Installation view, Josef Koudelka: Ruines, Bibliotheque Nationale, September 15 – December 16, 2020 © Josef Koudelka, Photo: Jérémy Halkin / BnF

Museum Exhibitions

Josef Koudelka


Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France
Sep 15 – Dec 16, 2020

For more than thirty years, Josef Koudelka has visited and revisited 200 archaeological sites around the Mediterranean, from which he took hundreds of panoramic black and white photographs. The BnF is exhibiting a new set of 110 exceptional prints entitled Ruins, revealing all the strength and beauty of the visual lexicon of one of the last great masters of modern photography.

An unparalleled project in the history of photography, Ruins is the result of personal work during which Josef Koudelka traveled to nineteen countries to photograph the high places of Greek and Latin culture, the cradles of our civilization. From France to Syria, via Morocco, Sicily, Greece or Turkey, there are 110 immense panoramic photographs in black and white, never previously exhibited, which deliver Koudelka's gaze on the chaotic beauty of ruins, remains of monuments transformed by time, nature, the hand of man, and the disasters of history.

Koudelka does not wish to immortalize the ancient ruins, to freeze them in a romantic vision, but on the contrary to return again and again to the same places to record the evolutions linked to the destructive passage of time and men, of nature taking back its rights. These landscapes are an ode to the ruins of Mare Nostrum and challenge us on the need to safeguard the heritage of this civilization—some of the traces photographed by Koudelka have now disappeared, as in Palmyra. What drives him is the search for beauty, a beauty which, like that of ancient ruins, resists.

This exhibition is accompanied by an exceptional donation made by the photographer to the Prints and Photography Department of the BnF of nearly 170 prints from this same series.

To learn more, visit the BnF's (opens in a new window) website.

  • Museum Exhibitions — Bibliotheque Nationale Presents "Josef Koudelka: Ruines", Sep 15, 2020