Invasion 68: Prague • Josef Koudelka • Magnum Photos

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Invasion 68: Prague

In 1968, Czech photographer Josef Koudelka captured images of the Prague Spring – it would take 40 years before he could publicly acknowledge he was the author

Josef Koudelka

Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Warsaw Pact troops invade. Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Warsaw Pact troops invade. Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Warsaw Pact tanks invade. Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Warsaw Pact tanks invade. Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops in front of the Radio headquarters. Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops in front of the Radio headquarters. Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos
Josef Koudelka | Invasion 68: Prague Prague, Czechoslovakia. August, 1968. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos

In 1968, Josef Koudelka was a 30-year-old acclaimed theatre photographer who had never made pictures of a news event. That all changed on the night of August 21, when Warsaw Pact tanks invaded the city of Prague, ending the short-lived political liberalization in Czechoslovakia that came to be known as Prague Spring.

In the midst of the turmoil of the Soviet-led invasion, he took a series of photographs which were miraculously smuggled out of the country. A year after they reached New York, Magnum Photos distributed the images credited to “an unknown Czech photographer” to avoid reprisals. The intensity and significance of the images earned the still-anonymous photographer the Robert Capa Award. Sixteen years would pass before Koudelka could safely acknowledge authorship.