Famous TIME photographer exhibits work in Prague

On Thursday, an exhibition of photographs by Anthony Suau opened in Prague's Old Town Hall. Called "Beyond the Fall" it presents photographs Mr. Suau took between 1989 and 1999 in the former Eastern bloc, to show the transition countries in the region have undergone since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Alena Skodova reports.

The exhibition arrived in Prague from Brussels, where it was on display at the European Parliament. But art lovers in most cities in western Europe have already been given the opportunity to see it as well.

Mr. Suau now lives in Paris and works for TIME magazine. So what brought him to Eastern Europe in the first place?

"Well, I was born in the U.S. in the mid-50s, and at that time, cold war was at a tithe and for 30 years the Eastern section of the world was off limits to me, I had very little information from there and what I was getting was that it was behind a so-called "Iron Curtain", that it was an evil empire and so on. This naturally drew a big amount of curiosity about what existed behind this wall. When the Berlin wall fall in 1989, I was working as a photographer for various magazines, and shortly I had a contract with TIME magazine, who provided me with visas and airplane tickets to see what was behind this wall. So I took the opportunity initially to see, to try to understand what was the reality and what was the fiction, what was the propaganda and what was the truth."

Some of the photographs portray the tragedies the region has experienced whilst paying for their new-found freedom, including the bitter conflicts in Chechnya and the Balkans. The exhibition features two photographs taken in the Czech Republic in 1997, which Mr. Suau said were more human than the others on display. So what were his impressions when he came to the Czech Republic?

"The Czech Republic is one of the first countries now being considered for the European community as well as Poland and Hungary, it's one of the most advanced countries in the East. It still suffers from certain problems, police corruption, certain aspects of the economy, the Northern regions of the Czech Republic - as all the industrial zones in the East - are in a very bad condition, and possibly in a worse condition than they were in the Soviet times, but there are also regions - such as Southern regions near the Austrian and Slovak border, which are extremely prosperous. There's no separation between Paris and Prague in many respects, except for its past history, and it's sometimes said that the old Prague go but that's life, that's how things go and I think people are happier now than they were then."