Hans Hochstöger // L’Express

Jun 12, 2018
Tear Sheets

Hans Hochstöger is a photographer based in Vienna, Austria who was assigned to photograph the political ramifications in Slovakia following the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak.

For this assignment I was approached by my New York agent (Polaris) who regularly works with L`Express. They were looking for an experienced portrait and reportage photographer in Central Europe to work on a story about murdered Slovak data journalist Jan Kuciak. The situation in Slovakia was quite tense after the murder, it was suspected that politicians in the government could somehow be involved.

A few days before we came to Bratislava, huge protests against the government broke out; actually the largest protests since the Velvet Revolution in the country in 1989. We were not sure if anybody would dare to be photographed for the story.

tear sheet from L'Express by photographer Hans Hochstöger

In advance, I got in contact with the writer, Clement Daniez. We spoke about his research and about possibilities to visually present the story of the murder. Very soon it was clear that there would be very little “tangible” to photograph. The story consisted of a series of interviews, a visit to the murder scene and eventually another protest. Clement and I worked two days on the interviews, we visited the murder scene and Kuciak's former workplace.

As a result, I tried to find a way to connect the portraits, the murder scene and the protests. I tried to light them in the same way, bringing a portable flash unit with me, and photographing them from a tripod. This should give the pictures a visual connection, and at the same time give them a hint of a mysterious atmosphere. I also liked the symbolic meaning of “shedding light” into this case.

tear sheet from L'Express by photographer Hans Hochstöger

Until the very end of our work it was not clear if there would be another protest. One day before the magazine went to print, one of the students who organized the protests against the government, contacted us. A demonstration would happen the next day at the main square in Bratislava. Next afternoon I took the train back to Bratislava and came to the main square. There was a small stage and some people around it – not much to see of a protest. Fifteen minutes later, the place was packed with people. It must have been around 50,000 protesters there, it was incredible.

tear sheet from L'Express by photographer Hans Hochstöger

Clement and I talked a lot about the murder during our work. Kuciak worked exclusively from his desk; he was a data journalist and not the classical reporter who goes out to investigate. At one moment we came to the conclusion that Kuciak must be the first data journalist murdered because of his work. 

Publication: L'Express

See Hans' edit of these images at hanshochstoeger.com

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