Eternal Hunting Ground

Eternal Hunting Ground

Behind the wall and mirrors is a pet crematorium

I am a winner of the Sony World Photography Awards!

Unbelievable! My dreams come true. I am awinner of the Sony World Photogprahy Awards 2021 in the category Architecture / Professional. I won with the series "Eternal Hunting Ground", which depicts a pet crematorium in Drnov.

The story Eternal Hunting Ground series The former Drnov military complex has been empty for 17 years since the army left it. Two friends (Michal Šeba and Martin Chum) bought it to fulfill their dream of building a final resting place for pets, called Eternal Hunting Ground. With the help of a minimalist architect Petr Hájek, they have created a mourning hall and a crematorium.

It is the story about our changing society. It is the story about us and our pets. It is the story about the paradox of loneliness in the world full of people - because the closest and the most loved partner for many of us is a dog or a cat. But it is also the story about the world where we can change the former cold war army complex into the piece of the art and architecture.

Interview

What sparked your interest in the topic behind this series of photographs?

You know, when my colleague, Magdalena Medková, first mentioned the Eternal Hunting Grounds, I thought: For the Godsake, why should I do that? The old memory of our two dogs dying in our house slipped my mind - it was such a painful experience. But soon, I realized that something extraordinary is behind this story.

It is the story about the humanisation of our pets. It is the story about the paradox of loneliness in the crowded world because the closest and the most loved partner for many people is a dog or a cat. So their right feeling is to say goodbye to them with dignity. But it is also the story about the amazing world where we could change the former cold war army facilities into the pieces of the art and architecture. Isn’t it wonderful?

Does anyone moment or photograph stand out to you as significant?

While I was taking the photos of Eternal Hunting Grounds, the strongest moment for me was to see the soft, ethereal glow coming from the minimalistic mourning hall. That was the place where I realized how equal to us are our pets in our minds.

What was your first experience with photography?

My father is an enthusiast photographer, so I have had some experience with photography since my childhood. My parents gave me the first camera when I was 12 years old. It was Lomo, a very simple Russian 35mm camera. In my opinion, I started taking pictures in 1977.

How did your photography approach and expertise grow through the years since you started photography?

When I was at university, I saw the exhibition of great Czechoslovak documentary photographer Gustav Aulehla. It was such an amazing experience that has changed my life. I realised that photography can tell stories. He lived in the same city as I did, and he became my mentor.

In 1990, one year after the Velvet Revolution, I started my professional career as a photojournalist of the regional newspaper. After the decade I completely changed my professional career and substituted photography with writing. For the next 12 years, I worked as a cover page editor of the most influential Czech daily news and then I promoted to the deputy editor in chief.

At the age of 50, I realized to feel exhausted and I desired to return to professional photography. I fulfiled my dream and made a comeback as na photographer (in the lifestyle section of the internet portal Aktuálně.cz).

What was your motivation to enter the competition?

I am a photojournalist, but I’m also an editor of the section about photography in our newspaper. I regularly follow the competition of Sony World Photography Awards and write articles about it.

As a journalist, I took part in the Awards Ceremony and did interviews with the winners many times. I always had a desire for winning one of the Professional categories and I’m really happy my dreams came true. I’m glad I trusted myself and did a career change, at the age of 50, from the managerial post back to the photography. Thanks to my achievements, including Sony World Photography Awards, I can tell that it was really succesfull comeback.

What challenges did 2020 bring for you as a photographer?

They are many. I do photography for the lifestyle section of the internet daily and our subjects of interest are famous people, culture events and interesting stories. But due to pandemia, it is much complicated to search for topics we could inform about. We have our way to cope with but it is not easy.

As you know, there are some anti-epidemic measures, for example meeting people face to face is a little bit complicated. But we try to be optimists and find our ways.

What is your next project?

Currently, I have been documenting stories of the young people in the Czech Republic that suffer poverty and the society does not want to perceive the severity of their situation. And my second project is my photo exhibition. It will include urban landscapes and street phototography taken by me in the big cities like London, Rome, Paris or Los Angeles. All those pictures are very close to architecture photography, of course.



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