The Czech photographer Josef Sudek was born on March 17, 1896, in Bohemian Kolín. At the age of 14, Sudek went to Prague, took apprenticeship as a bookbinder, and worked from 1913-15 in a print shop. When he began his World War I military service, which lasted three years total, he was already an amateur photographer. As the result of serious injuries, Josef Sudek lost his right arm. Because he could no longer work in the career he had prepared for, he decided to become a photographer.
In 1922-24, he completed his studies at the National Graphic School in Prague and was a founding member of the Czech Photographic Society. Josef Sudek and his friend Jaromír Funke became the two most important representatives of the Czech avant garde and were promoters of a pure documentary photography, which stood in contrast to "pleasing" art photography.
In 1927, Josef Sudek set up a small studio in Prague and published a portfolio showing construction work on the Prague Cathedral of St. Vitus. During the years 1928-36, he worked for the newspapers "Panorama" and "Zijeme" as well as for the publisher "Drustevní práce". In addition he produced advertising photos, for example for the glass designer Ladislav Sutnar.
His first individual exhibit took place in 1932, followed by his participation in the much noticed Prague exhibit, "Social Photography".
1940 marked a turning point in Sudeks work: he withdrew more and more into his studio and his own hermetic world and concentrated on private themes. Josef Sudek achieved greatest mastery in his still lifes, which are characterized by the highest sensitivity and flexibility of light. Often one only sees a few everyday objects such as a glass of water and a white egg in his photographs even so, Josef Sudek succeeded in loading these with meaning and lending them a secret, unreal effect.
After 1950, Sudek used a panorama camera. The results appeared nine years later in the book "Praha panoramatická". In 1961, Sudek was the first photographer to be named "Artist of Merit" by the Czechoslovakian Republic.
He died on September 15, 1976 in Prague.