I was so pleased to learn that Antonin Kratochvil was teaching a course in his home town of Prague. I studied with Antonin in Tuscany just two years ago and enjoyed his pursuit of honesty and his freedom from constraints. I arrived to find that we were staying in a small hotel with 8 rooms, originally built over 400 years ago. The hotel was comfortable, staff were friendly, and it was a great accommodation.
I shot for two days before the course started, doing all of the traditional "cliche" tourist stuff. The first day of the course Antonin cautioned us to escape those cliches as quickly as possible by choosing a topic for the week. I chose to shoot "Evidence of the Communist Era in Czech Republic". At first I shot in town, the Museum of Communism, the Party Headquarter, the Zyzkov Memorial up on the hill, the Police Museum and various examples of Soviet architecture. Later in the week I traveled by train to Milovice, which is where the Soviets built barracks to house their 300,000 troops. To my dismay, these barracks are being renovated into apartments in a development called "Eden Gardens". Bad karma!
I also traveled to Pribram, where I visited a mining museum and a Gulag Work Camp. This camp housed about 1,600 prisoners, who put in hard labour mining uranium for the Soviets. When they died, their bodies were dispatched to a nearby mine shaft. It was a moving experience, I was fortunate to be the only visitor so I was able to take my time, and experience my emotional response without distraction.
Had a good time with Sule and Oliver, two photographers in my class. There was a big Beer Festival in town, and we took it in one night. Made some movies and had a great time. I also enjoyed our class assistant, Michaela Danelova, very much. She is a young press photographer and was responsible for arranging all of my travel.
When the course ended, i grabbed a train to Ostrava, on the Polish border. Michaela's father Pavel is a photographer in that city, and he was kind enough to show me around and set up the photo opportunities that i was seeking. I visited an amazing Mining Museum, formerly a working mine, which was full of equipment which I found very photogenic. I also went to a very large blast furnace where they used local coal and iron ore from Sweden to manufacture heavy iron products for many year. We had an extensive tour of the facility, and I was very lucky to have my own tour guide who spoke English.
Czech Republic is a beautiful place, and I recommend it to anyone as a destination.