Jiří Jírů

* 1946

  • „And then I worked for an agency but they didn´t let me take photos. And I had already been an accomplished photographer when I left. I had worked for a number of newspapers and magazines – well Květy, Literární noviny, Signál, what else? What else was it? Svět v obrazech there was also Hájek, the famous photographer. Of course, all this with the help of my uncle, because already at the time he was an editor-in-chief of Fotografie, the famous magazine that he himself established. It was a quarterly. Of course, it had to come out in the Russian and Czech versions and it had supplements in English and French. But in the beginning it came out in Russian and Czech. And he, before I left, had once in a while accepted a photo of mine. I was paid 100,- crowns and it was really big money.“

  • “Everything was under control, complete control. Even people among themselves were under control. Not in families though, but every building had its so called “house confidant“who was an informer. You won´t remember this as you´re too young. And there was also a so called street committee. They dealt with for example adulteries and such things. In short, one didn´t have a private life, one had to protect it fiercely. We were forbidden to say a word about politics, the state or politicians in public. Once, as children, we created a kind of nonsense language to use among ourselves. We called it “hatlamatilka“. We divided a word, added a syllable before and a syllable after the word but in a reverse order. And we learned to speak it so well that nobody could understand us. Then we heard that a street committee had dealt with the matter and had written up a report on our family in which had been stated: “The children language). solely German when communicating among themselves“ (and we, sure enough, couldn´t speak any foreign Such were the absurdities.“

  • “I made up a scenario how to get, no, how to buy a second hand car in the West and that I would get it from a young Belgian girl as a present. I had to go to the customs office, arrange everything..I found a young Belgian girl willing to sell me the car but for “official purposes“ it would be a gift. I had a few hundred dollars then. I wanted to buy a Beetle. So, I left for Belgium, had a permission to travel and – now I remember a funny story with the customs officer. He says: Why is she giving you the car? And I say: Hm, I don´t know. Maybe she loves me. And he says: Well, I´d like to have that as well...I ´ll give you my address. They knew perfectly well this was all made up but couldn´t prove it. So, I leaft for Belgium, stayed with a friend and the next morning he says: You have Russians at your home. And I say: Stop it, will you? We´d been telling the same jokes for half a year. This was in 1968. In fact I left a day before the invasion. On one hand I am glad, on the other I feel sorry that I took no photos of this event.“

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    Praha, 30.07.2018

    duration: 59:32
    media recorded in project Memory of the Nation: stories from Praha 2
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One will finally get what one deserves

Jiří Jírů, maturita photo, Prague 1964
Jiří Jírů, maturita photo, Prague 1964
photo: archiv pamětníka

  Jiří Jírů was born on 30th July 1946 in Prague. Initially, it was Václav Jírů, his uncle - photographer - who had attracted his interest in photography. A day before the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, he left for Belgium, decided to stay and after hard beginnings, he succeeded in working for prestigious American magazines. He was also commissioned to travel to the USSR to take photos documenting political changes in the country. In 1993 he became  the personal photographer to the president Václav Havel. The photographs of this seven year period were published under the title HAVEL. The book was awarded the first prize for photographic publication in Italy. He established the Photo Museum Jírů in Prague 2 in the building where he has his studio today. In 2017 he received the Merit Award from Prague 1. Today, he lives in Prague and Brussels, takes photographs, organizest his archive and writes.