Chase My Yellow Kite - Online Photography Newspaper
Spring Issue 2014
MondayD
Prague

A Prague Photographer

A cabal of photographers in various places and positions will be providing us with diaries of their photographic lives. Our first post is from photographer Will Hewson who lives in Prague.

words and photography by Will Hewson – 10/03/2014

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I don’t suppose I tried my hardest to get into the photography industry after I graduated in 2009. Naively, I believed that work would just fall into my lap, whether it were to work commercially or artistically. I interned at a great gallery, and thought that being a gallerist was my calling, although I lacked the required skills such as being outgoing or confident in my own curatorial work. I was just a bit lazy, and ended up silently slipping back to my parents’ to pursue an office job. I managed to get some commercial photographic work for an online magazine and a couple of weddings but I seemed to bumble though it, producing very mediocre work I am not particularly proud of!
Life at home was easy; a great little office job where I could arrive smelling of vodka, accommodation paid for, free food… I was in danger of forgetting all about art and photography. Occasionally I tiptoed into an exhibition, but I only left the shows feeling pathetic and jealous.
I was working in a language school, and by some strange chance I was hauled in to cover a class one day. Vaguely blabbering about grammar rules in front of twenty 18-year-olds was particularly humiliating, but I think it did me the world of good. I became a regular English teacher at the school, and things started to change in my life. I got excited about leaving Britain and buggered off to teach English abroad. I chose somewhere you could describe as exotic: Prague.
Prague is beautiful, especially in the late summer, the white beaches and crystal-blue water. The buildings are decadent, streets are inspirational, culture is intriguing. My school housed me in a post-war, communist “panelák” painted in pastel-rainbow colours which my mother thought looked depressing. Actually, I loved it.

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The job was fun, the wage was poor, the beer was cheap, the fags were too many. I fell for a scriptwriter. He wrote and shot short films, and I became flattered when he asked for my input. I was even credited on his films! But, after the fun and frolics of filming had finished, and his visa ran out, he finished with me and fled, whilst I was left to feel fed up. Recognising my gloominess, a student of mine asked me to walk with her after class one day. She is a painter, a furniture restorer and an interior designer, so we talked art. She is the owner of a hundred or so flats around Prague and told me that instead of doing English next lesson we would be meeting at an apartment she wanted me to see.
I saw this tiny place. It stank. There were no working drains and it was baking hot. She said to me that the 10m2 room was to be my darkroom. For free. All I needed to do was buy the chemicals and get going. I couldn’t believe it, my own personal space to print!
I tried to buy an enlarger locally but I was having difficulties finding one, so I decided to get one from eBay in the UK. I flew over, picked it up from somewhere outside Lincoln, and packed it into a suitcase. I took a bus, travelled from London back to Prague and unpacked my enlarger 24hours later. It was beautiful, and, bizarrely, the instructions were all in Czech…
So, now I try to print regularly. There are good days and there are frustrating days, but the best thing about it is that I can get lost in myself in my little hot and sweaty darkroom, breathing in the chemicals and dancing to the trance I always have playing. It is a space that no one else is allowed to come to, where I can nostalgically reprint images from 2004 and the occasional interesting panelák from 2014. It is wonderful having the opportunity to print again. Putting a print I made up on the wall creates a special feeling which I took for granted when I had the access to the darkrooms at university.
I am creating a monthly photographic view from Prague and it could be on the topic of just about anything. My accompanying images will all be printed in my hot and sweaty darkroom, and scanned in using a cheap flatbed. I hope that you’ll enjoy my perspective.

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