Is there a relationship between an author’s work and the place where he or she lives? And if there is, might it be connected to what is known as the genius loci?
Perhaps the meaning and stories of specific places – whether natural scenery, historic landmarks, or the behind-the-scenes of the hurried life of world metropolises – are remarkably reflected in people. For there is also a reflecting back in works of art which add to these localities a certain authenticity ‘raised to the second power’, something that we always recall when being in them, something that has been an inseparable part of them since a certain time. One of the artists who purposefully sought this kind of inspiration in a wide variety of places was the poet Rainer Maria Rilke.
The photographer Jan Jindra and the translator Alena Bláhová decided to set out on a long journey (still unfinished) in Rilke’s footsteps, from his birthplace in Prague to Germany, Russia, Italy, and France, through all of Europe and north Africa, and ultimately to Switzerland, where, he died
On the basis of a thorough searching through Rilke’s verse, prose, and voluminous correspondence, Jindra made photographs that tend mostly to be details, medium shots, and unusual views intended to document the uniqueness of Rilke’s works. The large format photograph (4 x 5 inches) is full of subtle photographic detail, and is therefore perfectly suited to Rilke’s pictorial poetry.
Large format photography makes it possible to manipulate the depth of field so that it permeates the space, from large details in the foreground all the way to details in sharp focus on the horizon. It is fair to say that both the artists in this project are in a certain sense interpreters of Rilke’s work: an important question for the translator is how wide a context – human and geographic – is set in this or that poem, whereas what is important for the photographer is a specific detail through which he attains an understanding of Rilke’s being and his work, and reshapes it with his own vision.