Notice anything familiar in Czech photographer Pavel Maria Smejkal's empty images? Upon first glance, the rolling plains and vacant streets that occupy the frames might seem like a collection of random landscapes, but give it a few seconds and you might begin to recognize the iconic settings.
Smejkal has taken a series of historic portraits, from the famous Iwo Jima snapshot by Joe Rosenthal to the unforgettable Tiananmen Square tank scene captured by Jeff Widener, and digitally removed the human subjects that once stood prominently in sight. The result is a work of careful photo manipulation, turning iconic works of photography into ghostly illustrations.
“I remove the central motifs from historical documentary photographs,” Smejkal explained in an interview with The New York Times. “I use images that have become our cultural heritage, that constitute memory of nations, serve as symbols or tools of propaganda and exemplify a specific approach to photography.”
Though the main aspects of these images have been deleted, the remaining backgrounds manage to eventually evoke the same emotions -- reactions that have over the years become embedded in the cultural zeitgeist. Of course, Smejkal isn't the first photoshop enthusiast to conquer this idea. Belgium-born artist Mishka Henner is another artist who targeted Robert Frank's memorable photos of American society.
Scroll down for more of Smejkal's reinterpretations of famous photographs and let us know your thoughts on the project in the comments.