Last summer I studied abroad in Prague taking courses in photography and art history. Our photography assignment was to shoot “people and/or places” in Prague for 5 weeks to create a cohesive body of work representing the culture of the city as we experienced it.
I do not shoot much documentary style work so I found this prompt somewhat challenging. Many past students have focused on street photography, but that is not my forte so I had to find another route to take with the assignment. I thought back to a project I did a few years ago in used bookstores in Philadelphia and decided to expand upon the concept while abroad.
I decided to shoot quirky local shops. I mostly photographed antikvariats and knihkupectví (antique and book stores), but I did not limit myself. I also photographed a few music stores and even some flower shops. This project allowed me to explore the city and photograph things that intrigue me. I have had a long love affair with flea markets, thrift stores, and used bookstores. I love objects with a history. When reading a used book or purchasing an item from an antique store I like to think about the previous owner of the object and what their experiences together were like. Each page of a book might have had meaning to a previous reader – tear stains, paper cuts, notes in the margins – these are the details I love about used objects. Perhaps the vase I buy today was once a wedding gift from someone’s Great-Aunt! I will never know the history of these objects but I find comfort and inspiration in them and the cyclical nature of their lives.
I think that this project gave me a unique experience in Prague. I was constantly surrounding myself with objects imbedded with history, much like the entirety of the city. I was inspired by the architecture of the buildings and by the trinkets in the shops. I found I was able to capture moments of intimacy and create a personal interpretation of Czech culture through the objects and locations I encountered.