A Czechoslovak Variation on Fifo
Organized by the Mánes Artists' Association, the International Photography Exhibition, which opened in Prague on March 6, 1936, paints a varied picture of modern photography in Czechoslovakia. Following the famous exhibition Film und Foto in Stuttgart, also known as Fifo, the curators brought photographs from all fields together on the gallery walls. But they departed from the German model by emphasizing the social usefulness of the works, since they now regarded formal invention alone as
... tion alone as insufficient. This is because the inclusive vision inspired by Fifo now unfolded in an avant-garde context particular to Prague, on the one hand informed by the remnants of a social and activist repertoire that triumphed around 1933, at the height of the economic crisis, and on the other by the coming of age of an experimental photography heavily influenced by surrealism. Through a selection of works that reflected this contradictory situation, torn as it was between modernist experimentation and social and activist photographs, the organizers seemed to call for a possible reconciliation of the two practices. A look back at the way utilitarian, artistic, and engaged uses were combined at the exhibition will help to illuminate a didactic trajectory that clearly aims at the ideal of a synthesis of form and content.