Josip Klarica, Village Life I – V, 1975 – 1982

Josip Klarica
Village Life I - V, 1975 – 1982
camera obscura, contact print
MG-8524, MG-8525, MG-8526, MG-8527, MG-8528

Josip Klarica (1946-2020) is one of Croatia’s most distinctive photographers. He is known to have personally built cameras for large-format and panoramic photos, and he invented new ways of developing photographic negatives. He often used the so-called contact printing, a procedure that consisted of pressing the negative to the photosensitive surface of the paper and exposing them to the sun. He claimed that various technological aids in the process of standard development of analogue films reduce the tonal quality of photography, so it is not surprising that he preferred technologies such as the camera obscura and motifs that are reminiscent of the past. The critics often noted the importance of the Mittel-European cultural circle in his work, not only because of Klarica’s study of photography at the Charles University in Prague (FAMU), where he graduated in 1977 or because of his association with the celebrated Czech photographer Josef Sudek. Another contributing factor in this evaluation are the enigmatic symbolism of his still lifes, frequent references to Franz Kafka, dusty museum storerooms, foggy landscapes, rural life, and the like. The “Village Life” cycle consists of five contact prints taken with a camera obscura that depict pig slaughter, a practice that is usually performed once a year in Mittel-European countries, in late autumn. Five photographs, in a way, recap the full day’s work: butchering and cleaning the pig, selection of parts, slicing and cooking the meat for the preparation of sausages and the like. The size of contact prints and the camera obscura technology blur the scene and thus greatly mitigate its shocking nature. Instead of a naturalistic depiction of a difficult and bloody job – to be done later by other Mittel-European photographs, who were accustomed to shooting in colour – Klarica opted for representation that is in keeping with the entirety of his photographic oeuvre, and especially his preference for the past, for the things that have been abandoned and forgotten, that have lost their place in reality. In these photographs, in fact, Klarica does not capture the cultural custom of pig slaughter, but the death of an animal, and perhaps nothing evokes its death, the sudden absence of life from its body, as aptly as the tonal value of the photographic image, which Klarica insisted on his entire life.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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