I came to Pilsen (Czech Republic) last August when my father suffered a stroke. I cancelled all my travel so that I could visit him every day at the hospital.
It wasn’t easy for me; I have spent my whole life traveling with a camera around my neck, and suddenly I was staying in one place for several months.
But I didn’t leave the camera straps idle. I started taking pictures of my dad with black and white film, the style I learned in Montreal as a refugee of then-Czechoslovakia. I made a small portfolio of photos, which can be seen on the Private Photo Preview Magazine under the name My Dad Had a Stroke.
Then came the Coronavirus: and the ensuing prohibition of hospital visits and prohibition to leave the Czech Republic. I stayed here, even more isolated, locked up without the opportunities to visit with my dad and to go anywhere. But I still have a camera.
First came the face masks. With the family of my friend Radovan Kodera, I started helping to sew the masks – well, in truth, I was just ironing and preparing the masks for sewing.
With the home-made face mask, I could slowly start taking pictures in the streets. First an empty city, then portraits of people with different home-made face masks they sewed themselves at home. I was fascinated by how everyone has a different color, a different face. The policeman also had a home-made face mask sewn for him by his wife. I’ve always been interested in people. I enjoyed taking these pictures while helping people.
We sewed about a hundred face masks which we donated to the organization Food not Bombs in Pilsen. Food not Bombs takes care of the homeless. I participated several times in handing out food, home-made face masks and clothes. We chatted in a friendly way. A few photos were taken from these short meetings.
I was wandering the streets of Pilsen and later, Prague and Dobrichovice, capturing moments of daily life with face masks as people waited for the tram or bus, in front of the store or relaxed on the bench.
I haven’t photographed on the street like this for a long time. It’s not easy, if you don’t ask first you may be in trouble with them but if you do ask, suddenly the whole thing changes, nothing is like before, when they didn’t know about you. Taking pictures of people on the street is simply a challenge in which you hold your breath and press the button.