Josef Sudek’s Work in the Context of Avant-Garde Architectural Photography of the 1920s and 1930s

The formative years in terms of Josef Sudek’s work also saw a new outlook on European architecture: Modernism became a classical tradition in itself – mostly disseminated through the publication of books, magazines, and picture postcards. Together with new forms of art – New Objectivity, Surrealism – the influence of the architectural vision on a photographer like Josef Sudek cannot be over-estimated. Czechoslovakia at the time was a place where Modernism came into its own through the integration of design attitudes that had been fought for in Western countries with an enormous ideology component, and which in the local context simply had to be examined and taken in parts useful for local development. Thus, a more severe Modernism found a place in Czech architecture, design, art, and photography – and Josef Sudek was forced to react to this trend while pursuing a career among a large group of Czech photographers. All of these photographers could cite various influences from modern American, British, Austrian, Swiss, and German photography, with names ranging from Berenice Abbott and Albert Renger-Patzsch to names forgotten today despite the fact that their pictures were distributed world-wide in the medium of postcards. Elements of these photographic ambitions started to become canonized, forming something that was later acclaimed as the International Style. An open-minded approach to the lens such as the one behind Josef Sudek’s camera was exposed to many possible directions, and this lecture is dedicated to aspects of Modernism and the avant-garde in art, architecture, and above all, architecture photography.

Rolf Sachsse is a trained photographer; he studied art history, communications research, and German literature at the universities of Munich and Bonn, resulting in a PhD. on the relationship between architecture and photography in the 20th century. He works as a curator, writer, and photographer, and currently holds the chair in design history and design theory at the University of Fine Arts Saar, Saarbrücken, also serving as Pro-Rector of Academic Affairs. He has published more than 400 articles on the history of photography, design, architecture, and sound art, with a bibliography accessible at 

Rolf Sachsse
December 2nd, 2016