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EUGEN LAZIŠŤAN'S PHOTOGRAPHS EVOKE THE COUNTRY'S PAST.

Top Pick: Seeing with the heart

HE just turned 85, old enough that his photographs capture a country forever altered, in which even castle ruins show up as younger versions of their current selves.
"Eugen Lazišťan's photographs play a significant role in Slovak history," says Marián Pauer, curator of an exhibition of the Slovak photographer's work now running at the National Museum in Bratislava. "If they didn't exist, many places and events would survive only in people's memories. They are evidence of things that no longer exist."
Most of Lazišťan's work was done from the 1940s to the 1960s, and depicts a younger, more innocent Slovakia. The more than 100 large photographs on exhibit in Bratislava describe the state of the country during the second world war and several years after.


A MAN from the Púchov valley.
photo: Eugen Lazišťan

HE just turned 85, old enough that his photographs capture a country forever altered, in which even castle ruins show up as younger versions of their current selves.

"Eugen Lazišťan's photographs play a significant role in Slovak history," says Marián Pauer, curator of an exhibition of the Slovak photographer's work now running at the National Museum in Bratislava. "If they didn't exist, many places and events would survive only in people's memories. They are evidence of things that no longer exist."

Most of Lazišťan's work was done from the 1940s to the 1960s, and depicts a younger, more innocent Slovakia. The more than 100 large photographs on exhibit in Bratislava describe the state of the country during the second world war and several years after.

Although he travelled widely across Slovakia, old Bratislava streets and historical buildings dominate most pictures. Other photographs show locals at work, relaxing, getting married, smoking pipes.

"His range of interest was wide," says Pauer. "He was interested in how people lived and in the environment where they lived."


A SHOT of old Bratislava..
photo: Eugen Lazišťan

Lazišťan was first attracted to photography while working at an arms factory in the north Slovak town of Považská Bystrica and studying to become a teacher; he ended up getting involved with a local hiking and ski photo club.

During the second world war he worked as a photo reporter with the Slovak cultural heritage centre Matica slovenská, a position he kept after the Slovak National Uprising anti-Nazi rebellion in 1944. A decade later he launched the pictorial department of the Osveta journal, which had been formed in Martin in 1953.

Hundreds of other people's photographs passed through Lazišťan's hands, shaping his own approach to the art. He has authored, co-authored and edited almost 40 pictorial collections, and Pauer says his books capturing Bratislava's development and local wooden churches, which were also published abroad, sold out almost immediately after being released,.

"Considering the photographic equipment he was shooting with at that time, it's all the more unbelievable how he worked with lights in dark interiors, how he managed to assure equal illumination to get quality pictures. He travelled a lot and knew the Slovak landscape very well, which also helped him to recognize the right light to capture it. Things often seem to be coming right out of his pictures," says Pauer.

"He's the kind of artist who sees things with his heart, not with his eyes."

Eugen Lazišťan's photographs are on exhibit at the Slovenské národné múzeum (2nd floor) on Vajanského nábrežie 2. The exhibition is open daily except Mondays 9:00-17:00, and runs until May 24. Admission is Sk10-20.

By Zuzana Habšudová

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