Spring Revolutions, 1968 – A Tale of Two Cities

Spring Revolutions, 1968 – A Tale of Two Cities is a new show focusing on the work of two photojournalists, Ian Berry and Bruno Barbey, who documented uprisings in Prague and Paris respectively.

Night of 10 June, 1968. 14th Arrondissement, Paris. Riot on the corner of the Boulevard Pasteur and Rue de Vaugirard

Source: Bruno Barbey – Magnum Photos

Night of 10 June, 1968. 14th Arrondissement, Paris. Riot on the corner of the Boulevard Pasteur and Rue de Vaugirard

United only by a sense of common unrest and the time in which they erupted, the uprisings had very different trigger points but they are often cited as planting the seed of thought for many future revolts.

Bruno Barbey, a French photographer, was in Paris documenting what began as a protest about the rights of students to sleep with each other freely (actions which typify perhaps the decade that came to be known for beginning a sexual revolution) and became a period of upheaval not seen since the French Revolution. 

A general strike in May of 1968 affected 11 million workers (22 per cent of the population) and nearly brought down the government of de Gaulle.

May 27 1968. 13th Arrondissement, 81 Boulevard Kellerman, Paris. Meeting of workers and students at Charlety stadium.

Source: Bruno Barbey – Magnum Photos

May 27 1968. 13th Arrondissement, 81 Boulevard Kellerman, Paris. Meeting of workers and students at Charlety stadium.

In a strange contrast and with some level of irony students hurled projectiles at police, created road blocks and burnt out cars but handed essays in for fear of being thrown of university; they unfurled banners in the names of Marx, Lenin, Mao and Stalin, while in Prague young Czechs fought the Communist regime. 

Ian Berry got into Prague under the pretense of attending an architectural conference and was there as Russian tanks rolled in. He was the only photographer present and documented the conflict over a week before escaping with his film hidden in the hub caps and headlights of his rental car.

His photographs reveal the arrival of the tanks, and how young Czechs remonstrated with confused looking Russian soldiers, many who had arrived from Asia and were deliberately kept in the dark about which country they were invading.

Czechoslovakia. Prague. Czech anti-Russian protestor wears a neutrality placard. (1968)

Source: Ian Berry – Magnum Photos

Czechoslovakia. Prague. Czech anti-Russian protestor wears a neutrality placard. (1968)

For days Berry had nothing to eat, following the protesters across the city dodging Russian snipers from street to street.

The exhibition has perhaps an added potency and poignancy in the light of the Arab Spring and recent unrest in Ukraine. 

 It is the first time the photographs of Berry and Barbey have been shown together.

Spring Revolutions 1968 A Tale of Two Cities runs from 2 May – 14 June at Atlas Gallery, 49 Dorset Street, W1U 7NF

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  • milind kamat November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Faintly brings back old memories of my pre teen years

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