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Photo-paintings from the early years of President Havel will be held in Czech Centre Prague, Rytířská 31, Prague 1. 2 September - 2 October 2015.

From September, the Czech Centre Prague will come to life. There will be no shortage of visitors, as Jiří Jírů's photo exhibition is certainly worth seeing. From 2 September to 2 October 2015 an exhibition documenting moments in Havel's life will be presented. A total of 43 colour photographs, which the photographer refers to as photo-paintings, will be on display. Some will be exhibited for the very first time. The creator of the concept and curator of the exhibition is Jiří Jírů, Václav Havel's only official photographer. The organisation and preparation was undertaken by the Czech Centre.


The unique photos by renowned Czech photographer Jiří Jírů capture Václav Havel in the role of President of the Republic from 1993. The concept of the current exhibition is based on a presentation from 1995, "Two Years at the Castle", which was held at the House of the Black Madonna. Jírů simultaneously published the photography book HAVEL with a foreword by Miloš Forman. The book in fact became a part of the original exhibition and in 2008 took first prize at a photography festival in the Italian town of Orvieto in the Historical Book category.


At the exhibition at the Czech Centre Prague, the creator presents his seven years of activity in the position of castle photographer, which he occupied from 1993 to 2000. In all, 43 colour photographs will be on display.

Visitors will see photographs which have never before been displayed, for example, Boris Yeltsin at Prague Castle and President Havel's visit to Henry Kissinger's apartment in New York. In addition, photographs of famous moments capturing Václav Havel alongside Queen Elizabeth or his first wife Olga will naturally also be on show. An integral part of the display will be the now legendary photographs of Václav Havel with the Rolling Stones, writer Bohumil Hrabal, and President Bill Clinton in the Prague pub "U Tygra" (the Tiger).


Critics concur that the photographs by Jiří Jírů cannot simply be called purely documentary. The photographer uses a unique technique which he calls "hint-tint".

"From the original colour negatives I make black and white enlargements, which I tone in sepia and finally manually colour in certain details according to the original colours", explains Jiří Jírů. Brussels journalist and art critic Peter Ferril writes: "From the moment of noticing the colour detail, the observer must reorient his eye and 'read' the photograph in a different, entirely new way. A reality with a certain measure of the surreal or at least hyperreal therefore results. The effect is unsettling."

The photographer himself states that he attempts to protect the viewer's senses from a harsh explosion of all the colours and not to limit the imagination.


By virtue of his role as official photographer of the President of the Republic, Jírů had an office at the castle, was in contact with the president virtually every day, and so was even able to document more or less private activities. He also accompanied the president on almost all of his foreign visits. These not only brought him hundreds of photos and interesting meetings, but above all, the opportunity to become closely acquainted with and capture this exceptional and charismatic personality of our modern history. Thanks to this, former dramatist Václav Havel emerges as a protagonist in a continuous production which is carried throughout Europe and the world. Today the works of Jiří Jírů for the Office of the President of the Republic are stored in the castle archives. The extensive collection consists of more than three thousand original and digitalised negatives.

The creator of the exhibition works with a contrast of famous and less well-known photographs. He does not intend to lead the viewer to the answer to what Václav Havel was like, but emphasises the concept of a relationship, of the concealed and the exposed, since these aspects are also connected with the philosopher and politician, Václav Havel. This is one of the main reasons why his choice of photographs was intuitive rather than according to a pre-determined key. The title of the exhibition also reflects that intention. It is a compact cross-section of parts of the presidential term with the aim of rejecting the one-sided perception of Havel. In this way the exhibition is unique: its essence lies in the uniqueness of moments and their capture.

The exhibition, prepared exclusively for the gallery at the Czech Centre Prague, has never before been presented on this scale. Jiří Jírů himself most appreciates the photographs of Václav Havel at the "U Tygra" pub or a scene in New Zealand in which Havel is seen observing a flock of sheep, or another in which he dances the samba in Brazil.

The photographer explains how the second cited image came about: "During our official visit to New Zealand a surprise had been arranged for the president where the driving of a flock of sheep using specially trained dogs was demonstrated. From a photographer's perspective it was paradoxically most difficult to coordinate my work and the presence of other members of the accompanying team. To achieve the optimal effect of a portrait, they could not be seen in the photograph."


Although there will not be a special catalogue published for the occasion of the exhibition at the Czech Centre Prague, visitors will not be left empty-handed. They will be able to buy the catalogue "Photomix" from one of Jiří Jírů's exhibitions (Old Town Hall, 2014). The catalogue contains a cross-section of the work, including key photographs of V. Havel.

Price: CZK 150.00 (only when sold at this exhibition).

At the same time, the photographer has published a postcard with a never-before-published official portrait of Václav Havel at his own expense.


Jiří Jírů has spent the majority of his professional life working in the field of journalistic photography. He started in the 1960s. In 1968 he emigrated to Belgium. He has worked long-term for a range of world magazines. His portfolio contains the famous names The Times, Telegraph Magazine, Paris Match, Herald Tribune, LIFE, Sports Illustrated, Art News, Fortune, National Geographic, Business Week, New York Times, People, TIME and Newsweek, among others, and the agencies Black Star and Corbis-Sygma. From 1993 to 2000 he worked as official photographer of the head of state.

Jiří Jírů is one of the few Czech photographers who have asserted themselves among tough competition and survived at a global level.


Contact for journalists:

Czech Centres
Petra Jungwirthová 

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E-Mail: jungwirthova@czech.cz