December 9, 2020.
Let's look at the press release first.
Melnik. A high rock above the rivers, at the top of which is a chateau with a high tower. Do you remember? The most famous image of the historic royal dowry town, the town of vineyards, overlooking the confluence of the Vltava and the Labe. However, the tower does not belong to the chateau, but to the gothic church of St. Peter and Paul, standing in the immediate vicinity. And not far from them, on the ancient Peace Square, we can find the Melnik town hall, a renaissance building with a distinctive tower, known from many movies too. These three landmarks, as many do not know them, are the main themes of a new book called The Trinity, which the Melnik city is publishing today, December 9, 2020.
Church, chateau and town hall, ie church, nobility and burghers. Three streams, buffeted by countless storms over the centuries, many times threatened with extinction. Storms, that profoundly interfered with the lives of the simple inhabitants of Melnik and were often defining in their other fates. It is unbelievable to us now, as we stand in quiet spaces, that the echoes of the violent repression of the Church and the nobility and the echo of the voice of the stream of time carry us where, there was nothing yet and everything was yet to come. So many people who have gone through times past and left us their legacies, good and bad ... so many were ... suddenly as if we could feel even better our own smallness in the unspeakable, enormous flight of history.
From ancient times until now. That's the first theme of the whole book. The other is to invite the reader where he may not have been and allow him to see things, that often remain hidden. To look beneath the surface of things and begin to feel the real, deep connections, that created and formed not only today's Melnik, but also affected the entire Czech nation as waves, eroded its shores. The main and most crucial discovery is the indisputably famous Melnik Treasure. A trinity (again!) of historical objects of unspeakable price that, safely hidden from view of the unauthorized, have been resting quietly for years and centuries. More than a meter high, a unique late Gothic monstrance, silver pixida and beautifully carved wooden cup in full-page photographs come to life in front of the reader and allow him to see, what only important official visits of the city can usually see.
"It was like a journey through time," says art photographer Martin Mojzis, author of all the photographs in the book. "A beautiful Gothic church, to whose tower I could still perform after closing time, at dusk and dawn, thanks to the kind permission of the pastor, was a source of so much experience and so deep inspiration, that at first I could hardly take photographs. A vast number of subjects were entirely beyond my powers to contain and portray these impressions in any way. The chateau, on the other hand, feeled completely different, I entered the home of one of the most famous Czech aristocratic families as a silent guest and spent long hours in places, where generations of Lobkowicz played as children, grew up, fought for their dreams, but also left this world, often in disappointment. The town hall is somehow the most contemporary place, but all the more impressive. Meeting the treasure was one of the strongest experiences of my Melnik journey. It is not often, that you have the opportunity to take (literally) such an important part of Czech history."
The second half of the book Trinity consists of a textual part. The author of the preface is the mayor of the city Ctirad Mikes. Archivists Nikola Michnova, David Fiedler and Dalibor Statnik wrote about the church and the town hall. Through the chateau will take you his castellan Jaromir Tuma. His words are lively and readable, the archivists are more scholastic and very detailed. The image, which creates photographs, is supplemented and completed by reading about turbulent historical events.
"The only thing I'm a little sorry about is the fact, that only about half of the photographs that were taken fit in the book. Therefore, for example, many close-up views of beautiful details, which are very important for the atmosphere of individual rooms, have not been published at all in the chateau part. As well as many exterior photographs, such as the monumental terrace above the rivers, etc. But maybe a second, expanded edition will be released in the future."
Trinity is one of the larger books. It is bound in canvas with gold embossing and matt laminated cover. Although it is not overly thick, the reader may be surprised by its great weight. "I wanted the strongest possible paper for the inside pages," says Martin Mojzis, who is also the author of the graphic design. "In cooperation with the print house, we chose such that the impression of reading was as noble as possible, the photographs did not shine through and at the same time it was still possible to use a valuable sewn book binding."
The name of the publication: Trinity.
200 pages, bound in canvas with gold embossing, matt laminated cover, 26 x 26 cm.
Circulation: 500 copies.
Price: 590,- CZK.
The book can be purchased at the Melnik Tourist Information Center, at Melnik Chateau and in selected Melnik bookstores.
Media contact: Zuzana Syrova, Head of the Department of Education and Culture, tel.: 315 635 341, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So much for a press release. Work on the book began in 2017. Before all the details were agreed, I was able to photograph the exteriors. Almost every day I went to Melnik and waited for exceptional light and weather. Mostly I came back empty-handed, rarely succeeded. For example, the photograph Moonrise over the Chateau on pages 98 - 99 was created, or a stormy night on pages 12 - 13.
As for the interiors, there were some limitations that had to be taken into account when planning. The roof of the church was to be repaired, which meant not only the end of exterior photography, but above all the closing of the interiors. At the town hall, the complete electrical wiring had to be replaced, which again precluded indoor photography.
So I started in church. Church of St. Peter and Paul doesn't seem too big from the outside, but when you step inside, when you catch your breath, how big he really is.
In the beginning, walking takes the most time. Best wherever possible. You need to find places for future images. Then the light and composition tests begin, a kind of sketch, from which the most impressive ones are selected.
The main site of each Catholic church is the main altar. The local one is from 1750, of course it was modified many times. The altar is surrounded by windows and you are actually photographing in backlight. Therefore, in most ordinary images, it is either properly exposed and there are burnt white areas around, or on the contrary, it drowns in the dark and the windows are well exposed. The average is also common, ie everything is wrong. However, such a result was inadmissible. I had an idea for my own altar to glow, surrounded by windows, behind which dusk seemed to be beginning to fall. In the end, everything worked out, see the photograph on page 39.
However, the strongest experience was photographing the church tower. As mentioned in the press release, at first I almost didn't know where to start, so much inspiration and impressive photographs were here. The tower is open to the public in the summer, maybe you have been here and so you are now wondering what is so special about it. But while you could only be here during the day, only in daylight, I could go to the tower at any time and so I experienced countless sunsets and sunrises, as well as starry or cloudy nights. The view of the river, Mount Rip and the city from a height at a time, when the movement of the sun disk is almost visible, when colors, shadows and contrast change every minute, are an extremely impressive experience for the photographer.
There are other, extremely interesting objects in the interior of the tower. Stairs, tower clock machine and above all - bells. There are three, their names are Petr and Pavel, Vaclav and Ludmila and Anezka and Zdislava. The first one is really huge, they are all beautiful and I was very good with them. As if alive, they created a strong atmosphere. Photographing them was extremely difficult, as there is very little space around, even on a clear day, only a slight twilight is inside and the light from the outside (in contrast, very intense) penetrates through gaps in the wooden blinds, that cover the non-glazed windows. I tried one, happily I did it carefully. At this height, it almost always blows and often very strongly, so the impact of the draft almost threw me off the stairs. So it was necessary to keep the blinds closed and handle the huge dynamic range of lights and shadows. Photographs of the bells are on the pages 22 – 25.
I could write about photographing the church for a long time, but that would be published in another book. So let's go to the chateau.
I photographed the interiors of the Melnik Chateau approximately in the order, in which visitors go through it during the tour. Unlike them, however, I did not have to stick only in a defined, relatively narrow corridor, but I could everywhere. The decorative ropes and their stands always had to be removed, then the room was often quite fundamentally rearranged, photographed and everything was restored to its original state (which I may not have had, but I didn't want to assign work to anyone). I photographed in the winter months, when temperatures in unheated rooms and halls drop below zero. Warm socks and shoes were absolutely necessary, otherwise it was not possible to work in the chateau for more than two hours. This is mainly due to the fact that you stand in one place for a long time and make only very small movements, which of course do not warm up in any way.
As in most historic interiors, there are relatively few windows and therefore poor room lighting. For the interiors of the castle, exactly what I wrote about the altar applies. Including backlight photography. Either completely white, illuminated areas of windows and surroundings, or a room immersed in darkness. However, such images would be completely useless. It was therefore necessary to use of exposure series and subsequently demanding local adjustments. Below (in the book on pages 102 - 103) a photograph of the large bedroom of Jirí Kristian Lobkowicz is proof of this.
As I have already mentioned, I had the opportunity to be everywhere, not just in the spaces designated by visitors. However, the ubiquitous rare porcelain and glass suddenly found themselves in danger, unprotected by decorative ropes. I was well aware of the irreversible consequences of the slightest careless movement. However, as I focused on photography, I still managed to watch over everything around me, so in the end nothing bad happened. In some rooms it was not a problem, but for example in the children's room there was practically no space for movement outside the passage for visitors. On pages 106 and 107 you will find an example of one of the beautiful, rare objects and also a children's room where, surrounded by many others, there is.
I could talk about the chateau for hours. Large dining room, large hall with maps and vedutas, extensive wine cellars, ... in the book you will find everything. And now we are going to see the Melnik town hall.
In addition to the above-mentioned reconstruction of electricity, which set a fixed date when the interior photographs had to be completed, the most demanding organizational, production and artistic photography was the so-called Melnik treasure. It is already mentioned in the press release above. The entry conditions for photographing the treasure were a bit like that famous Gordian knot. With the difference that there was no simple and easy solution. Judge for yourself:
However, I do not mean to say, that anyone would order or even forbid me anything. On the contrary. The management of the city, headed by the mayor, met me in all respects and showed great confidence, which I greatly appreciate. The photography was extremely demanding, but it was successful, so in the book on pages 148 - 155 you can now see the entire Melnik treasure in detail.
So much for the individual parts. As for the artistic intent of the whole book, originally there were supposed to be significantly more images and just a little text. It was supposed to deal with individual photographs and be more lyrical than scholarly. In the end, the ratio of the visual and textual part is about half and half, on the other hand, you will learn a lot of interesting things from the history of all three sights.
In conclusion, I would like to thank everyone, who contributed to the creation of the book. That is, above all, to the mayor of Melnik Ctirad Mikes, without whom this book would not have been exist. Furthermore, Zuzana Syrova, head of the Department of Education and Culture, for her helpfulness, understanding and always willing help. Thank you very much. Furthermore, the authors of the texts, especially Jaromir Tuma, whose concept came closest to the original intention. Many thanks to the pastor of the Church of St. Peter and Paul, P. Jacek Zyzak and the owner of Melnik Castle, George Lobkowicz. I would like to thank all the participating employees of Tiskarny Havlíckuv Brod and especially Alena Wasserbauerova for excellent printing and bookbinding.
The Trinity is complete. The long, extremely demanding pilgrimage is over. Let's wish a new book to show people the beauties of the royal dowry city and to bring them to its streets. In order to experience the atmosphere of the City over the Rivers themselves:
I stand and look at two large rivers.
The rivers that merged, continued on their way together.
The longer I watch, the more I feel the transience of everything narrow minded.
As if the flow of rivers was connected with the flight of the ages, and only with the very, infinite eternity.
I feel small, insignificant, but still part of this endless living stream.
What are the years or centuries.
I feel the flight of eternity as a stream of blood in my arteries.
I look at the rivers and I see life.
The most real, the truest.