Jaromir Funke

Portrait of a woman with a bob, c.1930

Jaromír Funke (1896–1945) studied medicine, law and philosophy at Charles University in Prague but did not graduate. Instead he concentrated on becoming a professional freelance photographer. By 1922 he was a leader of the young opposition movement in photography and a founder of the Czech Society of Photography (1924) whose mission was to create photography that would  fulfil new social functions. In his work Funke managed to combine some of the leading trends in modernist European photography, uniting constructivism and functionalism with surrealism and social commentary, with traditional Czech aesthetics.  His interest in modernist ideas led him to make clearly focused studies of simple objects. As the decade progressed, he turned to the production of carefully arranged still lifes emphasizing abstract form and the play of light and shadow. During this time he also produced several important series of photographs, including two inspired by the images of Eugène Atget: Reflexy (Reflections, 1929) and as trvá (Time Persists, 1930-34).

 

Funke was also influential as a teacher, first at the School of Arts and Crafts, Bratislava (1931-34/35), which followed a Bauhaus-inspired curriculum, and then at the State School of Graphic Arts, Prague (1935-44). While in Bratislava, he became interested in social documentary photography and joined the leftist group Sociofoto, which was concerned with recording the living conditions of the poor. Throughout his career Funke published articles and critical reviews dealing with photography. From 1939-41 he worked with Josef Ehm to edit the magazine Fotografik obzor (Photographic Horizon).