Interview: Humans of Pardubice

This evening I had the pleasure of talking with Tomáš Kubelka, the man behind Humans of Pardubice, a photography project similar in style to Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York as well as Humans of Prague. Tomáš was inspired by these sites as well as the local news stories in Pardubice and in the Czech Republic and decided to start his own “Humans of” project based in Pardubice.

His goal with the page is to tell stories, to raise awareness of people and their lives and he asks them one simple question each time he meets a new subject to photograph, “What is your mantra, your creed in life?”. And the results speak for themselves. Fascinating images and portraits combined with truly interesting stories about individuals. The pictures are more than just mere snapshots, they are a window into that individual and their life and each story can serve as an inspiration to others who may be facing similar life decisions and experiences.

One of his most interesting subjects has of course been Václav Kulhánek, perhaps better known as Krychlič, somewhat of a local legend in Pardubice who has been the source of many rumours and stories.  Tomáš sought to tell the real story of Mr. Kulhánek, to portray the genuine soul behind the stories, a man of great intelligence and experience. Tomáš believes that the town is made by people and it is the people that make Pardubice what it is, he’d like to encourage a dialogue between people, to not be afraid of others and to talk about their lives together. He would like society to be inspired by itself, that “People inspire people”. Viewers of his images do not just look at the picture and read the story, they get involved in the comments section and share their experiences also, making the images larger than what they originally represent and prompting that dialogue and inspiration Tomáš would like to bring out into the open.

I’ve decided not to translate the quotes that accompany the images below as I think something gets lost in translation along the way and the original tone of the story behind the image could be lost.

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“Moje životní krédo je velice jednoduché – přej a bude ti přáno….no a za druhé, jestli vůbec něco vyznávám, tak to je přirozenost…ve všem…ve vztazích a v srdci….”
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“Takže moje motto je: Co tě nezabije, to tě posílí. A potom také ještě jedno, co si myslím, že v dnešní společnosti chybí. A bylo by nádherný, kdybychom se ho všichni uměli držet. Motto našeho prvního prezidenta T. G. Masaryka: Nebát se a nekrást. To bych naší společnosti přál.”
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„Bylo s tím šíleně práce, ale hrozně mě to bavilo. Dříve jsem to česával třeba celou noc. Nejdřív se to muselo nalakovat, natupírovat, nechat a pak česat, aby to mělo nějakou fazónu. Kolikrát se mi stalo, že jsem byl už unavený a lehl jsem si. Ráno, když jsem se pak probudil, jsem to měl na jedné straně splácnuté. Byl z toho nešťastný a musel to celé předělávat. Dneska to mám bez problémů, jak si lehnu tak ráno vstanu.“ Love this shot, awesome portrait of a very interesting character.

Tomáš always wanted to be a photographer since he was a child and has always had a passion for the medium for as long as he can remember. He works as a professional photographer in and around Pardubice for a number of local publications as well as commercial photography that he infuses with his very human style, it may be a commercial image but he always looks deeper and seeks out something more, that people can relate to and be inspired by.

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“Nic neplánuju a beru všechno tak, jak to přijde. Jak se plánuje, přichází často zklamání.”
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“Je mi trochu smutno a to jakkoli nemám nějakou ambici být arbitrem čehokoli. Já jako člověk mám pocit, že se všichni rozjásaně tváříme, jak je to happy a strašně v poho, jak se dneska říká. Obecně ten vývoj sociálně a politicky jde cestou nějakého amerického burgerovství. A my tady ztrácíme jednu z našich největších deviz, kterou jsme měli ještě nedávno, kterou nám záviděli lidi z těch rozvinutě kapitalistickejch zemí. My jsme naprosto svévolně přijali to nejhorší, co jsme mohli. Možná něco tam ještě zůstalo, pojďme si to udržet. Ale když si pustíš téměř jakékoli rádio či televizi, to je prostě ten burger – hlavně nechtějte abysme přemejšleli – všechno předžvejkaný, hloupý. Jíme jedy, jíme maso v kterým není maso, jogurt, kde není jogurt. No do pr… jako”….(smích)
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“Dělám to, co mě baví, protože tím dělám radost nejen sobě, ale i lidem kolem sebe. Vždy se najde někdo, kdo moji snahu ocení.”
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“I když jsme svatebčani, novomanželé, tak na prvním místě jsme máma a táta..”
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“Jestli máte zájem, můžu pro vás udělat cokoli,……. všechno……Všechno pro lidi, všechno, co budou chtít. Chtěla bych být herečka, chci bejt daleko. Co národ bude čekat, to můžu udělat……… klidně.”
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“U nás bylo rodinnou zásadou nebo snad dobrým zvykem, že když muž někomu něco slíbil, tak to splnil, i když se to vobjevilo třeba pro něj nevýhodným…prostě danej slib se plní. A já si nemůžu dovolit bejt první muž z rodiny, kterej ho poruší… Já si myslim, že život je jako zrcadlo…co do něj člověk posílá, to se mu nějak vrací…někdy rychlejš, někdy pomalejš…a jak komu! No, ale jinak by měl jít člověk životem s čistejma botama a s čistým štítem…vobojí si může trošku umazat, ale ne tak, aby to nešlo vypucovat…no, ale musí na to právě být boty kožený, aby se daly vyleštit…ty kecky dneska se blbě leštěj…a pak se to veze i s tím štítem…”
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“Týhle společnosti chyběj sny, odvaha pro něco se nadchnout a vůle to uskutečnit… ” – Another great portrait, this is Jan Míšek, who kindly translated for us.

He has plans in the future to turn the Humans of Pardubice project into a book, which i’m certain would become an essential purchase for the people of this great town. He’s also working on another fascinating photography project involving actors from the East Bohemia theatre company posing in an industrial environment which I personally can’t wait to see the results of. He also wants to document local historical stone monuments in the region and continue to document traditional cultural phenomena such as costumes worn during long celebrated festivities.

When he’s not photographing for Humans of Pardubice or doing commercial work, he likes to shoot landscape and nature images which he’s also a rather dab hand at as you can see below. In his early years he had an interest in documenting war zones and conflict but as he grew older he realised he had far more interest in exploring everyday life, and wanted to document what for many would be considered mundane but for Tomáš there is always something interesting to be found, something I thoroughly agree with.

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The “Dancing of the stars” as Tomáš calls it.

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The interview with Tomáš came at a really good time as he is going to be exhibiting some of his Humans of Pardubice images in the city, starting tomorrow evening and running until late October. I would highly recommend checking it out as I had the privilege of getting a sneak peak after our conversation.

Humans of Pardubice is a fantastic example of the “Humans of” phenomenon that has spread to almost every city worldwide and I think Tomáš’ project is definitely a stand-out among them. It’s more than just snapshots and photo captions, it truly represents the spirit of the “Humans of” idea which is to encourage dialogue, to share experiences with each other and to give people hope for the future with the knowledge that there are many people out there who live similar lives and share the same issues.

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Tomáš poses with a great print of Václav Kulhánek, otherwise known as Krychlič.
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A window into Pardubice’s soul, Tomáš poses outside his exhibition the night before it begins.

You can see more of Tomáš’ great documentary images on his website here. I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Tomáš for talking with me and sharing his thoughts on Humans of Pardubice, and also a big thank you to Jan Míšek, a well known conductor in Pardubice for translating for us.

Images are reproduced with the kind permission of Tomáš Kubelka.

 

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