The Post-1989 Period: New Beginnings

The end of the communist regime and transformation of Czechoslovakia into a federal republic introduced new conditions for the authors: taboo topics were no longer taboo, the works of photographers who emigrated were allowed to be nationally distributed (Matej Štepita-Klaučo, Bohumil Puskailer, Yuri Dojc and others).
The founding of photography as a branch of study at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava in 1990 (since 1993 already the separate Department of Photography and New Media) made it possible to study fine art photography for the first time at university in the Slovak territory. The first teachers of the Department of Photography include the figures of the contemporary Slovak photography, such as Ľubo Stacho, Milota Havránková, Ján Krížik, Filip Vančo, Jana Hojstričová, Silvia Saparová, Miro Švolík.
In the same year, the Film and Television Faculty was established at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava with cinematography as a branch of study. In the Czech Republic, the Institute of Creative Photography with the part-time study is founded at the Faculty of Philosophy and Science of the Silesian University in Opava also in the same year. In the course of the years, the Institute of Creative Photography produced prominent graduates, such as documentary photographers Andrej Balco (the co-founder and member of the Sputnik Photos) or Lucia Nimcová.
The Month of Photography Festival was held for the first time in 1990 as well. It is still organized by the Central European House of Photography and takes place in November. The festival is linked to the Pan-European Month of Photography festival in the cities such as Paris, Luxembourg, Ljubljana and others. The Fotofo association, or rather the Central European House of Photography, has for long been active in the editorial, exhibition and organizational activities in the field of fine art and documentary photography. In 1996, the House of Photography was founded in Poprad and Liptovský Mikuláš. Besides the exhibition activities, it regularly holds the Summer Photo School, where lectors and lecturers from all around the world meet.


The myth of Catholic Slovakia is dispelled by reporter Andrej Bán in his book Iné Slovensko (The Other Slovakia; 1999, 2005). Matúš Zajac has been studying the forms of faith for many years. The compilation of photographs from more than 20 years of activities was presented in the book of the same name in 2011. Martin Kollár, a professional cameraman, depicts absurd and humorous situations in Slovakia and around the world. The book Rusíni (the Rusyns) by photographers Jozef Ondzik and Tomáš Leňo presents an image of contemporary life of the minority.
The annual grants by the Institute for Public Affairs, Slovakia: A Pictorial Report on the State of the Country, represent an outstanding project promoting documentary photography. The Dutch photographer and activist, Illah van Oijen, explores the transforming cities of Slovakia with a kind of sociological interest (the books Bratislava – mesto na mieru, Urban Landscapes of Bratislava; Košice – dzivosť v srdci, Urban Landscapes of Košice). In his solo works, photographer Boris Németh is discovering unobtrusive metaphysical situations; in the project Premeny Slovenska (Transformations of Slovakia) and in cooperation with photographer Ján Viazanička, journalist Jana Močková and screenwriter Miriam Petráň, he explores the mutual relationship of people to one another and the country in which they are living.
The project Budovanie Slovenska (Building Slovakia) by Juraj Fifík and Tomáš Manina is a documentation of industrial buildings that came into existence in the 1940s – 60s in our territory, created with the aim of their depiction as cultural heritage that is equal to historic architecture and nature.
Specific features can be found in a subjective, fragmentary documentary (Filip Vančo).


Photography as an “imprint of reality” raised expectations that it is a faithful image of the world around us. With the birth of photography, there also appeared possibilities of its adjustment and falsification, from re-staging of situations to retouching. As in the case of any new medium or invention, routine ways of the use and perception of photography were formed. Artist Magda Stanová comments on some traditions in her work V tieni fotografie (In the Shadow of Photography). The acceptance of photography as a medium and an art form also led to the establishment of criteria used for its assessment and evaluation.
As digital recording arose, the issue of manipulation of the reality and relation between the picture and its object became more urgent again. Some photographic and fine art works, which reflected the proper identity of picture and our usual habits of perception for a long time, became focused on a new context after the initial fascination with the possibilities of a digital post-production. One of the first authors who touched upon this subject was the conceptual and post-conceptual artist Peter Rónai (In Medias Res, 1998) or the pioneer in computer graphics, Martin Šperka – Interaktívna sférická panoráma (Interactive Spherical Panorama, 2000 – 2001, in cooperation with Branislav Lehotský).
In the series Fatescapes/Osudové krajiny od 2009 (Fatescapes/Fateful Countries since 2009), Pavel Maria Smejkal has digitally removed the chief motifs from historical documentary photographs that became icons of their time (and whose authenticity was often questioned already at that time). In the work Zygota (Zygote, 2011), Peter Cibák unites cyberspace with photography to depict the power relationship between the administrator (authority figure) and the user: cyberspace does not provide just an alternative view of reality.


After the graphically adjusted nude photographs or playful staged photographs of the new wave, there also emerges the theme of a nude, or rather depiction of the body in new contexts.
The body is becoming an object and is subjected to scientific fine art research. Silvia Saparová works with casts of human body in transparent materials placed in the space in which she is looking for a “different” body (cycles Genotypes, Corporealities, Space for Woman). In the reflections of parts of the body, Dorota Sadovská creates visual symbols, far from the currently established patterns of beauty. Jana Hojstričová also reacts to the expected physical appearance of a woman – Veľké v malom (Large in Small, 2005). The author dealt with the theme of sexuality – Od siedmej do ôsmej (From Seven to Eight O’clock, 2000), Od desiatej do polnoci (From Ten O’clock to Midnight, 2002) – later with the issue of family and mutual relationships which are reflected in Rodinný portrét (Family Portrait, 2012). In Unavená domácnosť (Tired Household, 2012), she adopts an analytical approach to the issue of women that “have blended with the furniture”. In the cycle Miesto činu (Place of Crime, 2000), Ingrid Patočková and Galina Lišháková depict the traces of missing objects and marks on the skin.


A Finnish photographer, Maija Laurinen, creates landscape and still life photographs with a minimal degree of poetry, using fuzziness and light colours. In his large-size landscapes full of details, Ján Kekeli draws inspiration from the 19th century. Urban space, its forms and usage, are examined by photographer Olja Triaška Stefanović – e.g. Bývalé priestory (Former Spaces), Diery (Holes), This Could Be a Place for Nice Life.