Born in 1938 in Boscovice, Moravia.
Lives in Paris and Prague.
After studying in Prague, Koudelka worked as an aeronautical engineer, while also photographing the theatre and Gypsies in Czechoslovakia. His photographs of the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968 led to him being anonymously awarded the Robert Capa Gold Medal. 16 years later, his name was credited to the images he’d taken. In 1970, he found political asylum in Great Britain and became stateless just before joining Magnum.
An exhibition was dedicated to him at the MoMA in 1975, the year that Gypsies, his first book, was published, which was to be followed by Exiles in 1988. In 1986, he participated in the DATAR mission – a government sponsored programme aimed at documenting changes in the French landscape – and used the panoramic camera for the first time. His reflections on man’s effect on the landscape resulted in the book Chaos in 1999.
Koudelka, the first retrospective book of the photographer’s work, was published by Delpire in 2006. This was followed by Invasion Prague: 68, published in eleven languages, along with a revised and enhanced version of Gypsies. Koudelka has received numerous awards, among which the Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1987), a Grand Prix Cartier-Bresson (1991) and the ICP Infinity Award (2004). France named him an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1992.
Josef Koudelka presented his work at the Rencontres d’Arles in 2002: Retrospective, at the église des Frères-Prêcheurs; in 2006: Camargue at the Cloître Saint-Trophime and in 2012: Gypsies at the Église Sainte-Anne.
Portrait of Josef Koudelka by René Burri (Magnum Photos)