Easter Market at Toulcuv Dvur farmstead in the Prague 10 district

Main Page of 'Photographic Prague', dedicated to the competition

The 4th annual 'One World' film festival featuring documentaries on human rights starts in Prague on April 10th. One of the changes in the festival's programme this year is that selected films will also be screened outside Prague, in a total of 15 cities and towns throughout the Czech Republic. 700 films were entered in the competition, 80 of which will be screened at the festival, which is organized by the People in Need Foundation in Czech TV. Last year, the One World festival offered 90 documentary films from 36 countries on the theme of human rights - several of them have also been screened abroad.

The Old Town Hall in the historical centre of Prague is currently hosting an exhibition of photographs which were entries in a competition entitled 'Photographic Prague'. I was at the opening ceremony last week and I must say that looking at the exhibited photos was a nice, and in a certain sense a new experience for me as a person who knows Prague quite well but is used to seeing all its historical sites mostly on commercial post cards. The photographers who entered the competition looked at the city from substantially different angles, more entertaining and more humorous ones. To find out more about the exhibition and the competition itself, I spoke with one of its organizers, Mrs. Vera Mateju from the magazine Fotografie...

Mrs. Mateju told me that the competition Photographic Prague was held for the 6th time last year. The venture is intended to promote the legacy of the great Czech photographer Josef Sudek, who loved Prague and took thousands of photos in the city. The main goal is to show the countless faces the Czech capital has, that's why the competition is open to professional as well as amateur photographers and even foreign tourists, who took pictures of Prague during their visit, can enter the competition.

The competition has several categories which are the same every year. They include 'The beauty of Prague and its transformations', 'The problems of Prague' and 'The capital's chronicle'. In addition, special categories are created every year, and last year's themes were 'Trade and advertising' and 'Life in the city's suburbs'. This year it's 'Gardens, parks and trees' and "Relations among people.'

Last year's wining photograph was taken by Ota Richter, a Czech photographer, who lived in the United States for 37 years. His picture, showing balloons above the National Theatre looked a bit absurd to me, and I asked him if he had expected he'd be the winner? Mrs. Mateju told me that those who enter the competition were mostly Prague residents, because they know their city well and also have much more time and opportunities to take pictures in places where a tourist would never get. But those, who only visit the capital mostly contribute to the category 'Prague's beauty', because they always tend to see nice things rather than negative ones. Last year photographers from Poland, Slovakia and France entered the competition.

I asked Mrs. Mateju, if she saw any development within the competition over the 6 years of its existence:

"I think there is a development, although I must admit that some time ago we were stagnating a bit. In the first few years we had the same group of competitors, who kept sending their photos repeatedly. But this year, for example, we were pleasantly surprised because in the whole competition as well as among those whose photos are exhibited there are a lot of new names. They include young people, some of whom participated in the Photographic Prague several years ago without much chance of being successful, but they did not give up, have much improved since then and each year they create a new collection. Sometimes it's not an easy task because contenders are asked to send a format of 30 times 40 centimeters, so that their particular picture can go right to the exhibition hall, as we lack the money for blow ups."

The jury that evaluates the contributions was composed of famous photographers, such as Jiri Vsetecka and Karel Kuklik, both of whom specialize in photographing Prague and have won international acclaim and Vera Mateju herself, a representative of the Foma camera films producer of and a graphic artist.

Every year, about a hundred photographers take part, this year it was 125, and each of them usually sends several pictures. This made a total of more than 1,300 photographs and 300 of them appeared on the exhibition in the Old Town Hall this year.

It seems that Czechs like photography and that they're very active in this pastime. That's why I asked Mr. Ota Richter, last year's winner of the Photographic Prague competition, what his opinion on Czech photographers was: So if you've been to Prague and feel you have taken nice photos, don't hesitate to send them to the magazine Fotografie - they might be displayed in the Old Town Hall next year!

The Valdstejn castle near the town of Turnov in North Bohemia has asked the EU for financial support of 3.5 million Czech crowns to fund its renovation. Although the estimated budget is twice that figure, 3 million crowns will come from the Turnov town hall. Valdstejn castle has been under repair since the beginning of the 1990s, and the renovation has swallowed around 20 million crowns so far. This year's renovation works will mostly be carried out in the neglected entrance of the building, dating back to the 19th century, which originally served as a pub. The renovation works are being supervised by an outstanding expert on castle areas, Vaclav Girsa, who had proposed that the castle be repaired by what is known as a 'conservation method' which would preserve the castle's original look to the highest possible extent. The Valdstejn castle was founded in the year 1260 on three sandstone blocks, interconnected by three wooden bridges. In the 16th century it nearly collapsed and became a shelter for hermits. 200 years later it was re-built in the Baroque style, and the Jan Nepomucky chapel was added. Last year, more than 70,000 tourists visited the Valdstejn Castle.