Václav Havel
Tomki Němec, Photographs.

A unique book of black and white photographs

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Václav Havel – Tomki Němec, Photographs.

In 1989 I was 26 years old. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the symbol of a world split into the East and the West, the revolutionary wave arrived in Prague too. It took less than two months for playwright, author, dissident, prisoner of conscience, and brewery worker Václav Havel to be elected the head of a state that for forty years had terrorized its people in the name of Communism and a better tomorrow.

Annie Leibovitz Annie Leibovitz, portrait photographer
Tomki Němec not only sees with a great eye but with his wonderful heart. I have had a great opportunity to look through his photographs of Vaclav Havel. They are powerful because they are so raw – so forward – so honest – yet warm and emotional. Tomki seems to be there at the right moment – not afraid to show Havel as a man. They are very special.

Through a combination of circumstance, coincidence, and the luck to be in the right place at the right time, I became his personal photographer. I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me: he was of an older generation. I felt lost; I was a photographer who hadn’t completed his education, had a family to support, and had little equipment, experience, or money. But none of that mattered; it was an adventure that comes around only once in a lifetime. It was a time when everything was possible.

​​​​Christian Caujoll​e​ ​​​​Christian Caujoll​e​, Founder of VU agency and gallery. Professor, writer, independent curator​.​
As I’m becoming older I remember less and less precisely moments of my life. But Tomki’s photos stay and bring back fantastic moments and the remembering of close friends. Vaclav, Olga, Anna Farova, all the young photographers and friends, Plastic People of the Universe, the Velvet revolution! Thanks photography, thanks Tomki

I travelled and flew around as apparently the youngest personal photographer of a head of state in the entire world, I saw the unprecedented, and met and photographed famous people that I knew only from newspapers or television. I photographed masses of people on town squares as well as the intimate moments of a president who actually never was a typical president. Everything in the world is fleeting. But a photograph remains, a record and constant reminder of a specific time and place.

Antonín Kratochvíl Antonín Kratochvíl, photographer
An intimate portrait of a great Czech.
Bravo Tomki!

Years later, I combed through my archives and selected well known as well as newly discovered photos. A quarter-century later, it’s hard to believe the luck I had to be able to live work during such an amazing time. A time of hope, a time of positive energy. I spent a good portion of my life with an exceptional person: Václav Havel. The book is about this time, about him and about me, about all of us. I’ll be happy if it makes you happy. The book was published in October 2016 on the occasion of what would have been Václav Havel’s eightieth birthday, and on the fifth anniversary of his death.

Interesting facts about the book:

  • I examined 67 622 images shot on 35 mm film.
  • I selected new, hitherto unpublished photos.
  • I also included “iconic images”, for example the photo of President Havel surprised by a wave on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, which won a prize at World Press Photo in 1991, or a photo of Václav Havel walking away along a sandy beach in Portugal.
  • I am self-publishing the book and if you are interested in buying a copy, please send me an email and I will contact you with the details.
  • With the photo book entitled Václav Havel – Tomki Němec, Photographs, I am bringing my work concerning this exceptional person to a symbolic conclusion. It is the final chapter in my life’s story connected with Václav Havel.
  • ​size 240 x 280 mm
  • ​text Daniel Anýž, Petr Třešňák
  • ​pages 288
  • ​design Jan Zachariáš/Atelijeur Půda
  • ​isbn 978-80-260-9633-7



Václav Havel and Tomki Němec

Sample photos from the book

Prague, 19 December 1989 - in front of the Federal Assembly - Citizens demand legislators to elect V. Havel as president
Prague, 29 December 1989 - Engels Embankment - Václav Havel reads through his inauguration speech in his study at his flat
Prague, 25 February 1990 - Old Town Square - President Vaclav Havel is welcomed on his return from an official trip to the US on the anniversary of the communist putsch in 1948
Prague, 17 March 1990 – Ruzyne - An unplanned stop (‘ambush’) at Ruzyne Prison, where Václav Havel had been imprisoned
Sweden, 22 May 1991 – Stockholm - Before a gala evening with King Carl XVI Gustaf during a state visit to Sweden
Eastern Bohemia, 16 April 1990 - Trutnov district - Stopping in on a village danc
Prague, 18 September 1990 - Wenceslas Square - Václav Havel accompanies then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during her official visit to Czechoslovakia
Slovakia, 16 May 1990 – Ružomberok - People waiting for the arrival of the Presidential motorcade
Lany, April 1990 - Vaclav Havel at high speed tests a BMW and drives away from his bodyguards
Prague, 18 August 1990 - Prague Castle - Václav Havel receives members of the Rolling Stones on the day of their now legendary appearance at Strahov Stadium, which was the first concert by international stars in Czechoslovakia after the collapse of the Communist régime
Portugal, 14 December 1990 - Cabo da Roca - Václav Havel on the Atlantic coast not far from the westernmost point of the European continent
France, 19 March 1990 – Paris - Vaclav Havel receives the Grand Croix de la Legion d’Honneur from Francois Mitterrand
Italy, September 23, 1990 - Capri - Havel with friends and writer Umberto Eco on a speedboat ride
Slovakia, 1 July 1992 – Bratislava - Václav Havel greeting the public during his last official stay in Bratislava before the break-up of the Czechoslovak federation
Brno, 4 December 1991 - Villa Tugendhat - Václav Havel taking part in Government talks about the budget
France, 18 November 1990 – Paris - Behind the window of a café in the Latin Quarter with the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Jiří Dienstbier on the eve of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe
Prague, 1991 - Prague Castle - Celebrating the birthday of Chancellor Karel Jan Schwarzenberg
Slavkov (Austerlitz), 28 October 1990 - Slavkov Castle - Václav Havel during a break in the two-day talks on the constitutional arrangement of the federation, one of a number of the President’s attempts to bring the political forces of the country to agreement on the future of Czechoslovakia
Krkonoše, 17 March 1990 - Špindlerova chata - Václav Havel leaving an unofficial meeting with Lech Walesa on the Czech-Polish border
Israel, April 1990 - Jerusalem - Vaclav Havel during a visit to the Yad Vashem memorial
Prague, 17 November 1990 - Wenceslas Square - Havel with his wife Olga walking with US President George Bush through Wenceslas Square on the first anniversary of the Velvet Revolution
Prague, May 1997 - Prague Castle gardens - Vaclav Havel and his wife Dáša Veškrnová - Havel
Prague, December 1989 - A passing tram with a poster in support of Vaclav Havel on his candidacy for president, "Havel is ours”
Portugal, in December 1990 - near Cabo da Roca - Vaclav Havel is walking across the western point of the European continent

About me

Tomki Němec

Tomki Němec is a leading Czech photographer. His non-commercial work has almost always focused on photos of “ordinary” people in everyday situations that have something to say about their lot in life, but also about history and politics that impinge upon it. During the years 1989 – 1992, he was President Václav Havel’s personal photographer. During the years 1997 – 2002, he once again photographed him, upon request of the Office of the President. He has received two World Press Photo awards.

He has been represented by Agence VU in Paris, and from 1992 by Anzenberger Agency in Vienna. His photos have been exhibited in a number of countries around the world, and have been published in many periodicals such as Libération, Le Monde, Paris Match, Stern, Der Spiegel, Das Magazin, DU, Geo, Die Zeit, Focus, Esquire, New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, News, and others. He has published two of his own photo books and his work has been featured in many more.