Anton Podstrasky (1939 - 2007) was a Slovak photographer.
Anton Podstrasky was born in Pružina village near the town of Považská Bystrica. He was one of twelve children and had to help his parents to support the family. However, at the age of 10 he fell ill with a severe diagnosis – the osteal tuberculosis.
This disease confined him to bed for the next two years. During this time he would draw and continue with drawing also after he went back to school. Still, the disease was a source of many problems during his whole life, eventually, at the end of 2006, he had to have his limp leg amputated.
In 1955 he started to attend the School of Applied Arts in Bratislava. Soon the teachers found out that he was more gifted in work with wood than in painting and so he changed his specialization and began with woodcarving. However, later, after the teachers saw his photographs of statues he made for his personal use, they made a suggestion that perhaps he could try photography which eventually won him over.
In 1959 he passed the leaving exams. He made photographic portraits of sculptor Alexander Trizuljak working in his studio on the project of the sculpture of a soviet soldier for the Slavin memorial.
After the series of various jobs he became a photographer in the Koliba Movie Studios in Bratislava. Thanks to this work he got to travel all around Slovakia. He used the business trips to photograph his own ideas (country, simple people…). As he once said: “When we were shooting somewhere, I would run away from the crew to the country and take photographs of the things I wanted. Directors tolerated it. They knew I would come back and make photos they wanted me to take…” Against all odds he said: “It was a beautiful life”.
He worked in the studios at Koliba until 1974 where he photographed 26 Slovak movies. But here, his career as a movie photographer ends.
After trying some other employments, the best suited for him was the work for a newspaper. Although he also had to follow the assignments of the editors, the most of his published photographs came from his own free creation. In 1970’s and 1980’s he focused his creative interest on the alcohol issue.
The ripping of the posters celebrating the 1st May and later SNP (Slovak National Uprising), was to “cost” him six months in the Palace of Justice in Bratislava, but he spent in prison only four months. He was ordered by the court to attend an alcohol rehabilitation programme which meant that after he had been released from the prison, he went to a mental institution in Galanta town.
“When I came to the ward the head doctor was away. So I took pictures. When she came back, she was afraid of me taking pictures, so she took my camera. A friend of mine gave me another one but they took that one as well.” But the same as in prison, his photographs were published even while he was shut in the mental institution.
“I received regular payments in the madhouse. They hadn’t come across anyone like me before. I was the richest of all madmen!” Alcohol was a companion, inspiration but also a problem for the photographer. He divorced after thirteen years of marriage and lost contact with his two daughters.
He made photographs until the end of the 1980’s without any problems. The end of communism, the change of regime and the new situation in mass media foreshadowed the end of his active career. Eventually he gave in the attempts to make living doing his profession. He continued making photographs, but modest and sporadic royalties were only a bonus to his invalidity and old age pension.
In the late 1990’s and during the first years of the 21st century he did not take any pictures anymore and only relaxed and spent time with his friends drinking wine.