excellent student. He has been studying the piano for five years and is already quite well-known as a pianist and singer. Next year he will start the guitar. I am very happy that he often communicates with other people that have the same interests. It is good that the Czech Republic has excellent conditions for socialization of such people with special needs. They don’t feel abandoned and unneeded.”

Now you are running a joint project with Martin Tuma, another participant of The Days of Czech Photography in Kyiv. What is it about?

“Martin and I work together a lot. We are now working on BoysPlayNice, an attempt to combine commerce and art. We are trying to work in the advertisement business in a new way. For example, we are trying to transfer methods of classical photography and some non-standard way of processing to advertisement photos. It is very difficult, but the company gives us a carte blanche. We have completed the ‘No Fire’ series about female firefighters who are doing voluntary service. These are simply fantastic women.”

Apart from four exhibitions, the organizers of The Days of Czech Photography have prepared a series of lectures and films. More information about the program can be found at photocult.com.ua.

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