Two generations of Jíru photography

When Jirí Jíru escaped to Belgium during the 1968 Russian-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, his uncle and teacher, Václav, decided to remain in Prague. Václav wanted to continue his work as a photographer and as Editor-in-Chief of four languages Fotografie magazine, which he had founded in 1957. He did not imagine that his refusal to sign the agreement recognizing "the aid of the troops of the Warsaw Pact" would result in being fired from his magazine. Indeed, in those days, every important post in the press was conditional consenting to the Russian invasion.

Václav became persecuted, and his career was damaged further by the two-year prison sentence imposed in absentia on his nephew Jirí for having migrated to the West. To the regime, it mattered little that Václav had published 12 photography books (unsurpassed by any Czech photographer to this day) and eventually become a member of the AFIAP society of photographers.

At this time, Jirí was beginning a successful photographic career in Belgium, becoming a stringer photographer for publications such as TIME, Business Week, The New York Times, Newsweek, National Geographic, Sport Illustrated, People, Fortune, Paris Match and others, including agencies like Sygma and Black Star.

In 1993, Jirí returned to Prague to become the first personal photographer to Václav Havel, the first post-Velvet Revolution Czech President. This, in his words, bizarre presidential period, which lasted seven years, culminated in the release of a photographic book with an introduction by Miloš Forman, the Oscar-winning movie director.The book contains surrealistic photographs, printed in sepia and manually coloured.

The Jíru Photo Museum was opened by Jirí in homage to his uncle, in the house where Václav (1910 - 1980) lived and worked. The project has been achieved with the kind support of the Archive of the National Museum, which owns part of Václav Jíru's vast archive of negatives.

Peter Ferrill, Journalist and art critic, Brussels