on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Endframe: “Evening on Charles Bridge” by Josef Sudek

Vanda Ralevska talks about one of her favourite images

Vanda Ralevska

Vanda Ralevska

I like those moments in time when everything goes quiet, my heartbeat gets faster, I take a deep breath and the time stops… until the shutter clicks and the moment that took your breath away is preserved… forever…


Choosing a favourite photograph is seemingly an easy task. However like many others before me I found it quite the opposite. It is hard enough to select a favourite photographer, not to mention singling out just one of their photographs.

I can think of many images I love and many photographers I admire, however the more I think the more my mind keeps returning to two names. One with a lifetime passion for wilderness, the other with an inexhaustible belief in beauty all around us. Both with extreme patience and drive to chase the rare moments when light transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Both are close to my personal journey for different reasons, both with an approach to photography and life that is close to my heart. One with a passion for capturing the special quality of light and landscape in the Scottish Highlands, my most favourite part of the world I know. The other with an enduring love for the magic of Prague, the city that has held a special place in my heart since my childhood.

For Colin Prior "photography is like the endless quest for unicorns", the never-ending search for those magical qualities of light and land that come together in extraordinary ways, and which he goes to extremes for. I know I will never be able to ascend a mountain in the darkness on my own, or to camp on the summit again and again until the conditions are right, and the rising sun turns the world below into a magical spectacle. But Colin Prior's extraordinary images bring me closer to those moments of magic, which according to his own words are “almost a spiritual experience”.

My partner and I share love for the Scottish Highlands, and together we have climbed many of the tops that Colin Prior captured so masterfully in his stunning images. We have a few of them on our walls to remind us of the breathtaking views we have experienced ourselves.

However my favourite photograph is neither by Colin Prior nor of the Scottish Highlands. It is a view that I fell in love with when I was a child, and that I keep going back to, even after moving from the Czech Republic where I was born and where I grew up, to England. Whenever I get a chance to visit my beloved city of Prague my first steps lead to Charles Bridge and Kampa. It is a place that holds a lot of happy memories, including those I share with my partner. It is a place I can never get tired of.

Therefore my favourite image is that of Charles Bridge by Josef Sudek, my favourite Czech photographer, and one of the masters of 20th century photography.


The reason I love this photograph goes far beyond the personal experience of the view. It is the light that prevails in the darkness. The light that always finds its way through the shadows in all Josef Sudek's images. He had a priceless gift. He had an indestructible will to live and love for beauty. Even in his darkest moments he was able to find light. When he lost his arm in the First World War he remembered: "The war destroyed my arm, later I lost it. Of course I did not enjoy that, but at least I was consoling myself that I did not lose my head. That would have been worse".

This unfortunate accident altered Josef Sudek's life journey, no longer being able to carry on working as a bookbinder he immersed himself into photography. Fortunately for the rest of us. He became a man roaming the streets of Prague, bent under the weight of a cumbersome archaic camera mounted on a tripod, capturing lyrical images that reveal the mystery, timelessness and romance of this enchanting city; the narrow cobbled streets, the haunting nightscapes, charming gardens and parks, evocative details, delicate and gentle landscapes along the Vltava river. He captured the spirit of Prague as well as his own. He became the "Poet of Prague". He turned everything he captured with his camera into visual poetry, similarly to written poetry about Prague by his close friend and one of my favourite Czech poets Jaroslav Seifert.


Josef Sudek's favourite saying was "music keeps playing" in which he expressed his ceaseless optimism and belief that life goes on no matter what, that beauty can be found everywhere, you just need to look..
I truly believe that poetry and music make my life richer, "no music, no life", they say. I prefer to think of it as "no music, no soul". Josef Sudek had a great passion for music, especially that of his fellow countrymen Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák and Leoš Janácek, which endlessly flows through his work and life. "This listening to music shows up in my work like a reflection in a mirror. I relax and the world looks less unpleasant, and I can see that all around there is beauty, such as music".

Josef Sudek's favourite saying was "music keeps playing" in which he expressed his ceaseless optimism and belief that life goes on no matter what, that beauty can be found everywhere, you just need to look. As he once said: "Why should we frown all the time, when there is so much beauty all around. Sometimes it is enough to look, even just at little sparrows bathing in a puddle".

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