As a bookseller and collector, I occasionally lament the sale of a book. Sometimes it’s because I undervalued a title, but more often it’s nostalgia for the missing volume from my shelves. The other day I stumbled on a reference to a particularly atmospheric book of black and white photographs from Prague that were taken during the first part of the 20th century up to the time of the German occupation in 1939. Praha ve fotografii, (Czech Graphics Union, Prague, 1940,) is a stunning collection of 208 images by Karel Plicka, who was known as the Ansel Adams of Czechoslovakia.
During his long and celebrated career, Plicka published several photography collections. Among them are:
Prague in Pictures (Praha ve fotografii), Czech Graphics Union, Prague, 1940,
Beautiful Motherland (Vlast Libezna), xxxx, Prague, 19xx,
The Prague Castle (Prazsky Hrad), Orbis, Prague, 1962,
Vltava, Orbis, Prague, 1965,
Czechoslovakia (Ceskoslovensko), Orbis, Prague, 1974,
Walks in Prague (Prochazky Prahou) xxxx, Prague, 19xx, with Emanuel Poche,
Slovakia (Slovensko) Artia, Prague, 1959.
His urban photography revealed Prague in all of its medieval,baroque, neo-classical, and art nouveau splendor while capturing the mysterious allure of the historic city. My copy of Praha ve fotografii held special resonance for me because I discovered the first edition copy on my initial visit to Prague not long after the Velvet Revolution. That Prague bears little resemblance to the Disney-fied Czech capital that I found during subsequent time in the city.
These images from Plicka’s excellent book are a reminder of what was lost during the Communist era and through contemporary modernization and overtourism.