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Coronavirus in Daily Life

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.

Pilsen (Plzen), Czech Republic. The empty Square of the Republic (in Czech Namesti republiky) seen from a window The square is usually full of tourists but now deserted due to the Coronavirus.

A young man, using what are now compulsory face coverings, reads a book while traveling by train.

Dobrichovice, Czech Republic. People, wearing homemade face masks, relax on benches near the Berounka River
Pilsen, Czech Republic. A woman wearing a homemade face mask pushes a pram near the Lucni soccer field. Since 18 March 2020 face coverings are mandatory in all public spaces across the country.
Pilsen (Plzen), Czech Republic. Petr, a homeless man, wearing a protective mask against Coronavirus infection, sits on a park bench near the Museum of West Bohemia. Homeless people are among the most vulnerable groups.

Pilsen, Czech Republic. A woman and her son wearing a face masks ride a scooter on Lucni street. Since 18 March 2020 face coverings are mandatory in all public spaces across the country.

Pilsen, Czech Republic. An elderly couple Martin (92) and his wife Miroslava wearing homemade face masks (78) relaxing on the bench in the warm spring evening.

Prague, Czech Republic. An elderly homeless man with protective face mask begs at the entrance to the Church of St. Giles in Prague’s Old Town. Not a great situation – emerging from the shadows and no one around to give.
Prague, Czech Republic. A young couple wearing homemade face masks hugs at the entry to the Novomestsky pivovar in Vodickova street.

Prague, Czech Republic. A priest, Zbigniew Krzystof Ponichtera, says prayers at the altar in St. Pankrac church during an Easter Monday service attended by three people.

Prague, Czech Republic. A woman wearing a face mask waits at a tram stop.

Btw. Prague & Klatovy, Czech Republic. Passengers wearing face masks sleep, arm-in-arm, while travelling on the Prague-Klatovy train.

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Iva Zimova

Iva Zimova, Czech and Canadian born in 1956

. 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.”

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