Sometimes there are literary musings as to what would have happened if Kafka had turned his hand to more commercial genres. There are even spoofs of such things (though - as yet - no one has twinned him with vampires). So, what would it have been like if Kafka had penned a "mystery" or "who done it". To which I point to The Trial. A darker tale of intrigue you will rarely find, with its fair complement of murky sex. So, I can see the Secret Police of the Communist era taking their furtive photos of Kafka had he still been alive. After all, he prophesied them.
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Spy Pictures from the Prague Secret Police Surveillance Archives
by Steve Meltzer
History is the tale told by the winners and nothing proves this better than, “Prague through the Lens of the Secret Police” a collection of “surveillance” photographs taken between 1970 and 1989. Published in 2009, these are pictures made by nearly 800 secret police who job it was to roam the streets of Prague and photograph suspicious behavior.
And as such, they are a total failure.
As a photographer, if these fuzzy, grainy images are surveillance photographs, I have to wonder how in 20 years of sneaky photography they were allowed to produce such a load of garbage? Even the most novice street photographer could get better shots, at least pictures of something.
To try to make sense of this nonsense I turned to my favorite faceless bureaucracy expert, Prague born writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924).
“Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.” - Kafka
These surveillance photos were taken between 1970 and 1989. At the time, I owned super-sharp, little cameras like the Rollei 35S and the Leica CL. Why are these photos so awful when there were better cameras easily available. Didn’t the Prague Police ever readPopulární fotografie?
“First impressions are always unreliable.” - Kafka
Am I the only one who sees that these photos show us nothing? No hotel sexcapades, clandestine kisses in alleyways, or mysterious envelopes passed between trench coats.
In most of these images there is hardly a recognizable act of any sort, least of all a subversive one. There is one interesting shot of a man staring at a woman (right), but otherwise none of these images rises to the level of even a high school photography class. And this is from an archive containing thousands of images taken over twenty years.