If we tried to imagine Pavel Baňka’s creative life as a photograph, its inherently transient nature would probably show very soon. There would be a steady stream of portraits, staged figurative actions, spaces artificially created by the artist himself, images verging on the abstract, as well as landscapes and interiors with a spiritual dimension. Such an imaginary picture would then suggest a host of frameworks within which Baňka’s work might be arranged, based on various inner and external criteria – just as the motif of the frame itself keeps recurring throughout Baňka’s work. A biographical angle would show that ever since his beginnings as a self-taught photographer, Baňka has retained his determination to search and invent, thus keeping at bay any danger of artistic stagnation, while always putting new approaches to the test.
Within the framework of Czech photography, Baňka’s place would be somewhere behind the founding father figure of Jan Sudek, whom he also references in his early works, and alongside Jan Svoboda, with whom he also shares an interest in the work of renowned Czech glass and jewellery artists. In Baňka’s nudes and some of the portraits, we can also find traces of another giant of Czech photography, František Drtikol. Like Drtikol, Baňka’s main objective is not creating a mere image of the subject, but rather constructing a photographic picture, where the photographed figure acts only as a fully integrated, yet provocative, part of the whole. In Baňka’s photographs, a piece of jewellery does not function as a mere decoration of the model but rather as an extension of their body and an expression of their mood. With each small prop, the spatial dimensions and inner meaning of the portrait shift.
Pavel Baňka was born in 1941 in Prague, and has had several creative “lives”, which have intermingled for decades. As a photographer and as a teacher and a mentor in the Czech Republic, United States and United Kingdom, he has influenced generations of artists. He is also known as a curator, writer, and the founder of the popular photography magazine Fotograf. His work is held in many collections including: Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium; George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, USA; Art Institute of Chicago, USA; Paris Audio Visual, France. His photographs have been exhibited in galleries and festivals all over the world.