Franz Fiedler (1885-1956) was regarded as an eccentric among Europe's burgeoning photographic community; while Hugo Erfurth proclaimed him as a rising star in 1903, Fiedler's dark subject-matter often won him the contempt of his fellows.

Jaroslav Hašek--himself a contentious figure, to say the least--said that Fiedler was "a genius, certainly, but not someone you'd want to be alone with for too long". This last was in reference to Fiedler's habit of speaking at length about morbid subjects.

One of his only close friends, Czech photographer Tod Kostra, admired Fiedler's uncanny eye for the macabre, and spoke out in his defense after Fiedler's 1919 elaborate staged triptych Hexensabbat ("Witches' Sabbath") was deemed "an offense to common humanity" by the board of the Národní Galerie.

However, Kostra abruptly turned antagonistic in March of 1921. Others in the artistic community of Prague said that the friends had fought over a woman, but if this was in fact the case, her name is lost to time.

After their schism, Kostra even went so far as to spread the rumor that Fiedler dabbled in black magic, and would secretly meet with 'servants of Darkness' in the Olšany Cemetery at midnight. He claimed to have gone with Fiedler there one night, and to have secretly taken several photographs proving that his story was true. Sadly, Kostra's studio was destroyed by fire on March 15, 1921; neither his body nor even any bones were found in the studio.

After Kostra's tragic disappearance, Fiedler was said to have changed. He became more reclusive, and obsessed with his work. The loss of his former friend may have unsettled his already artistic nerves beyond recovery.

Fiedler dedicated his 1922 series Narre Tod, Mein Spielgesell ("Fool Death, My Playmate") to Kostra's memory.

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Eros & Thanatos

NOTE: Many of the other photographs in this series contain explicit nudity. No bones about it.