Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of my questions regarding your work at Stills. I thought the show was poignant and paused congratulations—it’s wonderful for you to share your work here with us.
Thank you for your kind e-mail, for writing that my exhibition in Stills is beautiful and poignant. And for your questions, I apologise for taking so long to answer.
RR: I’d like to begin by reflecting on the life of this body of work, which spans nearly half a century. How did it feel to look back on and even hold the works as you were selecting them for display?
ML: I am very grateful I was given the opportunity to go through my archive to select my photographs on children. Some were never exhibited, some were only exhibited a very long time ago…
RR: Did you encounter any surprises or moments that clarified your artistic perspective in bringing works from disparate projects, locations and eras together?
ML: It was good to hold in my hands my photographs of children, some I took almost 50 years ago, and I did not look at them again for 20 or more years, and yet I found that they are relevant to what I want to say with my photographs now.
RR: Could you describe your workspace and how it became integrated into your domestic environment?
ML: I do not work extensively in the darkroom. I work in the darkroom as little as possible because I have a thyroid condition and the breathing of the chemicals does me no good. But I love the work, I love it when the image comes out in the developer, it is such a magic moment.
For a large chunk of my time in London I used the darkroom of Creative Camera magazine in Bloomsbury. My photographs were published in the magazine while I was still living in Prague and when I came to London Colin Osman, the owner and the publisher of Creative Camera, offered me the use of his darkroom that he did not use anymore himself.
Only when the house where Creative Camera was based was sold did I start to work from my home.
Then I discovered, as many other people did during the Covid lockdown, how much time and energy I saved when I did not need to travel to and from Bloomsbury.
RR: Many of the subjects and places you’ve photographed have evolved or disappeared, adding historical significance to your images. How do you perceive the role of photography in preserving that which might otherwise fade away?
ML: I photograph things as they are. I do not create the settings. I use available light as much as I can. Framing is very important in the process and the vantage point. Photography is a very powerful tool for remembering, a good weapon against forgetting. I was aware of this role of photography very early on, from the beginning. I take great care with composition because I think visually memorable photographs will be better remembered. Clear form helps in the recognition and understanding of content.
RR: Building on this—your work often captures the lives of individuals in their daily routines, how do you perceive the photographer’s role in shaping and distilling such images?
ML: I hope my photographs answer this question, the visual does not translate well into the verbal. Henri Cartier-Bresson once said: ‘Photography is not documentation, but intuition, a poetic experience.’
RR: Presenting photographs of children in an art world and political climate that often marginalises caregivers and their labour can be complex. How do you navigate the responsibility of offering these images while acknowledging the challenges that parents and caregivers face in these contexts?
ML: I agree with you, that the caregivers and their labour should not be marginalised, their role in the lives of children is crucial. Their work should be given the utmost respect, they should be given high social and economical status. This is a very important socio-political issue.
RR: Finally, I feel your work has a strong relationship with photographers such as the Icelandic artist Runar Gunnarson and American icon Judith Joy Ross, do you feel in dialogue with other such practitioners or does the contextualisation of your work come from other realms?
ML: I have admiration for both the photographers you mention, but I think their work is parallel to my work, not in dialogue with it.
RR: Thank you so much again for taking the time to reflect with me, an honour really.
Rosie Roberts is an artist, writer and editor in Glasgow generally working collaboratively through ideas of synchronicity, time, locality and affect. Trying Notations an exhibition of Roberts’ new work will open at Glasgow Project Rooms on 2 December.
Markéta Luskačová was born in 1944 and became a freelance photographer in 1968 whilst undertaking postgraduate studies in Photography at the Academy of Film and Fine Arts, Prague. She relocated to London in 1975 and was a Nominee Photographer with Magnum Photographic Agency, Paris from 1976-80.
Her exhibition at Stills, Edinburgh 12 Aug 2023—7 Oct 2023 focused on her photographs featuring children.