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Jana Asenbrennerova March 13, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Czech Republic.

Father Julian and Father Ferdinand. Retired Priests, Czech Republic 2011

Jana Asenbrennerova (b.1981, Czech Republic) studied directing at the Film Academy in Písek and came to the USA in 2003 to continue her education. After graduating from San Francisco State University and completing internships at the San Francisco Chronicle and the Kathmandu Post in Nepal she started freelancing for a variety of publications including Lidé a Země and Reuters. Jana received awards from National Geographic, Czech Press Photo, China Press Photo, PDN, CPOY and most recently World Press Photo (an honorary mention in the Daily Life category for her story about the gay community in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

About the Photographs:

“These two images are from a portrait series about retired priests. They live in a 24 hour care retirement home dedicated entirely to members of the church. The priests continue to lead their spiritual lives, taking turns  attending daily mass and participating in prayers with each other. Despite the fact that the Czech Republic is one of the most atheist countries in the world, there are several homes exclusively for retired priests throughout the country. When I first visited the priests my initial idea was to do a reportage about them. I visited them regularly and after two months I wanted to do an individual portrait of each one of them. I thought of a concept and then told them what I had in mind. At that point I had made so many photos of them and they had gotten used to me. I wanted them all to dress the same in their cassock preferably which they used in the church.”

“The main challenge was their mobility. Just to sit straight and keep looking at the camera was not easy. For example to photograph Father Julian – who is no longer alive- was quite challenging. He was in a wheelchair and his movement was very limited. I dressed him and noticed it was tiring for him to even just change outfits. So by the time he was positioned for the portrait I knew he couldn’t take more then five minutes. So I stopped shooting and trusted I got the shot which needed to be consistent with the others. It was similar with Father Ferdinand. He is nearly one hundred years old. It was a great experience to work and get to know these men. They have a fantastic sense of humor and are great storytellers. I’m always impressed by their memory. Regardless of their age they are curious and actively keep on learning. It wasn’t a surprise to me when one day I visited Father Xaver who is in his ninties and he greeted me with Bonjour as he was learning French.”