František Chrástek

* 1953

  • “What will happen? The uncertainty – will the regime crash or not? There was no certainty, but it was growing stronger. Around 20 November, it was still like the communists were a threat. One memory: I used to drive a lot, and at the time people would dazzle other drivers with full beam lights just out of spite. I thought, why would they do this? Later on, I figured out they must have been like StB people who lost their jobs. I was coming back home from Prague one day back then, driving my ancient Škoda, and the car broke down near Devět Křížů. I ran out of oil; not petrol, but oil. The engine failed, it was cold, so I was hitchhiking. Someone stopped for me, looked at me, and said: ‘You are a Havelite, aren’t you?’ I go, ‘Well, I am…’ He said, ‘May Havel help you, then!’ He added some swear words, I don’t recall really, and he drove away. So, there was a lot of wrath and malice around at the time. It was the generation of people who lost their position at the time. They were police officers, StB members, politicians… it was an army of people. It was palpable; I sensed it at the time.”

  • “This thing happened to me, and I don’t know where the truth is. I tasked my students with making a photography cameo, if you will, of a personality. They were supposed to find a person, photograph them at work and then bring their photographs. After the spring break, one student came up and threw his prints on my desk. I take them, browse them – and then, in the back of my head, it says: ‘I know this guy… it’s Wałęsa.’ Looking at it, I get into an analytical mode: ‘How did he reach Wałęsa? How could he reach him?’ I mean, it was 1984! Plus, the comprehensive treatment of activity…’ I told the student, I won’t name him; let’s just say his name was Ota. I said, ‘Ota, how did you reach him? How did you get there?’ He goes, ‘We have our ways and means.’ So… well, I cannot really say he was with the StB. Then again, I used to teach along with Pavel Dias. He found a little logbook with records of monitoring people, and it belonged to someone from that year.”

  • “While in primary school, I got to experience 1968. I was in the eighth and then in the ninth grade when this thaw came. Amazing. I still cherish the memory of suddenly talking to the teacher about different things. You have been raised in one way, and then the society starts speaking differently from before. You get to read things you were not allowed to; Švandrlík gets published, as does other literature. The family is elated that, finally, something we had been hoping for was coming – freedom. To me, it meant listening to the hit parade shows, pop music… Radio Luxembourg…”

  • Celé nahrávky
  • 1

    Zlín, 17.03.2022

    délka: 03:00:08
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of the region - Central Moravia
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

I was in high school and my photo was on Mladý svět cover...

František Chrástek at the time of his FAMU studies, a self-portrait, 1978
František Chrástek at the time of his FAMU studies, a self-portrait, 1978
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

František Chrástek was born in Uherský Brod on 29 June 1953. His father, a physician and amateur photographer, inspired him to take up photography. František achieved his first success while still a student of the Uherský Brod Grammar School in a competition organised by the period network, Union of High School Students and Apprentices (“USU”), thanks to which one of his photographs made it to the cover of the Mladý svět magazine and to a public exhibition at Prague’s Municipal House. In August 1968, he photographed the invasion armies in Uherský Brod. While a grammar school student, he worked with the people involved with the Cavern Club in Uherský Brod, taking part in events and concerts. Having completed his school-leaving exam, it took him four years to pass the admission procedure at FAMU – an unfavourable opinion issued by his local street committee of the communist party was the obstacle. At that time, he was working as an assistant cinematographer with Krátký film Praha. He completed his Art Photography studies at the Film and TV School in 1981, having studied with Prof. Ján Šmok, Assoc. Prof. Jaroslav Rajzík and Assoc. Prof. Pavel Štecha. He went on to work as a high school teacher, teaching Applied Photography at the Secondary Technical School in Brno. In 1986 he launched a freelance career. His own art photographs cover, among other themes, the destiny of his grandfather Alois Barlog who perished as a political prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II (Unsent Letter). He exhibits his work both home and abroad – to date, he has organised more than 40 original individual exhibitions in countries including Austria, Japan, Poland, Germany, and Slovakia. His works are represented in a number of galleries and both public and private collections. During the Velvet Revolution of 1989, he took part in several demonstrations in Prague including at the Letná plain. Over time, he has built a studio, a photography, graphic studio and advertising business under the moniker Q studio in his native town, and since 2010 he has been operating an exhibition gallery in a restored ancient granary. He lived in Uherský Brod at the time of recording (2022).