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THE FLOODED CZECH REPUBLIC, CAPTURED BY PHOTOGRAPHERS

What comes after the floods?

THE IDEA for an exhibition that would connect the past with the present came to the minds of several Prague photographers as they were cleaning their workshops after floods swept that city earlier this year.
"We decided to put together a coherent project that would show what happened in the past and today [in terms of flood damages] and highlight the activities of different charity initiatives," says photographer and curator of the project Tomáš Pospěch.
The result of their work is an exhibition called Floods in the Czech Republic, on display in Prague until the end of October. It illustrates the damage recent and past floods have caused. On October 31 the exhibition will come to Bratislava, as part of the Month of Photography event.


DRIFTWOOD piled against the Charles Bridge during the floods of 1872.
photo: Courtesy of Fotofo

THE IDEA for an exhibition that would connect the past with the present came to the minds of several Prague photographers as they were cleaning their workshops after floods swept that city earlier this year.

"We decided to put together a coherent project that would show what happened in the past and today [in terms of flood damages] and highlight the activities of different charity initiatives," says photographer and curator of the project Tomáš Pospěch.

The result of their work is an exhibition called Floods in the Czech Republic, on display in Prague until the end of October. It illustrates the damage recent and past floods have caused. On October 31 the exhibition will come to Bratislava, as part of the Month of Photography event.

"I approached many photographers and finally chose 35. Some are well-known, established photographers, others are not; they're students and photojournalists. Some aren't professionals at all, they just happened to take pictures of this extraordinary event. So altogether we have around 80 digital prints, each enlarged to 1 by 1.5 meters," Pospěch explains.

One of the objectives of the exhibition is to pay tribute to the photographers and television crews who travelled to inaccessible places to provide the public with images of the flooded areas. In addition to having informational value, the images also served as a warning to people who delayed leaving their homes.

The documentation of the tragedy also encouraged people to donate money and show solidarity with the victims.


THE photograph Big Water shows flood tourism in 2002.
photo: Pavel Štecha

"The money taken in during the exhibition in Prague and the following auction of pictures and art objects donated by the artists will go to the restoration of selected cultural institutions, including the House of Photography, the MECCA cultural center in Terezín and to Jaroslav Krejčí, a photographer who lost his life's work when his workshop was flooded," adds Prospěch.

Nevertheless, the main task of the exhibition was not to present the work of individual photographers but to gather the most striking and expressive pictures to tell the story of the floods. The photographs show the myriad absurd situations the photographers encountered during their travels across the country, the changes the water made to the landscape and the impact it had on people's lives.

The contemporary part of the exhibition documents the recent floods, and is complemented by 25 historical photographs of natural catastrophes from the 19th and 20th centuries, a selection made by co-curator Pavel Scheufler.

There are no photographs of floods in Prague from before 1872. Although other floods have occurred since the invention of photography, nobody captured them on film. The most infamous flood that ravaged Prague took place in 1890 and the damage the Charles Bridge sustained was then considered a national tragedy.

Scheufler's selection from the archives includes works of some of the most respected photographers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as pictures shot by amateurs from the same time period.

The contemporary photographs capture all the phases of the recent disaster: the building of dams from sand bags and the evacuation of the endangered areas, as well as the phenomenon of 'flood tourism' that occurred after the first danger from the water has passed.

The catastrophe will also be remembered with a charity concert to benefit a flooded primary school in the village of Dolné Birkovice. It starts on October 28 at 18:00 in the Veľký evanjelický kostol (Great Evanjelic Church) on Panská ulica in Bratislava.

What: Floods in the Czech Republic - photo exhibition.
Where: Dom umenia (House of the Arts), Námestie SNP 12, Bratislava.
When: Open Mon-Sun 12:00-19:00 until November 22.
Admission: Sk20.
Tel: 02/5443-0459.

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