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By Alex Novak

Vladimir Birgus was born in Frýdek-Místek, Czechoslovakia on May 5, 1954.

He completed his literary, theater and film studies at the School of Philosophy, Palacký University, Olomouc (1978, Ph.D. in 1980), and simultaneously a program in photography at the Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU), Prague (1974-78).

Birgus was appointed research assistant in 1978, associate professor in 1994, and professor (1994) at the Department of Still Photography, FAMU. From 1998 to 2002 he was head of its History and Theory of Photography Section. He became director of the Czech Photographers' Union Institute of Art Photography in 1982 and the Institute of Creative Photography, School of Philosophy and Science, Silesian University, Opava in 1990, and continues in those positions.

Birgus has been a member of the European Society for the History of Photography since 2001. He is Czech editor for the Imago journal and chief editor of Listy o fotografii. He writes regularly for the Mladá fronta Dnes and Hospodárské noviny dailies, as well as writing for the journals Ateliér, Fotograf, Fotografie Magazín, Photonews, European Photography, Kwartalnik Fotografia, Portfolio, etc. He is also a member of the Prague House of Photography.

Birgus is considered to be one of the top Czech scholars and writers on Czech photography, as well as a talented contemporary photographer. He has written dozens of books and had his photographs published many times, including in two monographs, "Vladimiír Birgus: Cosi nevyslovitelného--Something Unspeakable" and "Vladimír Birgus: Fotografie 1981-2004/Photographs 1981-2004".

Rovinj, Croatia
Rovinj, Croatia

His color photography uses strong color to convey mystery and a quixotic sense of life. He has photographed all over the world, including Asia, North America, Central America and Europe.

Critic Matt Damsker has written the following about Birgus and his art. "As Elzbieta Lubowicz notes in her introduction (to his monograph), Birgus uses large areas of dominant color--often primaries, and often red or yellow--to create an 'unrealistic atmosphere [that reminds] us of abstract paintings more than of reality recordings.' And yet his images are always in touch with the grit and texture of the modern, urban world. The human figures in his geometrically flattened landscapes of intersecting planes, shadows and sun-struck color are recognizably self-absorbed, often standing or walking in relation to one another, but without narrative or emotional connection."

Damsker continues, "The result is a singular photographic strategy that celebrates random visual fact, the coloristic beauty of everything from industrial materials to blue sky, and the human form as a means of activating and offsetting the inanimate forms that press in on us. Across the beaches, tiles, boardwalks, landing strips, streets, and rooftops of cities from Moscow to Paris, Seattle to New York, Birgus makes haunting, expressive photographs that reward the eye with glancing detail, fragmented narrative and rich natural light. His tendency to capture his own shadow as he takes the picture may echo Lee Friedlander without Friedlander's wit, but in the course of 20 years, Birgus manages to not repeat himself or fall prey to preciousness. His art brings the taut, toughened Czech sensibility into a wider world of big sky, sea, and postmodern architecture--and the result is usually something we have not seen before."

His photographs are in the collections of many institutions, including Museum Ludwig (Cologne), Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Bibliothéque National (Paris), Museet for Fotokunst, Lietuvos fotografu sajunga, Fotografijos muziejus, International Center of Photography (New York), Yokohama Museum of Art, Umeleckoprumyslové museum, Moravská galerie, Muzeum umení, Slezské zemské muzeum, Muzeum umení a designu, Galerie výtvarného umení, Prague House of Photography, Národní muzeum fotografie, Jindrichuv Hradec and Státní ústrední archiv–Sbírka Svazu ceských fotografie.