Jakub Neubert (31) was born with Cerebral Palsy, a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills (the ability to move in a coordinated way).
He was born in former Czechoslovakia, in an era when weak and ailing children (and adults) were hidden away in institutions, moved out of sight so that nothing would blemish the image of a perfect Czechoslovakian communist society. Jakub was lucky, he stayed at home and his family took care of him. He attended regular elementary school after the Velvet Revolution, with very understanding and supportive teachers and fellow students.
Today, Jakub studies at Charles University in Prague, specializing in Andragogy. He also works part-time for Helping Hand, a civil society association (Obcanske sdruzeni Asistence). This association fights for barrier-free transport in Prague.
Q&A with Iva Zimova
Photography is everything for me. It’s not only photographs though it’s the brass ring; it’s the people, the culture, the places and the communities. It’s the life, the happiness and the struggle. I am poor but my life is rich thanks to my camera and thanks to the people I meet and I photographed.
Photography and writing:
A writer can be a very bad photographer but a photographer has to be also a great writer. It’s not fair.
Who left the biggest impression on you?
There are many photographers they left impression on me, some of them are the famous ones like Josef Koudelka or Cartier Bresson. But the most who influence my work was my ex-teacher, a great photographer and my good friend David Hopkins from Dawson College in Montreal.
I first developed my photographic eye in Montreal, where I studied photography at Dawson College. But Dawson Collage teaches commercial photography, and in any case I found that I was more comfortable wandering the streets with my camera than being locked up in a studio. Montreal’s streets were not enough for me, however, so I started to travel to different places. I became resolved to document the lives of people who are persecuted or neglected. In 1998, during the war in Kosovo, I encountered the Czech NGO, People in Need, and since then I have contributed to their efforts with my work. It’s very important for me to be involved in the environment that I am photographing. To be accepted by the people I photograph and to become one of them is a part of what I do.
This takes time, but it allows me to be a privileged witness of social occasions and rituals that would otherwise be off-limits: births, baptisms, spiritual ceremonies, weddings and funerals.
I always carry my cameras (one digital and one film camera) with me in my backpack. The pack becomes a part of my body and if I don’t have it on me, I feel like I’m missing something. To have my cameras with me at all times gives me the opportunity to photograph anything that I find interesting, at anytime.
I am represented by Panos Pictures.”