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Gallery

Portraits of leisure time for people from all walks of life on the banks of a Czech reservoir.

Evžen Sobek was born in the city of Brno in 1967. Sobek attended the University of Technology in Brno and trained as a technical draughtsman before transferring to the Institute of Creative Photography of Silesian University at Opava. Currently working as a freelance photographer and a photography instructor, the focus of Sobek’s work has been documentary imagery. He garnered early acclaim for his series depicting the life of Premonstratensian monks in Zeliv (a village in the Czech Republic), and another focusing on the day-to-day life of Roma (also called Gypsies) living in his hometown.

“Life in Blue” was awarded an Honorable Mention by the 2010 Lens Culture International Exposure Awards. Sobek’s work is represented in numerous private and public collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the School of Visual Arts, Osaka; and the Museum of Applied Arts, Prague. He is founder of the Brno Photography School and the Fotoframe competition.

All images © copyright the artist, all rights reserved.

TMN:

Where were these photos taken? Who are the subjects?

Evžen Sobek:

The photos were taken at the Nové Mlýny reservoir, in the southeastern part of the Czech Republic close to the Austrian border. The people in the photographs are vacationers—usually they have been coming every weekend some of them for a long period of time—for decades. At this camping site you can find people from various parts of Europe—Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands.

TMN:

How did you decide to photograph this community?

Evžen Sobek:

Actually I was never attracted by that place—even though It’s situated only 20 minutes from where I live. Then, once I got there by the accident, I was immediately fascinated by the bizarre lifestyle I discovered there. I was asking myself: What is it, what makes people come to that artificial environment? Why do they set up their second homes with bizarre architectural artifacts in this strange environment, even though the magic of the place dissolves after several visits? What makes the members of the community, or holidaymakers, their husbands and wives, children, relatives, and friends voluntarily spend weekends for years in this strange emptiness? Is it the longing for meditation in the country? Is it the necessity of establishing informal contacts in a romantic environment? Maybe here they can quench their desire for life in a community which the city can no longer offer.

TMN:

Are these people rich, or poor? Where do they work? Is there a wider sense of togetherness between individuals and families?

Evžen Sobek:

The social structure of the people there is pretty varied. You can find very rich people there (company owners, driving expensive cars) next to self-employed persons or workers. I did not recognize any tension among them, rather the opposite. Weekends at the lakes are kind of permanent parties—there is always somebody having birthday or name day, there is always a reason to celebrate something.

TMN:

What is this reservoir like in the winter?

Evžen Sobek:

Banks are empty, all trailers are moved away, nothing happens. I know only one guy who comes there every weekend all year long. Basically the season starts in the end of March and ends late November.

TMN:

What are you working on now?

Evžen Sobek:

Recently I have been working on several projects. Europe in Blue explores lifestyle at a seashore and seaside resorts at a various parts of Europe; it’s a kind of Life in Blue project transfered to other territories in Europe—Germany, Poland. Under Blue Sky is focused on the Czech Republic only—following up various human activities in the open air. I find it very interesting, how good we feel being outside, experiencing the freedom of unlimited space—it’s something that is absolutely an essential part of our existence. Also, I have been continuously extending my Hidden Landscapes project, exploring the urbanization impact on our living space, and I am also interested in greyhound races.

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TMN editor Nozlee Samadzadeh is the internet’s only “Nozlee.” She grew up in Oklahoma, loves airports even when they’re miserable, and cooks dinner from scratch every day. More by Nozlee Samadzadeh