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The photographer talks about work with international stars and about our little Czech fishpond.

Fast confession – the photographer Petr Kurečka: The secret of the celebrity Karel Gott

Barbora Hlaváčková
21.Dec 2017
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7 minutes

The photographer Petr Kurečka in particular found fame in our country thanks to the calendar entitled “Transformations” in which Czech celebrities are styled into famous faces from around the world. This year marked the christening of the ninth calendar. What is it like and why does he keep returning to it when he has work as a photographer for prestigious fashion magazines? And which celebrity was the very best to work with? 

What is the difference between working with a male or female model, an actress and a musician?

They are at completely different ends of the spectrum. If you have a professional model in front of the camera, she is able to strike one pose after the other. I even have signals with some models, when I for example say “do me a Dior” or “do me a Prada” and the model already knows how to pose. Things are more complicated with actors. Actors need me to direct them. I have to tell them how to act when posing for me. And musicians are absolutely inexperienced in that respect, so I have to work with them a bit longer until we get it right.

Who is the most work?

It tends rather to be about the specific personality. I don’t only shoot famous faces, but also for example company managers. And I have to say that there are some real vampires out there who suck you dry and there are people who impart incredible energy. So you can’t say in general which profession is the hardest to work with, it is more about the personality.

You sometimes also photograph yourself – self-portraits. How much work is that? How many attempts do you need to be able to choose for example two photographs where you are satisfied with the way you look?

A lot. Because we are of course all extremely critical when it comes to ourselves, me included. And I must admit that I only do self-portraits when somebody needs a photograph of me. Then I do the photography because I don’t really trust anyone else to do it.

Your photos have graced the pages of prestigious magazines. Even Vogue ...

That was in 2014, it was the British edition of Vogue. I suppose that really was the most notable magazine which published a photo of mine. And I was quite lucky recently too. I did two cover shoots for the top American hair magazine Estetica USA.

Vogue really is a famous magazine Which of your photos did they publish?

It was a fashion photo for the local fashion designer MiMi La Femme. And that series of photos was also used in Shanghai at Fashion Week.

Which you attended in person. What was it like there?

Shanghai really is a specific place. They have a completely different regime there than the rest of China. It is a really cosmopolitan city. Shanghai wasn’t in fact China for me. I felt like I was in Europe, in England for example. In the place where Fashion Week was held, there were brick-built houses and everything was European in style. And they love European style there. They love the Europeans. In fact, you hardly ever see adverts there with locals. There are Europeans everywhere. And they even want to look like us. The young girls there have their eyes altered to look more European and they have their legs lengthened to be taller.

So as a tall European, you must have had the world at your feet ...

Totally. Everybody wanted to have their photo taken with me there.

What are fashion shoots like around the world? How different are they from those in the Czech Republic?

South America for example. They have a specialist for everything there. The professions don’t mix there. There is always for example a person for hair and a different person for make-up. Everybody knows there place there. And they are responsible for their own particular field.

Luxusní byt na prodej 267m
Luxusní byt na prodej 267m, Praha 6

Which foreign celebrity do you remember best? Which photo shoot?

Terry Gilliam, former member of Monty Python. And then in Brazil, I shot the South American megastar Ingrid. And she, I must say, is such a big star that she stopped the traffic when we walked down the street. She is known as the Julia Roberts of South America. She started in telenovelas and that took her so far up the ladder that she now shoots and produces her own films. And a star of this calibre told me before the shoot that she was delighted that it was me doing it, because apparently when a photographer from Florida or New York comes to take photos of her, it means nothing as they are used to it, but saying that the photographer came from Prague in Europe, that is really something and everyone is amazed.

If you look back on your projects and work, is it also about being the right place at the right time?

I think it was Jan Saudek who said that for a photographer to be successful, a few crucial things have to fit nicely into place together. One is talent and the other things are luck and timing. Meeting key people at the crucial time. That is the most important thing. Talent alone is not enough.

What do you regard as key moments in your life and career?

Everything. Absolutely everything. I don’t have only a few key moments. Although I could say that one was when a friend once told me he was making a documentary about Květa Fialová and that I should go and take some photos for him.

How did that go? Did that provide the first impulse for shooting “Transformations”?

We were all sitting in the car, Květa Fialová in the front, me in the back, and I saw her big white head which looked like Einstein. So, I got the idea there of taking a photo of her looking like Einstein. She agreed. She even thought it was a great idea, so things clicked. And a few days later, Chantal Poullain called saying that she would like me to do a calendar for her foundation. So I said to myself that I would do it the same as I did with Květa. That I would continue doing that, transforming our famous faces into famous international celebrities.

What is the “Transformations” calendar for 2018 that was recently christened like?

There has been a bit of a change there. This time the theme is famous singers and for the first time, we didn’t do copies of photos like we always used to. This is because the actors often had problems posing exactly like in the original. So this year, each of them were given the task of studying “their” singer, their movements, their grimaces and then they showed me what they had learned.

Who did you have most fun with this year?

That is a difficult question. I couldn’t say, that is like Sophie’s choice for me.

In the last “Transformations” calendar, meaning in this year’s calendar, you did replicas of film posters for Hollywood blockbusters. Did you need to get the rights for that?

Probably. I think that when Tim Burton sees it, he will sue us into the ground. But we hope that as it is for charity, for a good cause, he will turn a blind eye.

Do our celebrities discuss their transformations? Do they say that they don’t want this or that, or that they don’t feel at ease in something or other?

That happens very, very rarely. Most of them are absolutely fine with everything. It is in fact really interesting. I have probably dipped into a sort of collective consciousness, but it has happened to me several times that the person in question told me they used to play at being the famous person I chose for them when they were a child. For example, Věra Chytilová. I shot her as Andy Warhol and she told in me that she had actually met him.

Who was so exceptional to work with that you will never forget it?

The absolutely most professional approach I ever experienced, and I love him for it, was Karel Gott. And in addition to that, there is such a huge amount of kindness in him.

What is that down to?

He knows that he needs us. He knows that he needs a photographer who will take a superb photo for his album. He knows that he needs a person who will style his hair well and dress him well. And he is aware of that and respects those people.

You have now also finished what could be called a private transformation. That is to say that Bára Poláková transformed not only for a moment in front of your camera, but the transformation is also filmed in her new video ...

My friend, the gifted hairdresser Jirka Hrabal, finished off the final hairdo for her, because what happens in her new video is that she cuts her own hair leaving it short. And I photographed all of that. For the last time with long hair and then the photos for her album which were created the day after the video was shot. She had short hair by that time.

Do you shoot politicians?

I do. But I choose the politicians I take photos of. If I can’t stomach it in any way, I refuse the job.

What do you most like shooting?

People. I enjoy the interaction with people. I got into fashion by chance. I am not in fact a fashion photographer, I am first and foremost a portrait photographer.

Are you the sort of photographer who goes along the street taking photos, capturing moments, or do you in principle create your work in the studio and basically see it as work?

In the Czech Republic, it is mainly work, because I don’t feel the need to go outside and capture my surroundings. That is to say that I like the feeling of seeing something for the first time through the eyes of a foreigner. So in Shanghai for example, I took photos of everything and a wonderful series of black-and-white photos was created from that.

When did you first feel the desire to become a photographer?

I was probably about eight or nine and I climbed onto the roof of our school with some other boys. And I found an old camera there, so I took it home. And I remember that I quite often looked through magazines and I once for example saw a photo of Julia Roberts which caught my eye because I said to myself that I wouldn’t even have recognised her there. That was when I first realised that I would enjoy doing that, transforming people a little.

Is there anything about your work which you don’t like? Anything you could just do without?

Retouching. But I really don’t like giving that sort of work to anybody else. I always like getting everything into its final shape myself.

Fast confession:

Prague or Ostrava?


Would you rather do a photo shoot with Zeman, Babiš or Okamura?

Next question.

The most photogenic Czech celebrity?

Bloody hell! The most photogenic Czech celebrity, god, what a question. Martha Issová.

Black-and-white or colour photographs?

Black-and-white and colour. That is terrible.

Which celebrity would you change places with?


Do you use various applications and filters on photos in your private life?


Which offers do you say NO to?

To those which I don’t like the sound of.

What did you want to be as a child?

I think the first thing I wanted to be was a lion tamer.

Who is more photogenic - Trump or the British Queen Elisabeth II?

I think that it is the British Queen Elisabeth II.

Second favourite activity after taking photos?

Lounging around.

If it were possible, which fairy-tale or film character would you like to shoot?

That would be… Pretty Woman.

What do you think about when you wake up?

That I would like to carry on sleeping a little longer.

What last made you angry?

Our political situation.

What gets you out of sorts?

Our political situation.
Question by the interviewee to the editor:

Are you happy?

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