Monday, September 29, 2008

Slovakia Plicka FDC

Slovakia FDC
Name: Karol Plicka (Czech Republic - Slovakia Joint Issue)
Date of Issue: 12 September 2008

Karol Plicka was the key Slovak cultural personality of the first half of the twentieth century. The founder of cinematography and a pioneer of photography, he was among the first Slovak photographers to base his work on a clearly formulated conception.

Born in 1894 to Czech parents in Vienna, he became a professional musician. In 1927 – 1931 he studied musical folkloristics and ethnology at the Faculty of Philosophy of Comenius University in Bratislava. Following the formation of the independent Czechoslovakia, he joined Matica Slovenská [the leading Slovak national and cultural institution – translator's note] to collect and record the notes and lyrics of traditional Slovak folksongs in the period 1924 – 1939. Plicka was well aware of the complexity and inter-relational nature of folk art and expression. But he attempted to capture the environment residing at the root of Slovak folksong – either through drawing or, more often, photography. This concept led him to make his first collection of photographs of people, countryside, traditional architecture, interior elements, tools, work, observances, and customs of Slovak folk. Selected photographs from this collection were used in artistic postcards published by Matica Slovenská between 1924 –1926.

Plicka anticipated the imminent dissipation of the spiritual and aesthetical values of traditional folk culture. This prompted him to put immense and consistent effort into their recording, not only by writing and photographing, but also – in so far as the technology of his day allowed through gramophone recording and film-making. The result was his synthetic opus Zem spieva (The Earth Sings, 1932 – 1933), the first sound-film in the history of Slovakia and modern film poem that aspired to become an 'ode to life in the Slovak countryside from spring thru winter'.

It seems that, at least initially, Plicka's experience with the almost 'pre-historic' religiosity and poverty of Slovak people moved him to take a strictly and purely documentaristic approach to his work. However, it was later in the 1930s that the monumental nature of his photographs - somewhat similar to the paintings of Martin Benka - prevailed and Plicka managed to enhance his works further by a strong poetical setting. These are the photographs that were later used in the photo-book Slovensko (Slovakia, 1937) – the first ever Slovak photographic publication with numerous popular re-editions. In later years, Plicka published several other photographic projects and worked at the newly-founded Film School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He passed away in 1987 in Prague.

Comment: This is a special FDC for me. 1. This is my first FDC that the stamp and FDC's illustration are all engraving; 2. This is my first Joint Issue FDC which has only issued one stamp in both countries.

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