ANTONIN KRATOCHVIL BROKEN DREAM
I began photographing the Communist countries of the old Eastern Europe in 1976. I was born and grew up in Czechoslovakia, so that world was home for me - but it was also the kind of home that I had run away from.
I was both drawn to and repelled by this rough region of Europe. I was drawn to it because it held my memories. I knew it well and the West did not. Back then there were few journalists working in that corner of the world because no one wanted to put up with all the hassles of everyday life there, the petty bribes, the rules, the stamps, the pointless paperwork, and so on. Taking pictures was always an adventure: in the old Eastern Europe, a photographer or journalist was automatically assumed to be a spy. I was arrested more than twenty times while working in Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia, though I never lost a single roll of film.
I was repelled by the sleazy reality of the totalitarian countries: politicians were shameless. There was corruption, pollution, shoddy goods, long lines and suicide everywhere, but the leaders kept boasting about their great achievements and bright tomorrows. I saw all this and tried to show it in my pictures as simply and straightforwardly as I could. All I wanted to do was record how all those poor people adapted to lies and suffering, how they got used to it, how in fact they were bound to miss it when it was over.
Stalin said that artists are the engineers of human souls. I wanted to show what happens to the soul when the engineers got through with it.