Paul Ickovic, Photographer at Home on the Street, Dies at 79

Producing sensual black-and-white portraits and evocative images of street life shot in India, Nepal, Cuba, and other European cities such as Paris and Prague, the travel lover recalls the heyday of mid-century street photography. Photographer Paul Ikovic has died. At his home in Prague on May 23rd. he was 79 years old.

His brother, Tomas Ikovic, said heart failure was the cause.

Mr. Ikovic (pronounced ik-o-vic) was neither a famous person nor a particularly prolific photographer. But he loved the variety of human experiences, he loved women, and he pursued both energy and considerable charm. The camera was his way of doing that. His appearance was his strong point. With his craggy face and glowing eyes, he was often compared to Keith Richards.

His approach echoes that of his hero Henri Cartier-Bresson and others whose notion of the “decisive moment” shaped contemporary street photography and the flourishing photojournalism of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Very similar to your approach. Writing in The New York Times, Grace Gluck called him “a wonderfully old-fashioned photographer.”

“Mr., when a naked woman, in flashy necklaces and strips of bikinis accentuating her extravagant flab, strode defiantly along the banks of the Seine, a male spectator staring blankly, Ikovich happened to be there,” Glueck wrote. In 2005, I reviewed an exhibition of Mr. Ikovic’s work at a gallery in Chelsea. “Through the window of a Paris Metro train that was speeding out of the station, he captured a mysterious, ghostly silhouette of a man in a spooky hat and balancing a cane with one hand. When he came to tea and impulsively donned Mr. Ikovic’s own rabbit mask, the photographer quickly picked up his camera and snapped a picture of “Alice in Wonderland” highlighted by a bewildered cat. . audience. “

Cartier-Bresson’s approach states: Robert KleinMr. Ikovic’s longtime gallerist was also involved in geometric patterns embedded in good photographs. “Find your base background and wait for something to happen in front of it,” Klein said by phone. “Paul did it intuitively. I had to.

“Photography was a way of getting to know them and getting to know ourselves,” Klein continued. He might secretly take pictures, but then he’ll befriend the subject. ”

As Mr. Ikovic told The Times in 1991, “I was trying to be a journalist, but I was preoccupied with what was going on in the next alley.”

Critics and curators knew him not only for his work but also for his extraordinary personality. He was gregarious, bombastic, naive, opportunistic, irresistible, thoroughly mad, and had a taste for the good life that far outweighed his fortune. These assets were usually nil, according to Klein, who said he was a lovable beggar and a skilled haggler. Because of his impulsive nature, Mr. Ikovic “was always shooting himself in the leg.”

There was a time when he decided to burn all his negatives in his brother’s fireplace as a way to add value to his work. “He quickly realized it was a stupid idea,” recalls his brother. “Then he sifted through the ashes and took out the negatives. Believe it or not, quite a few survived.”

Still, Klein said there are still very few published works. would exchange them for something else. I lent him money for shoes once, but he used the money for his wallet as a present for me. If he shows up for a visit, his car will be broken and I will have to pay for the repairs to get him out. ”

On another occasion, Mr. Klein paid for the photographs he sold at an art fair in the Hamptons, and Mr. Ikovic spent the entire amount on a luxury watch, which he gave to Mr. Klein. He also sold his camera to finance a trip to Cuba, but ended up with no pictures to take home. (Whenever he traveled to Cuba, he always brought women’s lingerie with him, which he used to barter for hotel rooms, meals, and other favors.)

Mr. Ikovic lived in Plainfield, Vermont, among many places. Amherst, Massachusetts; Boston; but wherever they landed, they were soon delinquent in rent or exhausted by the reception of friends as guests. When his landlord in Sag Harbor gave him a fortune, he moved into storage and showered at night in an office building with unlocked doors. This arrangement worked for several months until cameras in the storage facility caught him.

But his work speaks for itself. His photographs are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the International Center of Photography. Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. National Museum in Prague. and the National Library of France in Paris.

Nonetheless, Ikovich always struggled, tripping over his own idiosyncrasies, as well as the evolving photography market, Klein said. “Since the early 1970s, his tastes have changed and the work of romantic street photographers like Paul has become obsolete,” he says.

Pavel David Ikovic was born on March 16, 1944 in Kettering, England. His Czechoslovak parents, chemists Eugene Ikovic and Vera Mandl, met at a dance venue in London. Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Prague, Bella was sent to England to escape German occupation. She was training to become a nurse for war support. Eugene was on leave from a Czech brigade fighting alongside the British. Most of their families would die in concentration camps.

After the war, the Ikovich family returned to Czechoslovakia and Eugene opened a pharmaceutical factory in Karlovy Vary before moving to Bogota, Colombia, where he opened several factories and the family became wealthy. After a military coup in Colombia in 1953, the family fled with the help of cousins ​​to Montreal and later to Forest Hills in Queens.

After studying music at Queen’s College, Paul dropped out and traveled to Nepal and India with $1,000 (roughly $10,000 in today’s dollars) given to him by his parents in the late 1960s. New York street and fashion photographer Louis Forer was a mentor to him in New York, and at some point on that journey, Ikovic picked up a camera and began documenting what he saw on his travels.

Upon returning to his hometown in the 1970s, he met Mr. Cartier-Bresson, and Mr. Ikovic, who briefly worked for a Boston publisher publishing Mr. Cartier-Bresson’s work, became friends and exchanged photographs. This will prove useful later. Mr. Cartier-Bresson’s photographs and letters gave Mr. Ikovic a bit of a nest egg.

In addition to his younger brother, Ikovic has two sons. Nicholas Ikovic’s second marriage to model Simona Zvorilova ended in divorce. Christian Sanders, from his relationship with gallerist Karin Sanders. His first marriage to Sarah Stahl also ended in divorce.

Over the years, Ikovic published a number of his photography books, including Kafka’s Grave and Other Stories (1986), with an introduction by playwright David Mamet. The book was produced in collaboration with his friend and patron, entrepreneur and environmental scientist Joshua Ginsberg.

In the summer of 2021, the National Library will host a retrospective of Iković’s work alongside a major exhibition of Cartier-Bresson’s photographs. Mr. Ginsberg has published a catalog of his friend’s show, “In Transit.”

Mr. Ikovic was a little annoyed that “Henri only got three rooms” and “I only got one,” Ginsberg recalled.

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