In the Czechoslovak environment of the 1980s the works of Tono Stano looked like apparitions. After he graduated from the Secondary School of Applied Arts in Bratislava where due to limited capacity he was accepted into the Studio of Photography headed by Milota Havránková instead of the Studio of Graphics, he worked as a film photographer for one year. Later during 1980–1986 he and his classmates at FAMU – Miro Švolík, Vasil Stanko, Rudo Prekop, Kamil Varga and Peter Župník (photographers referred to as the Slovak New Wave) broke all the existing assumptions about what is photography.
It is precisely the creative student years and Stano’s work until the first half of the 1990s that, in retrospect, appear to be the most interesting also for the reason that he was one of those who helped to open up until then inaccessible topics for photography. Whether it is the new erotic wave that was strongly tabooed during the Communist regime, staged photographs elevated to the level of free art, or the irony and exaggeration, which until then primarily documentary photography was avoiding.
However, the work of Tono Stano cannot be perceived individually and separated from the stream of the above-mentioned names, because it is without any doubt that the individual artists strongly influenced one another. An example of a collective engagement is the exhibition Hra na čtvrtého (Playing the Forth), which took place in Fotochema in Prague in 1986 with Rudo Prekop and Michal Pacina. Every one of them photographed a series of one part of the human body, and the photographs were exhibited above each other and in lines. In her introductory speech, Anna Fárová said the following about this project: “The principle of this exhibition is completely new for photography. The forth is the viewer. He is supposed to complete what the artists offered to him. (…) In today’s time of postmodernism, which eclectically borrows from all styles, includes metaphor and is entertained by a gag, which philosophically revels in historical memory and additive principles, this game of three artists on the forth has perfect timing.”
A similar overlap to “postmodernism” is visible also from the parallel with the photographic group Brotherhood. At the end of the 1980s it introduced in its collective exhibitions photographs drawing formally from older artistic streams and at the same time it borrowed figures ideologically emphasized by the former regime and visually conforming for socialistic realism. Tono Stano opened this visual game in his work Calendars 1985–1986, when he used and partially ironized allegories of industry or agriculture. Typical characteristic for his nude photographs and portraits not only from the 1990s is their dynamics. Despite the fact that Stano’s old-master approach resembles photographers such as Ivan Pinkava, the model on his technically perfect photographs creates the impression that it will jump out of its pose any moment. Many of his pictures are directly staged snapshots of a body frozen in motion.
Although, Tono Stano is one of the most respected photographers, his later works have shifted towards glamour and fashion photography, which distanced him from contemporary conceptually perceived art work, treating photography in a different way. In a similar way Stano fell silent in exhibiting. A new comeback was his exhibition in the Leica Gallery where he introduced his coloured photographs out of which several originated together with his continuous – often almost graphical – work, but most of them are from the 2010s.