Volume 47, Number 9 - December 14, 2009

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Lazaro Gamio
Lazaro Gamio
Managing Editor

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Picture of exhibit2
The exhibit contains engrossing images illustrating the plight of Prague’s people during the invasion of the city by Warsaw Pact armies in Aug. 21, 1968. Photo by Andrea Orellana/Metropolis Staff.

MDC presents historical photography exhibition

By Lazaro Gamio

A wall-sized picture of a tank, anti-Russian propaganda plastered over a wall, eerie sound design and a plethora of chaotic images; All part of a new photography exhibition at the Freedom Tower.

Miami Dade College’s AGS (Art Gallery System), in conjunction with the Aperture Foundation, is presenting Invasion 68 Prague, an exhibition of historical photography by Josef Koudelka.

The exhibit opened on Dec. 1 and will be on display until Feb. 6.  Admission is free. 

While working as an aeronautical engineer in Prague, Koudelka- who was born in 1938 in a tiny Moravian village - recorded the invasion of the city by Warsaw Pact armies, earning him international fame. The show consists of photographs he took during the first seven days of the invasion, which began in the early morning of Aug. 21, 1968.

The exhibit contains engrossing images illustrating the plight of Prague’s people during the incident.

“I can get a sense of their emotion from the photographs,” said Samantha Vega, a nursing major, in response to an image of Prague residents running away from invading tanks.

The show aims to immerse the viewer in the experience. Black walls serve as the backdrop for the images, the panels displaying transcripts of official government announcements and images of propaganda art from the invasion. This is all accompanied by a slideshow displaying additional images and video, featuring chilling sound design.

“The people at Aperture who [originally] curated the show, felt that people should see the images, and in some way, not feel comfortable,” explained Jorge Gutierrez, the AGS Director.

The exhibit was successful in evoking responses from the attendants.

“My word would be eerie”, said Christine Porco, a NWSA (New World School of the Arts) photography major, reflecting on the ambience of the exhibit.

“It’s weird, because it can also be seen as current,” said Hope Widler, also a NWSA photography major. “I feel like fear and people‘s emotions of war are universal.”

The show not only engaged students, but also inspired professionals.

“Stylistically, as photographers, we view a lot of this work as the pioneering work of that time,” said Edward Linsmier, a photographer for Photofirm, a Pompano-Beach company, who attended the opening.

The exhibit’s subject matter- the 1968 invasion of Prague- might not seem to be relevant to the people attending the exhibition, but at closer inspection, there is an undeniable relation.

“It‘s of particular importance…to the Freedom Tower,” said Vivian Donnell Rodriguez, Executive Director of Cultural Affairs. “It speaks about freedom, and it speaks about people wanting more…for their future.”

The Freedom Tower’s history of serving as a processing center for Cuban political refugees in the 1960s is not only a concurrent to the event in Prague, but also a result of similar circumstances.

“One of the missions of the art gallery system,” Gutierrez said. “Is to bring shows that are socially relevant… Even though they are from a [different] historical, political moment, they keep in time, because the way they were done.”

The exhibit left several pondering what could have been, what has been, and their place in it all.

NWSA student Rinata Rojo said: “To think that this is the same thing we‘re doing to another group of people, and just because it‘s not in our face every day, it‘s not put up in a show, we never think about it.”

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