I have to shoot three cassettes of film a day, even when not 'photographing', in order to keep the eye in practice.
I photograph only something that has to do with me, and I never did anything that I did not want to do. I do not do editorial and I never do advertising. No, my freedom is something I do not give away easily.
I try to be a photographer. I cannot talk. I am not interested in talking. If I have anything to say, it may be found in my images.
My work has no theme. I don’t care if my photographs get published, and I have no interest in “the news.” But the invasion of Prague was not news, it was my life.
...photography was easier in the beginning. It’s like a dart game: at the beginning, you can toss them anywhere, they will always be well placed. Wherever you hit is the right place. But once you start building something, you realize that certain pieces are missing.
I never stay in one country more than three months. Why? Because I was interested in seeing, and if I stay longer I become blind.
It never seemed important to me that my photos be published. It’s important that I take them. There were periods where I didn’t have money, and I would imagine that someone would come to me and say: “Here is money, you can go do your photography, but you must not show it.” I would have accepted right away. On the other hand, if someone had come to me saying: “Here is money to do your photography, but after your death it must be destroyed,” I would have refused.
[My] photographs are proof of what happened. When I go to Russia, sometimes I meet ex-soldiers… They say: “We came to liberate you….” I say: “Listen, I think it was quite different. I saw people being killed.” They say: No. We never… no shooting. No. No.” So I can show them my Prague 1968 photographs and say: “Listen, these are my pictures. I was there.” And they have to believe me.
What matter most to me (...) is to take photographs; to continue taking them and not to repeat myslef. To go further, to go as far as I can.
If I couldn’t shoot lots of photos, I would not be the photographer that I am. Still, the cost of film has often been a problem. At times, to save money, I had to work with remainders of movie-film, and even to buy film that was stolen. But when I have only three rolls of film left in my bag, I panic.
Personally, I have had the good fortune of always being able to do what I wanted, never working for others. Maybe it is a silly principle, but the idea that no one can buy me is important for me. I refuse assignments, even for projects that I have decided to do anyhow. It is somewhat the same with my books. When my first book, the one on the gypsies, was published, it was hard for me to accept the idea that I could no longer choose the people to whom I would show my photos, that any one could buy them.
Sometimes I photograph without looking through the viewfinder. I have mastered that well enough, it is almost as if I were looking through it.
If I am dissatisfied, it’s simply because good photos are few and far between. A good photo is a miracle.
The changes taking place in this part of Europe are enormous and very rapid. One world is disappearing. I am trying to photograph what’s left. I have always been drawn to what is ending, what will soon no longer exist.
Listen, I have never had any hero in my life or in photography. I just travel, I look and everything influences me.
When I first started to take photographs in Czechoslovakia, I met this old gentleman, this old photographer, who told me a few practical things. One of the things he said was, “Josef, a photographer works on the subject, but the subject works on the photographer.”