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29 Jan 2016 - 30 Mar 2016

Sovinec by Jindřich Štreit

Centrala presents the exhibition ‘Sovinec’ by Jindřich Štreit, one of the most important Czech Documentary Photographers. For over 40 years, primary school teacher Jindřich Štreit has been photographing the people of his home village Sovinec in the north of the Czech Republic.

Having always lived and worked among his subjects Štreit is well known locally and is assumed to always be carrying his camera. His photographs strikingly reveal this intimate relationship with the villagers, but are often brutally frank about the hard life that was etched out by the people of Sovinec. These images were unsettling for the authorities, who in 1982 imprisoned him for, amongst the other things, photographing a party meeting where people were asleep. As a result, he lost his teaching job and had to join his friends who worked on the local collective farm. Despite this, Štreit persevered with his photographic work, responding by opening his house to the local community and building a gallery for contemporary art on the first floor. Today it is a remarkable cultural centre that attracts work from around the world.

Centrala and Centrala Cafe are open Tuesday – Friday , 11am - 6pm. Saturday 12.00 – 6.00 Free entry.

Jindřich Štreit Biography

Born on 5th September 1946, in Moravia, in the eastern part of what is now the Czech Republic, Jindřich Štreit graduated in art education form the Teacher Training Department of Palacky University, Olamouc in 1967. He was married in 1971. He and his wife Agnes have one daughter, Monica.

He began teaching, eventually becoming head teacher at the village school in Sovinec, where he also lived, near the Polish border in northern Moravia. At the same time, he began his own photography and, in 1973, he opened a gallery in Sovinec, where avant-garde artists began to show their work. Then, after participating in an unofficial exhibition in 1982, the secret police arrested him. Finally sentencing him to 10 months imprisonment for defamation of the republic and the Head of State, based on an interpretation of his photographs. Even his camera was confiscated as an instrument of the crime. The case is probably unique in the history of photography.

After his release, he was not allowed to return to his teaching, but couldn’t keep away from his cultural and artistic activities. His work was first shown in the United Kingdom at the Side Gallery in Newcastle in 1989. Shortly afterwards, the Velvet Revolution dramatically changed his life. Since then he has lectured in photography at the Film/Academy in Prague, the Arts Academy in Bratislava and the Silesian University in Opava.In 2009, he was named Professor of Applied Arts by the President of the Czech Republic Václav Klaus.

He has devoted himself to documenting Sovinec and the surrounding villages as well as accepting commissions to work in France, Japan and in the North East of England.

Streit's work is included in many public collections in the Czech Republic as well as in collections around the world including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Bibiothèque Nationale, Paris; Musée de l'Elysée, Paris; the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.


Centrala is a multifunctional space located in Birmingham City Centre. Organised by the Polish Expats Association (PEA), a non-profit organisation presenting art from Central, Eastern Europe and the UK. Centrala is a community hub, which aims to become a destination place for artists, free thinkers and members of the public. The function of the gallery is to create an inspirational place and platform for building social ties and bridging communities. Centrala’s innovative programme includes socially-engaged contemporary art from Central and Eastern Europe as well as artists interested in the region’s culture, history and socio-political situation.

Cover image: Arnoltice 1985, photo: Jindřich Streit

This Exhibition is supported by Arts Council England, Czech Centre in London, Eric Franke Fine Art and The Side Gallery.
The Exhibition is part of the Capture Birmingham Weekend 19- 20 March

Jindřich Štreit: Arnoltice, 1985

Jindřich Štreit: Hungary - Puszta 1997

Jindřich Štreit: Sovinec

Centrala, Unit 4, Minerva Works, 148 Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B5 5RT

From: 29 Jan 2016
To: 30 Mar 2016


Czech Center is a coorganizer of the event

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