Book with photographs with past exhibitions and callendars.
On the opening day Antonín Dufek, currator of the exhibition, spoke
and the music was performed by MÚZIKA theatre.
Marie Šechtlová and the Sixties
A while ago, we were throwing out lots of things from our
apartment. Objects with thin legs that were never at the right
angle. Eggshell-like plastic chairs resting on flimsy bases made
from iron bars. Surfaces made from colour fragments. Paper
cylinders, and triangular ceiling lamps, decorated with geometric
ornaments which gathered dust. They had all became symbols of
uselessness, known as “Brussels style”. Perhaps we hated them
because they were things that had once been trendy, but they had
later turned out to be of limited use, and even worse, to have had
an exceptionally short warranty. Why do we see those objects
differently today? Why have all the former nostalgias been replaced
by a new “retro” nostalgia for the 1960s? And what exactly do we
Maybe today we no longer use those objects, which have become
rare due to their short life expectancy, and we now see their
essence. Instead of functionality, we now see their beauty. Instead
of flimsiness without substance, we suddenly see their soul, lying
in the palm of our hand. In comparison with today’s decorativeness,
imported from the West, the testaceous 1960s can remind us of a
daring curve, reflecting Man’s first flight into space. We have
enough distance now from these 1960s objects, not to expect
functionality, and to be aware of their dream dimensions, in many
ways closer to inter-war avant-garde. This similarity used to be
kept hidden; today it is obvious.
The “Brussels style” reached one of its peaks in 1960s
Czechoslovakia. It was everywhere; even in photography. Marie
Šechtlová was one its proponents, even though her work had much
wider scope. Her fame was possibly greater than that of
photographers such as Eva Fuková, Běla Kolářová and Emila Medková,
all wives of Prague artists. Her style was less Prague, and more
European (or perhaps more accurately, Brussels). Especially her
photomontage methods she shared with Eva Fukova. These two artists
joined in 1966 in the creation of a book about New York (Eva
Fuková, Miloň Novotný and Marie Šechtlová, New York, Prague, 1966).
Marie showed herself to be a pioneer of colour photography, with
her colourful time-exposures capturing the lines made by lights at
night. This was unique at the time. Many of her other photographs
depict her experiences from her hard-won trips abroad, especially
to Paris, Brussels, Moscow and St Petersburg (Leningrad at that
At the heart of Marie Šechtlová’s work in the 1960s are the
photographs and photomontages, which defined artistic photography
at that time. Up till then, art photography was mostly about using
complicated techniques to achieve the artistic impression.
The 1960s brought a grittiness of hard black-and-white, reducing
the greyscale, and increasing the contrast. Marie Šechtlová however
chose a more delicate dialogue between grey softness and the
clarity of darker contour. Her insight changed the human shape into
art, with a result that was both natural and wonderful. The body
shapes and shadows in her photographs are an analogy of the
architectural and design lines that were in vogue at the time.
The history of Czech photography is pretty much the history of
Prague photography. Tábor fulfils the imperative of the epoch:
think globally, and act locally. One of the important parts of the
Tábor whole, the Šechtl & Voseček studios, is having an
intensive renaissance of the family tradition, and is one of foci
of European photography. The spirit of the place echoes in Marie
Šechtlová’s desire to experiment, because here exists the half
forgotten tradition of the avant-garde Linie group, and of its
photographical section Fotolinie. Shadow plays, photomontages and
other experiments by such as Josef Bartuška and Karel Valter in the
1930s were based on a view of photography that was shared by Marie
Another dimension of Marie Šechtlová’s creativity was the link
with literature, especially poetry. Poet Jan Noha was inspired by
her photography to write memorable verses, and she in return
illustrated his Ode to South Bohemia.
The scope of Marie’s work extended from photomontages to street
moments, and excelled in both domains. Surprisingly, the
photomontages and street moments coexisted, did not interfere with
each other, and could be employed as illustrations. Marie’s candid
photography, inspired by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, loses
nothing in comparison with the work of photographers such as Dagmar
Hochová and Miloň Novotný.
No less admirable were the portraits and nudes created by Marie.
Nude photography was just fighting its way through socialistic
prudishness. Among the portraits, we find notable emigrants such as
Josef Šíma and Jiří Voskovec. Marie Šechtlová’s work in the 1960s
was remarkable, and ensures her an honoured place in the history of
21/11/06 Antonín Dufek
Marie Šechtlová – Nee
(25. 3.) Marie Kokešová born in Chomutov, daughter of clerk Jan
Kokeš and his wife Františka.
Kokeš family moved to Tábor.
Marie matriculated from Tábor High School.
(15. 5.) Married Josef Šechtl.
Completed apprenticeship in photography, at photographic studio
of Šechtl & Voseček in Tábor (founded 1876).
( 17. 3.) Daughter Marie Michaela born.
Šechtl & Voseček studio nationalised by Communist
Marie and Josef Šechtl won second prize in national amateur
movie competition, in category “Movie Poetry”, for movie
Movie “Moon” presented at UNICA international festival, in Ems,
First prize in national competition of Photography Association,
in Artistic Photography category, for cycle “Come to Mama,
Series of photographs accompanying poem by Jan Noha, published
in “Photography Revue”.
First exhibition in ZK Jiskra, in Tábor.
Exhibition in Halle, Germany.
First and second prizes in competition of Photography
Association for series “Almanac 1960”, and for “Boys of Our
Provided illustrations for book by J. Štych, “The Children of
Nominated for membership of Association of Czechoslovak
First prize at Exhibition of Czechoslovak Art Photography in
First prize in Reportage category for series “One to Another”,
in competition of Photography Association.
Provided illustrations for book by A. Kusák, “As the Seagull
Trip to Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev with group of professional
First prize for series of photographs, “The Face of the
First prize for series of photographs, “Rain Song”, in
exhibition “Great Friendship”.
Exhibitions in Kunštát Palace in Brno; in Chrudim; in Uherské
Hradiště; in Luhačovice; and in Gottwaldow.
Exhibition and catalogue in House of Arts in České Budějovice;
in Tábor; in Soběslav; and in Písek.
Trips to Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and USA.
Exhibition in Mladá Fronta gallery in Prague.
Exhibition “Wystawa Fotografiky Marii Šechtlovej”, in Warsaw,
Third and fourth prizes in Photographic Art competition in East
Special prize in competition in magazine “Mladý svět”, “Unknown
Beauties of Czechoslovakia”, prize two week trip to East Germany
Admitted to Membership of Association of Czechoslovak
Exhibition in Brussels.
Book “New York” with photographs by M. Šechtlová, E. Fuková and
Publication “Prague on a Rose Leaf”, with Jan Noha’s
Publication “South Bohemia”, with Jan Noha’s poetry.
Travelling exhibition in Cairo, Alexandria and Berlin.
Exhibitions in Paris, and in České Budějovice.
Exhibition “South Bohemia” in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and
Marie Šechtlová’s hands severely burned by X-rays in medical
First joint exhibition of Marie and Josef Šechtl in Prague and
Exhibition of Marie Šechtlová and A. Robinsonová in Alexandria
and Cairo, Egypt.
Exhibitions in Cheb, and in Vimperk.
Publication of “Prague”, by M. and J. Šechtl.
Publication of “Jindřichohradecko”, M. and J. Šechtl.
M. and J. Šechtl illustration of book, “Brittany, Daughter of
the Ocean”, by F. Kožík.
Publication of “South Bohemia”, M. and J. Šechtl, with J.
Participation in competition, “Woman Behind the Camera” (in
years 1975, 1976 and 1977).
Publication of “Hradec Králové”, by M. and J. Šechtl.
Publication, with photography of M. Šechtlová and text by B.
Stehlíková, on Leningrad.
Publication of “World of Puppets”, by J. Malík and J. V.
Dvořák, with photography by M. and J. Šechtl.
Exhibition M. and J. Šechtl in Tábor theatre.
Publication M. and J. Šechtl, “The Child in the World”.
Publication M. and J. Šechtl, “Tábor Cultural Heritage”, with
text by P. Korčák.
Exhibition “Metamorphoses of Tábor from Archive of Three
Generations”, in Tábor Cultural Centre.
Publication of “Southern Bohemian Treasury”, by M. and J.
Exhibition “Colour Photography”, by M. and J. Šechtl in Písek
Publication, with photographs of M. and J. Šechtl, Zdeněk
Sklenář by M. Šmejkal.
Exhibition “Colour Photography”, in Dačice.
Books “Paris”, with text by Jiří Mucha, and “Historical
Firearms”, were prepared for printing, but because of political
upheavals, were never published.
Exhibition “Anthology”, in Tábor.
Publication “Tábor, as Photographed by the Šechtl Family,
Exhibition “Review and Dreamy Return, Photos and Computer
Graphics of M. Šechtlová”, in Sezimovo Ústí.
Exhibition “Five Generations of Šechtl Family, Photography and
Graphics”, in Písek Museum.
Exhibition “Five Generations of Šechtl Family”, in
At the beginning of the sixties, the mood in Czechoslovakia was
very depressed. The Communist regime had lasted for 12 years
already. The failure of the Hungarian Uprising deeply disappointed
all the people who had hoped that the Communist takeover was only
temporary. Writers and artists searched for how they could find
some optimism in life. They found it in what became known as
“Poetry of the Everyday”.
Jan Noha’s poem “Jeden druhému” (“One to Another”) appealed to
me. I made photographs to accompany it, and this cycle won the
first prize in a national photography competition. It was an
encouragement to Jan Noha as well. He was having a hard time in
that period. Jiří Pištora wrote later about Jan Noha: “His openness
and purity are for our taste too fragile. He was, I think, one of
the last of the leftist intellectuals, who expressed their protest
against judicial murders in Russia. In 1962, he was interrogated by
police regarding his political views. He was harassed by the
authorities until his death in 1966.”
From this cooperation was created our later books “All Eyes” and
“Prague on a Rose Leaf”. Other photographic themes were inspired by
the works of Fráňa Šrámek, František Hrubín, Vítězslav Nezval,
František Kožík and others.
My friend Hana Schlee invited me to Brno in September 1963. She
promised me great photo opportunities, as the renowned Jerevan
Circus had pitched its tent directly opposite their house. She was
right. I so much admired the artistry, the animal performances, and
the sublime comedy of the mime artist Jengibar, that I extended my
visit to two weeks.
A year later, an amazing thing happened. I was driving in Prague
and at a busy intersection, I felt someone was watching me. I
searched the crowd, and recognised the lion-tamer from the circus.
He appeared to recognise me as well. His gaze was so hypnotic that
I understood his success in controlling animals. I found that the
circus was in Prague, and I was able to visit and give them copies
of my photos, to their great pleasure.
In 1963 I had the opportunity, with group of Czech qartists, to
visit Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev. Our guide decided that we had to
see all the museums and galleries. It was interesting, but I was
more interested in making photographs of people. At the Embassy,
they suggested that I visit the summer residence of artists, where
I met many interesting writers, including Konstantin Paustovsky,
Leonid Leonov, and Korney Czuchovsky. Czuchovsky posed for me
several times, once even dressed in his academic gown. The
atmosphere was very friendly, and it seemed they did understand my
Russian. Stephan Scipachov, who I also photographed, commended my
Later, when I asked at the Embassy for the address of Yevgeny
Yevtushenko, and other poets whose works were at that time taboo in
Czechoslovakia, it was suggested that I not visit them, because I
could end up as “Spejbl” (a famous Czech puppet actor): In a joke
that was popular at that time, when Spejbl’s son Hurvínek returned
from the Soviet Union, he was asked whether he had seen the great
advancement in Russia. He said he had. When they asked him where
his father was, he just answered: “He is still there, because he
didn’t see it”.
This had a very different atmosphere from Moscow— the Hermitage,
Admiralty building, the Palace of Peter the Great, and groups of
sailors on the streets. The most remarkable sight for us was the
“White Nights”. Late at night, we were tired, but the world was
full of a strange light. Where was it coming from? Where could it
best be seen? I went exploring to Finnish Bay, with the painter
Vladimír Paleček. From the bridge, we saw a great building whose
windows reflected the glowing light. Vladimír took out his
sketchbook, while I went down to the river for a better view. When
I returned, I found Vladimír had been arrested and accused of
A youth with a little badge led us to the Police station. Hours
of waiting and interrogation followed, but in the end, they let us
go. The youth with the badge tried to make up to us for our
trouble, by taking us on a shortcut. Soon, we were all three
arrested. We were then joined by another patrol, and a stray dog.
The sea was so calm, it appeared like a line of light. I took a
photo of Vladimír. The photo was published in a magazine, under the
title “Finnish Bay”. Vladimír complains that it has become his
nickname from then on.
When I returned from the trip to Russia in 1963, my husband told
me that he had booked me to go on a trip to the United States,
again together with other graphic artists. He himself, as a
bourgeois, would not be allowed to leave the country. I was
pleased, but worried about how I would find the money. The trip was
going to cost Kč 14,000, plus another Kč 3,500 to buy 100 US
dollars. These were dedicated for the tips we had to leave, for
services in hotels. With a sinking heart, I went to the savings
bank to withdraw my last Kč 7,000. When I got there, I found that I
had won the bonus draw. That was the only reason I was able to
afford the trip.
We were scheduled to go to the US at the time of the World Fair
in New York. Some of the party of 32 artists were members of the
Czech Communist Party, and the US Consulate delayed their visas,
and therefore our trip. The itinerary of the trip was impressive,
despite the fact that we missed the exhibition because of our
delay. We saw the Guggenheim Gallery, Chinatown, the Empire State
Building, and the interior of the United Nations building. I took
countless photos, and from this, and the work of three other
photographers, the book “New York” was created.
Never before had I been so dazzled as when I visited New York.
In Czechoslovakia, everything was grey and sad. New York was
bright, far into the night— a photographer’s paradise. The day
before I left, I set out to capture all these impressions.
Suddenly, I realised it was midnight, and the streets were getting
empty. I was carrying many cameras, and I felt afraid. I knew I was
close to my hotel but somehow, I had got lost. A passing police car
stopped for me, and I got in. They started to ask me questions, and
after my experiences in the USSR (where I had been arrested a few
times), I was afraid that they were taking me to the police
station. I could see that we were going in the opposite direction
to my hotel, and I was desperately pointing out that my hotel was
on Fifth Avenue, but they ignored me. I was searching in my bag for
the hotel’s address, and pulled out all my cameras and lenses from
my bag. They just exchanged a look and carried on. I was feeling
hopeless, and I saw myself being arrested, questioned and
completely lost. Then the car braked abruptly, a policeman opened
my door, and I was standing in front of my hotel.
Later, I realised that Fifth Avenue is a one-way street!
Before leaving for US, I got the idea to make photographs of a
day in the life of Jan Werich, and of Jiří Voskovec. (Jan Werich
and Jiří Voskovec were two very popular Czech actors of the time.
They both came to the United States during World War II. Jiří
Voskovec remained in the US, while Jan Werich returned to
Czechoslovakia.) Jan Werich liked the idea. In New York, our
programme was very busy, and we were starting at 9am every day.
During my morning call to Jan Voskovec, he told me, still half
asleep, “I should have guessed—a Czech! Who else would call so
early in the morning?!” Despite that, he was nice to me, and told
me to call again in two days.
Unfortunately that day we had already scheduled a boat trip
around Manhattan Island. After having disturbed him once, I didn’t
want to call in the morning again. After we returned, Jiří Voskovec
told me that he had arranged a time for me this day and there was
not much time left. We met at Greenwich Village, and after few
photos he invited me home, where I photographed him with his wife.
Then he brought me to the theatre where he was performing in
Durrenmatt’s “The Physicists”. During the performance, of course, I
wasn’t able to take photographs, so I have only a few pictures, and
a postcard where he thanks me for the photos. Jan Werich wrote
about my photos for the magazine Vlasta, a very interesting article
that was published in December 1964.
In 1965, I was invited to exhibit in Brussels. I had just
finished an exhibition in the Fronta gallery in Prague, and it was
necessary to take the photographs to Brussels by car. Because of
this, my husband, for a first time, was allowed to leave the
country. We didn’t know how much trouble we would have. At the
border, they wanted a monetary guarantee. They were amazed that we
only carried fifty US dollars, the maximum foreign currency that we
were allowed to exchange. As we left Germany, we got the money
back, and travelled from there nonstop, as we had no money to pay
for accommodation. We set up the exhibition, after which we had a
celebratory meal, and were given a farewell gift of excellent
cognac and some petrol vouchers. So equipped, we decided to return
via Paris. Luckily, I was able to sell five photos to the magazine
“Photo Cine Revue”. This money enabled us to stay a whole
week in pre-Christmas Paris – an unforgettable experience.
I don’t know why I started on the Music Series. I had liked
singing, both at school with Professor Vaníček, and at home with my
mum. But I hated violin lessons. My father had decided I should be
a teacher, like his five siblings, and for that, it was essential
that I learn to play a musical instrument. I begrudged the loss of
my free time. From that time, I entertained the idea that musical
instruments could play themselves. Passing under a tree, one could
hear beautiful sounds of a violin. A river weir might contain the
silvery keyboard of a piano. Birds’ voices could carry the pipes of
an organ, praising God. I completed the Music Series, and entered
it in the State-wide competition of the Association of Czechoslovak
Graphic Artists, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the
liberation of Czechoslovakia. Out of all Southern Bohemia, two of
us were commended—František Peterka and me. I felt tt was a great
honour for me.
… and the view is great. I was fortunate to see all of Southern
Bohemia from the air. I flew in an Army helicopter, with a pilot
who obligingly returned and circled every locality at my request. I
admired the beauty of castles, chateaux, river-bends, lakes and
dams. Only the forest made me uneasy. We flew so close I felt I
could reach out and pick a fir cone. The photos were to illustrate
my next book, on Southern Bohemia.
Unfortunately, following 1968, new officials came into power.
Eventually, a small series of photographs was published, in
“Jihočeská Pravda”, under the title, “The Script was
Lost”. The book was never published.
While in Paris in 1967, I remembered the apartment in Prague of
Jiří Voskovec, full of the paintings of Josef Šíma. Voskovec
claimed Josef Šíma as his spiritual father, and told me that if I
was ever in Paris, I should contact Šíma. Šíma welcomed me and my
husband, and agreed to pose for photos in his studio, and on his
The smell of garlic soup wafted from the kitchen. I remember his
gigantic wooden table, where I laid out some of my photos, and some
drawings by my 15-year-old daughter. One picture of Prague gave him
pause. He said he could never return to Prague, because all his
friends there were dead. I gave him that picture as a memento,
which pleased him. In return, he gave me one of his paintings,
titled “Memory of Creation”.
At the time of our visit, the Paris newspapers were full of
caricatures of politicians, drawn by cartoonist Jean Effel. He
invited us to meet him, and was a wonderful photographic
model—totally unselfconscious. As we left, he drew a keepsake for
me in his most recent book, “De la Debré à la Pompidour”.
I was showing this to my husband, and remembering the poor
remuneration at home. Effel wondered out loud, “How much do you
think I would have got for that?” Like a shot, my husband answered,
“In Czechoslovakia, it would have been at least twenty years”.
It seemed that the communist regime was passing, and everything
had come to the very beautiful Prague Spring in 1968. Sadly, by
August 21, everything was over. For me it was even more tragic.
Because of the mistake of doctor, my hands were burned by X-rays,
and I was facing amputations.
Professor Raul Tubiano in Paris managed to save my fingers. The
Czech Government paid for only part of the treatment, and I needed
plastic surgery. The Professor and his wife invited me to stay in
their house while I was being treated. From their balcony, I
watched the Seine and Notre Dame, in all their moods. The beauty of
the view made me forget my pain. I wanted to produce a book on
Paris to thank the Professor.
Professor Tubiano is now dead, as is Jiří Mucha, who wrote the
text. I am still hoping to complete this book.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Josef and Charlotta Tomek, who
cared for me during my convalescence. Before he emigrated in 1948,
Josef was a friend of my husband. His mother, a charming lady,
celebrated Christmas and other festivals with us. Our first visit
to Paris was her idea. As we were departing for Brussels in 1965,
she brought a big box for Josef, saying, “Paris is so close to
Brussels”. Josef’s house was half-built, and he himself lived in a
gazebo in the garden, but somehow, he still managed to provide
accommodation for us. When in later years I visited Professor
Tubiano, Josef was my host.
In August 1968 I was invited to Paris for an inspection of my
burned hands. We decided to make it a family trip, and to visit
Brittany. We saw many beautiful cities, and many ports and
interesting people. When we camped on the beach near Piriac, we
heard from a radio that had been brought to the beach by a couple
nearby: „L’agression Soviétique en Tchécoslovaquie…“ On the trip to
Paris, we received a lot of solidarity from French people. They
were stopping us and trying to help us. In Paris, the whole fence
of the Czech embassy was covered by offers.
Everyone believed that we wouldn’t return to occupied
Czechoslovakia. This was also what Mr. G assmann (owner of famous
photo-laboratories) thought. Because he really regarded my
husband’s work in colour photography, when we came to say “Goodbye”
to him, he offered him a job, and said that he would help me to get
my hands cured, and pay my daughter’s art studies. He opened a safe
and offered us a wad of paper money to help us in the beginning. He
didn’t understand why we refused.
But for us, we were coming home. On the borders, it looked as if
there was an army settlement. The Czech policeman, who was checking
our car, quickly closed the cover when he saw the number of
magazines we were bringing home. We returned safely, even though
all the signs on the streets had been turned around, to confuse the
of Šechtl and Voseček Museum of Photography:
“Marie Šechtlová: Photographic stories”
The exhibition consists of 36 contemporary laboratory
photographic prints and 40 new prints from original negatives. The
new prints have been made digitally, under supervision of Marie
Šechtlová, using Epson 4800 inkjet printer, with care to match the
appearance of contemporary laboratory prints.
The exhibition has been prepared by:
currator of the exhibition
Jan Hubička, Marie Michaela
Šechtlová and Eva Hubičková
organized the exhibition, and brought it into being
provided a home for the exhibition
Mrs Eleanor Schlee and Mr John
translated texts into English
Mr Jakub Troják
designed typography for invitation cards, captions and
We are very grateful to everyone who has helped in creating this
exhibition. We also gratefully acknowledge the support we have
received from the Town of Tábor and the South Bohemian Region.