DURING HIS career, as a member of the Prague Top-Performance Sports Centre (StÅ™edisko VrcholovÃ©ho Sportu Praha), he saw medals from international as well as domestic championships on his chest and in 1989 he won the most precious medal of all. This sport gave him a clear future. However, in 1990 his enthusiasm became overwhelming; he set out, completely alone, for a curious trip across the whole of Russia to the Judo University in Japan's Katsura and after his return he suddenly gave up the sport. Perhaps the real reasons lie somewhere between Tokyo and Prague. He left Prague for his native town, Prachatice.
Mid-1994 can be regarded as a milestone on his way to searching for his new "sport". He took a camera in his hands and has hardly put it down since. In a few days he realised that he had found a genuine replacement for his former sport. Maybe this was his destiny. The enumeration of the events of his life during such a short period sometimes sounds incredible.
When did you first get into photography, and what made you choose to work with the female form as your primary subject?
I'll answer the first part of your question here and the second part will come up later. The first time I ever held a camera was in 1984, but because I was a Judo professional, sports took up most of my time. When I returned from my stay in Japan, I stopped practicing Judo and in 1994, I returned to photography for good. I started off as a journalistic photographer and within a year I was awarded first prize in the most prestigious competition for professionals in our country, Czech Press Photo. I also received a grant from Konica and started to do fashion photography. I shot for Versace, Speedo, a lot for Hermes, and so on. I worked in Germany for about a year. Then, in the year 2000, I was selected by Leica to represent the company at the world-renowned Photokina. I was in two world-famous calendars for this company.
I notice most of your work is done outside the studio. Do you feel this brings more strength to your images? Do you ever work in enclosed and more controlled environments?
I split my work into two categories. First, I'm an art photographer who does black-and-white photography on barite paper and negative film. Some of these photos are featured on my art photo website (www.zika.cz). I take photographs mainly outside and in the daylight. I never edit or modify these pictures. Secondly, I own the internet domain www.purebeautymag.com, which I devote most of my time to. I occasionally have to work in a studio or enclosed spaces, but I can't say I enjoy being limited by it. Daylight definitely motivates me.
What qualities do you look for in an ideal model?
I'm a little strange when it comes to this, I never look for perfect models. I'm interested in their whole character, and a little bit in their imperfections, on both young and old models. I have to say that the classic top blonde, Barbie, doesn't really interest me. There isn't anything wrong with that, I just feel that way. I can imagine being blown away by a thirty-five-year-old woman who I see on the street. I like people, and that has little to do with age or perfection. Unfortunately, with a magazine like Pure Beauty, perfection is important. And I'm not always sure if I find that perfection, it's not easy.
But to answer your question ' the ideal model is a woman who experiences the photo shoot with me, she's just as passionate as the photographer behind the camera.
Are there any other photographers that influence the work you do?
I've been influenced by Richard Avedon, without a doubt, and at one point in my life I really wanted to meet him. When I watched a film about him which I'd purchased in New York, I almost cried seeing some of the photographs. And I don't mean photos of women.
If life was easy, then I'd choose not to photograph women but people, portraits, faces. I have a dream of a book with a thousand faces. His work sets an example for me, and I regret that in today's generation of photographers he isn't as well-known as Newton. Not to say that he didn't influence me as well, but they are thousands of miles apart for me. Avedon charmed the heart, and Newton was a provocateur with a talent for business and self-promotion. Then there is Lindbergh, Gibbon, and Sief. Those are some of my favorites.
What sort of advice would you give to someone just starting to work with photography and the nude?
Be a psychologist; don't concentrate so much on technique but on the person, the light and emotions. Talk with the models, be interested in them and play a game with them that lasts for an hour, two, or three. You can't fix anything later. Everything is in the moment of the shoot. I was originally a teacher, and this is a lot like working with children or teenagers, you have to motivate them as much as possible and bring them into the center of what is happening.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Since 2005, I have my own publisher. It's the same company that distributes the work of Alphonse Mucha around the world. So every year, I have a calendar and a diary of black-and-white nudes. I really enjoy it. Next year, I'll be releasing my second portfolio. I'm also in discussions with a large company to release a book. In regards to the project Pure Beauty Mag, we would just like to be able to keep up with the market and work as best as we can, so it becomes fruitful. I see myself mostly working on my art photography, and I consider Pure Beauty Mag to be good training ground for experimentation.