When he first visited the Czech Republic in the 1990s, Matthew Monteith was taken with the details of ordinary life in this country in transition. Captivated by the ineffablea mood, a sense of placehe made repeated visits and in 20013 traveled throughout the country photographing with the hope of creating a contemporary allegory that reflected ideals found in old postcards and Czech photography from the 1920s and 30s. With their restraint, brilliant color, and thoughtful attention to the uncanny within the everyday, Monteiths photographs parallel a venerable tradition staked out by masters such as Joel Sternfeld and embodied in contemporary work by practitioners such as Alec Soth.
Though at times foreboding, Monteiths work is pervaded by an energetic optimism and humor. Meticulously composed and beautifully produced images focus on individuals, landscapes, oddly stilled cityscapes, and the worn traces of the countrys long and complex history. Czech Eden is not a literal description or documentation, but rather a parable in which the viewer encounters individuals and environments that are cohesive yet contradictory, beautiful but unsettling.
MATTHEW SLEETH’s work has been exhibited extensively around the world, including exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and the Noorderlicht Festival, the Netherlands. His previous books include Survey (2004), Opfikon (2003), and Home & Away (2003), among others. His 2002 publication Tour of Duty, exploring the Australian presence in East Timor, is featured in Martin Parrs The Photobook: A History, volume two.
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