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First time I remember handling negatives was in Prague, probably about 1960. They were Dad’s and he wasn’t very happy about it. Guess he should have known better than to store them in the bottom drawer, knowing I’d poke my curious nose into everything at that age of four—not that I’m any less nosy these days.

The first camera I remember holding with intent was a Czech-made Pionyr™. Since I had absolutely no idea how to use it, nor an iota of interest in using it, I presume not much came of the roll inside. I remember feeling very much ill at ease with it, under the pedestal bearing the soviet tank that was supposedly the first to enter Prague at the end of WWII. Don’t remember how I got the camera or why I had to drag it along on the field trip, for which the class assembled under the tank. It was spring, because lilacs were in full bloom just like in the communist realism style painting on the first page of all our textbooks. Depicted presumably was this very tank, the first to enter Prague, laden with smiling Soviet soldiers holding bouquets of lilacs showered upon them by the ecstatic liberated Czechs. The pedestal was still there last time I was in Prague, but the tank is gone. It went down in history as the “Pink Tank”, because in the spirit of the Velvet Revolution, one morning Prague awoke to the tank painted screaming pink.

My father was a marvelous filmmaker, even won an Oscar, but his relationship with photography was shaky, at best. It happens—writers and directors don’t need to know how to do it. There are other people out there for that. Maybe that’s why I ended up with the Polaroid™ when we’d go on family outings to Disneyland, after we all became bounced Czechs in LA. Can’t say that I was really interested in making photos yet, but I was intrigued, a little. Mom, Dad and my younger brother even liked some of them, I think. They liked one for sure—of our dog Tulak, “Hobo” in English. Like us, Tulak understood mostly Czech, English was his second language, even though he was born an American.

I got hooked after developing my first large format negative in Denver, at the Lowry US Air Force Base Photography School…a military boot stepping on a flower. Corny? Yes, yet mesmerizing as this image appeared in the brown developer under the green safe light, as if by magic. The excitement of that moment is with me forever. The realization that it is possible to really say something with these tools was electrifying. My parents were not happy when I joined the military. They didn’t bring us to the States, after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, for me to get killed in a uniform. I could see their point. They did see my passion, however, when I came home on leave for the first time, clicking like mad. And, I'd applied dad's career advice, “Find something you love to do, then figure out a way to get paid for doing it.” Eureka—voyeurism! Everybody was marching—except me. I was making pictures.

Then I fell in love with theater. The rest of the story is on the proofsheets…