I want to disclose my privacy, says Zdeněk Dvořák

Thousands of stories, thousands of different situations. The Week of Life project shows everyday lives of tens of amateur photographers, emphasizing its message that none of them is ordinary. Take a look at how Zdeněk Dvořák, a special education needs teacher and tutor, documented his.

How does someone get to being a special education needs teacher? Why did you choose such a profession?

Well, the path to this profession was rather complicated and lengthy. After finishing elementary school at age 14, I decided to continue my studies in form of a pastry cook apprenticeship. After successfully graduating, I prolonged my studies at the technical school in Pardubice, top school in its field, majoring in food-processing technologies. I was consumed by the beauty of photography, but I went on to work within my field. One day, I received a letter from the army saying I was being recruited. Since I am opposed to any kind of army as such and really did not want to give up my hobby for an entire year, I decided to exercise my option to join mandatory civil service instead. As a result, I ended up in the Insitution of social care in Břežany near the city of Znojmo, where I worked as an assistant in the hippo therapy department and an auxiliary on the local home-stead. It was the first time that I came close to the disabled and during the 18 months that I’ve spent with them, I completely changed priorities and values in my life. At that precise moment, I felt the urge to document life and my surroundings with a camera, only for my civil service to end forcing me to return to my original profession. I regard myself as a creative person with a lust for change and working as a pastry cook did not really offer that. Especially when I worked at the choux pastry production and made thousands of Danish pastry each day, or during Christmas, when I spent several weeks doing nothing else than tiny vanilla crescents, which really drove my mind crazy, doing the same thing day after day. An offer came and I was promised a place at a photo-processing company, but I ended up as an assistant driver with a Škoda Felicia, in which I had to turn the heat on even during the summer so that the water in the engine wouldn’t boil over. Imagine that for 500 kilometers on a daily basis. Another offer came and this time from the Institution where I spent the above mentioned 18 months to avoid being recruited. I did not hesitate for one second. I was accepted as a tutor providing that I complete my education in the required field. I successfully achieved that and spent 4 great yeas in the Institution, where I met my future wife who worked at the home-stead as a caretaker for horses. Today, it has been three years since I started working at a boarding school, part of ‘Special schools of Znojmo’, where I attend to a group of 11 boys.

Zdeněk Dvořák
Our boarding school is often full of extraordinary adventures. This one time, we were able to witness a presentation about correct dental care done by the company Dental Alarm.

In what sense is this profession interesting? Have you experienced joy in your daily care for mentally ill children?

This profession is not demanding physically, but mentally. Come the end of the school year, we feel enormously exhausted and need a long rest. We experience a lot of solicitude and responsibility with this job, taking care of more than ten children’s souls, usually from a socially weak environment. Some have behavior disorders, others have mental or physical disabilities. This profession is not about getting rich and can’t be done for the money. You need to enjoy this kind of job and have a positive attitude towards children; a tranquil character is a must. You find yourself delighted with any kind of progress, when a boy makes his own bed or ties his own shoes. It’s exciting, since with every new day a new experience tags along. Nothing is set or outlined and to the basic things such as relaxing, completing homework and practicing self help care, are added the bits and pieces that usually stick to your memory for the rest of your life.

Zdeněk Dvořák
My four year old son likes playing with animals. With Taoš (dog Tosa – Inu role-played as his puppy).

Now, try to think of the moment a few years back when you faced the decision regarding where you want to work. Would you be tempted by something else or would you choose the same profession again?

I have a simple answer for that. I would gladly go through everything that I’ve written above again. I met my wife thanks to this job, we are expecting our second child now and as for photography, it has given me a certain direction, even though I did dream of traveling around the world with a camera in my hand. I come back to this dream once in a while, but my family is so much more important.

Zdeněk Dvořák
A lot of hay is needed for the horses we have. Some bundles of hay are so heavy that a special technique based on ‘live weight’ is needed in order for the hay to be stored in the hayloft.

Since we have already touched on the issue of photography, I would like to know the role it plays in your personal, as well as professional life?

This medium has played an enormous and full-valued role in my life. I got acquainted with it only during the 5th year of my apprenticeship, my main goal until that moment, only to find myself with my father’s Praktika as a mandatory accessory wherever I went, pursuing my hobby rather than my education. Today, it plays a part in my professional life as well. During wedding season, I document the first steps of married couples, but nevertheless, it’s only a secondary portion of my income. As far as my profession is concerned, I photograph children regularly. Basically everyday thanks to WoL. I used to take my camera with me only when we practiced canistherapy or went swimming, but that has changed over the last 5 months. Regarding my personal life, it influences me plenty, as my main photography subject deals with the family of my wife (the Prčík family). Photography also allowed me to visit Japan and Ireland and furthermore, I received a decent amount of awards. I think it would be a shame if I stuck with my old hobby as an exhibition budgerigar breeder.

Zdeněk Dvořák
We are eagerly awaiting our second child and it is also due to WoL that I attend all ultrasound scans and observe how our offspring is growing.

You are one of the first persons in the Czech Republic to actually take part in the fascinating documentary project Week of Life. In what way did this project become a part of your life?

When visiting my friend, long before the first ideas about WEEK OF LIFE came into existence, I admired the book called ‘THE LAST BOOK OF THE CENTURY’. It captured 24 hours of the Czech Republic on the date 10.10.2000. I was only a beginner then and never really gave this Week of Life project much thought. The first achievements started to come along, connected with ‘1 DAY OF THE CZECH REPULIC’ and a long-term project VIA LUCIS respectively. I simply enjoy such themes. Suddenly, a brand new thing came along and I was supposed to photograph a whole week with specific requirements, and unlike any previous project, capture essential images with only a few snapshots. I no longer waited for a sensational image to come by and had to document the most ordinary aspects of my life, unlock the door to my privacy and record a whole week. The first week was the hardest. I kept wondering if I’ll find something interesting to photograph. Regarding any kind of theme or subject, it is easy to document a week full of events or when we await something exceptional. But photographing constantly for several weeks? There is no more time for arrangements, you simply have to photograph everything that is going on around you and that has totally consumed me. You come to realize that life really is unique. I became addicted and nowadays, I tend to forget my keys at home rather than the 1 and a half kg heavy camera.

Zdeněk Dvořák
At the Prčík family (I’ve been photographing them for some time now, every time we pay them a visit. Sometimes, moments of celebration come along, such as success at the tractor races).

Do you think that people today are interested in the lives of others?

Why wouldn’t they be? Human beings are inquisitive by nature and like to inspect the fates of other people! No matter what you think or intend, this project opens up an insight into the privacy of others and presents a lot of revealing information. I came across many of the WoL users at different internet galleries, such as Barbara Havlíková, Ivana Gantnerová, Emilie Mrazíková and many others, and suddenly I am able to see them in their homes, with their families and so on. And of course I cannot overlook the fascinating chance to look at lives of people from remote countries and different cultures.

Zdeněk Dvořák
One of the main scopes of activity is the preparation for afternoon lessons.

You work as a special education needs teacher, taking care of mentally handicapped children. It is quite a serious issue. Does it involve moments of fun and laughter and if so, could you possibly share such a story?

We have a lot of funny moments at work, some which cannot even be published. Those moments you laugh about years and years after they happen. However, these delightful times are not the only satisfying moments that we have; the joy in children’s eyes is also something that brings pleasure and satisfaction. There are so many stories to be told. Since I was 17 I started losing parts of my hair, but I never cared much for shaving my beard. And one day one of my students asked me: ‘Mr. Tutor, why do you shave your forehead every day and let your beard grow? Is that the latest fashion?’ And now on a different note. When I still worked at the Institution in Břežany, we put together so-called individual plans. These included the short-term and long-term goals of the clients. Miladka was one of the girls in my group and wished for a digital camera. Unfortunately, we did not have the funds. At that time, I lent my DSLR to clients in terms of their therapy. We arranged a temporary studio, I set the camera and Miladka was able to role-play as a real photographer, taking pictures of her friends. I sent her best photos to the competition called ‘Life not only on wheels’. I received an award as well, but Miladka ranked higher in her category than I did and one of the prizes was a digital camera she constantly dreamed of. She was the first out of 170 residents of the institution to have her own digital camera.

Zdeněk Dvořák
The children experience the every day joys and sorrows and as their tutor, I’m a part of it.

What is it about your work that makes you so fulfilled and enriched?

There are various things. My job gives me meaning and only a slight progress connected with the children makes me happy. On the way to work, you can never tell what will happen during the day. When I first entered this sort of environment ten years ago, my life completely changed. I knew right there and then where I want to work and what I want to photograph. From that moment on, I have succeeded on both fronts. I started to perceive people around me in a different manner, learned to listen more and talk more. And believe me; it is priceless with regards to photographing people.

Weeks of Zdeněk Dvořák

Příspěvek byl publikován v rubrice My profession a jeho autorem je Zdeněk Kamrla. Můžete si jeho odkaz uložit mezi své oblíbené záložky nebo ho sdílet s přáteli.

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