Born in 1938. Czech, naturalised French, lives in Paris and in Prague, joined Magnum in 1971.
Having studied engineering at the Technical University in Prague, he worked as an aeronautical engineer, while photographing theatrical productions and gypsies in Czechoslovakia. His coverage of the invasion of Prague by Russian tanks in 1968 was awarded, the next year, the 1969 Robert Capa Gold Medal under the name of ‘anonymous’. 16 years later, after his father died, his photographs were credited with his name.
In 1970, he sought asylum in England and had become stateless. An exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art was dedicated to him in 1975, the year his book “Gypsies” was released, followed by “Exils” in 1988.
In 1986, he participated in the DATAR project documenting the urban and rural landscapes of France. He started using a panoramic camera and in 1990 he returned to Czechoslovakia for the first time and photographed one of the most devastated landscapes of Central Europe, the “black triangle”. As a result of his work dealing with his concern for how contemporary man has influenced the landscape he released the book ‘Chaos’ in 1999.
In 2006, the first retrospective book, realised by Robert Delpire, came out in France and 7 other countries. In 2008, “Invasion Prague 68” was edited in 11 languages. In 2011, a revisited version of the book “Gitans” was re-edited from the original 1968 dummy. The same year, the exhibition “Invasion Prague’68” was presented for the first time in Moscow.
Josef Koudelka received a number of awards, including the “Grand Prix National de la Photographie” in France (1987), the Henri Cartier Bresson award (1991) and l’ICP Infinity Award (2004). He was named Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture in 2002.