Jaromír Funke (1896–1945) was a Modernist photographer and a leading figure in Czech photography during the 1920s and 30s. He was born in Skute? to a wealthy family. He studied medicine, law, and philosophy at the Charles University in Prague and the University of Bratislava but did not graduate and instead turned to photography. Funke was recognized for his play of “photographic games” with mirrors, lights, and insignificant objects, such as plates, bottles, or glasses, to create unique works. His still life’s created abstract forms and played with shadows looking similar to photograms. His work was thought to be logical, original and expressive in nature. A typical feature of Funke’s work would be the "dynamic diagonal."
By the 1920s, Funke had become an amateur photographer and began to experiment with constructivism, surrealism, poeticism, and expressionism. He created unconventional works as a form of “pure” photography instead of the traditional reminiscing of other mediums such as painting or sculpture. During his photography profession, Funke published editorials and critiques about photography.
By 1922, Funke had become a skilled freelance photographer and two years later he, Josef Sudek and Adolf Schneeberger created the Czech Photographic Society. From 1931-1935, Funke headed the photography department at the School of Arts and Crafts in Bratislava. Soon after, Funke taught at the School of Graphic Art in Prague until 1944. Alongside Ladislav Sutha, the director of the previous school, Funke published Fotografie vidí povrch in 1935. While travelling, Funke became interested in politically engaged photography. Bad living was created during the time period of 1930-1931 and was a photographic series that dealt with the issues of poverty. Funke later became an editor of the journal Fotografický obzor (Photographic Horizons) for several years.
He published a number of works including Od fotogrameuk emoci which is understood to be his manifesto. As travelling was limited during World War 2 in 1939, Funke photographed close to home in Louny, Prague and sometimes Kolin. On March 22, 1945 in Kolin, Funke required an immediate operation for intestine damage but the procedure could not be executed as it was during an air raid alarm and he died.
Jaromír Funke (1896–1945) studied medicine, law and philosophy at Charles University in Prague but did not graduate. Instead he concentrated on becoming a professional freelance photographer. By 1922 he was a leader of the young opposition movement in photography and a founder of the Czech Society of Photography (1924) whose mission was to create photography that would fulfil new social functions. In his work Funke managed to combine some of the leading trends in modernist European photography, uniting constructivism and functionalism with surrealism and social commentary, with traditional Czech aesthetics. His interest in modernist ideas led him to make clearly focused studies of simple objects. As the decade progressed, he turned to the production of carefully arranged still lifes emphasizing abstract form and the play of light and shadow. During this time he also produced several important series of photographs, including two inspired by the images of Eugène Atget: Reflexy (Reflections, 1929) and as trvá (Time Persists, 1930-34).
Funke was also influential as a teacher, first at the School of Arts and Crafts, Bratislava (1931-34/35), which followed a Bauhaus-inspired curriculum, and then at the State School of Graphic Arts, Prague (1935-44). While in Bratislava, he became interested in social documentary photography and joined the leftist group Sociofoto, which was concerned with recording the living conditions of the poor. Throughout his career Funke published articles and critical reviews dealing with photography. From 1939-41 he worked with Josef Ehm to edit the magazine Fotografik obzor (Photographic Horizon).
Source: Howard Greenberg Gallery