Spring Revolutions, 1968 – A Tale of Two Cities

Berry and Barbey’s iconic photos of the 1968 Prague and Paris riots

As one of London’s leading fine-art photography galleries, possessing a long-standing relationship with Magnum Photos, Atlas has access to a rich photojournalistic archive. At a time when the genre is increasingly sought after by art collectors, it is in the spotlight. The latest celebration of that archive runs from Friday May 2 to Saturday June 14, with an exhibition of work by two of the great names in modern photojournalism, Ian Berry and Bruno Barbey.

Spring Revolutions, 1968 – A Tale of Two Cities brings together Barbey’s extraordinary images of the student riots that swept across Paris in May 1968 and Berry’s unrivalled documentation of the Prague Spring in August of the same year. Both collections, which number between 40 and 50 photographs, will be sold in their entirety, with prices for Berry’s collection expected to be in excess of £110,000, and Barbey’s in excess of £140,000. (Individual duplicate prints will also be available from £1,800 to £6,000.)

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Barbey spent weeks in Paris photographing what began as a protest around the rights of students to sleep together and culminated in the most violent riot in a western capital city since the second world war. His photograph of a young student hurling a cobblestone at the police has become the defining image of the time. The lesser-known images on display here are no less powerful – the vintage silver gelatine print of three young men, their eyes blacked out, preparing Molotov cocktails (Night of May 10/11 1968. Boulevard St Michel, Paris, second picture), for example, is a chilling study of premeditated violence.

Berry was the only foreign photographer to capture the moment the Warsaw Pact tanks rolled into Prague. Having arrived in the city ostensibly to attend an architectural conference, he spent the week photographing the unfolding civil protest and dodging Russian snipers before finally escaping with his film hidden in the hubcaps and headlights of his car. His images of the tanks in the streets (Czechs and the Russian soldiers under the shadow of the Russian guns, 1968, third picture), of young Czechs protesting (Czech anti-Russian protestor wears a neutrality placard, 1968, first picture) and remonstrating with Russian soldiers are regarded as a vitally important photo-historical record of a protest that sent shock waves through Europe.

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This is the first time the two men have shown together and, while their styles are very different, the pairing makes for a fascinating exhibition that has powerful resonances with contemporary events.

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