INTERVIEW WITH THE LEGEND OF CZECH REPORTAGE PHOTOGRAPHY, ENRICHED WITH HIS EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS
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Jan Sibik is, without doubt, one of the legends of Czech reportage photography. As a photographer, he began to assert himself in the late 1980s, when Eastern Europe was about to revolutionize and subsequently change the regime. In 1988, he photographed the events leading up to the revolution. A year later, he documented the end of communism in Europe, the Velvet Revolution in former Czechoslovakia, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the bloody demise of the Nicolae Ceaușescu’s regime in Romania. As a photojournalist, he witnessed a regime’s destruction that would never have allowed him to travel and report on what he might have been involved in during the coming decades. He has made hundreds of trips to all corners of the world with the clear goal of conveying the most authentic photos of events whose common denominator is the number of victims.
He witnessed massacres in Sierra Leone and Liberia, famine in Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia. He experienced the consequences of the earthquake in Armenia and Turkey, an exodus of Iraqi Kurds to Iran. He has witnessed wars in Afghanistan, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Abkhazia, Georgia, Chechnya, Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh, South Africa and Iraq. He documented genocide in Rwanda, refugee camps in Tanzania, Sudan, Haiti, Angola and Somalia. He also worked repeatedly in Cuba. In recent years, Jan Sibik has focused on the conflict in Palestine. Throughout 2004, he photographed the AIDS epidemic in Ukraine. In 2005, he noted the terrible consequences of the storm wave in Sri Lanka, the bizarre conditions in communist North Korea, the funeral of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican and that of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, the departure of Israeli settlers from Gaza, or the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In 2007, he returned to North Korea. Then he shot HIV-positive prostitutes in Africa’s largest slum in Kibera. In Sierra Leone, he photographed the work of modern slaves in the diamond mines and on the outskirts of the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, the lives of people who sort waste at the world’s largest landfill. He was the sole last reporter who photographed the Arab revolutions in Egypt and Libya, the mourning after the terrorist attack in Norway, the riots in London and the famous funeral of Czech President Vaclav Havel.
Jan Sibik was in the right place at the right time, and destiny enabled him to experience the golden era of photography. Nevertheless, he isn’t the kind of sentimental nostalgic personality, trapped in the retro era who would benefit most from it. He goes with the times and is always active. He does not adhere stubbornly to the same topic, but he never would go into some genres of photography. With a healthy dose of common sense, he has a natural ability to discern what to focus on in a certain period of time, what makes sense and is worthy to go for, as well as what justifiably makes no sense.
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