I have to admit that the only photographs that fascinate me are the ones from my youth.
When I was seventeen, the country I lived in still looked like a big and rich treasury of differences and possibilities. Traveling through its boundaries was full of excitement while discovering these differences. Still, you always knew, though in an idealized situation, you belonged to this space. That fact was making you proud and somehow important.
As by the punishment, the next decade brought poverty on all sides, disappointment affected by amputation of physical space and by inability to move. Directly it was reflected by very personal difficulties to identify myself with the new life environment. To make things worse, geography of the former Republic (and today’s state) of Serbia was something I knew the least, so I needed ten years of intimate disaprovement to find myself finally on the rout for, to me very far, South of today’s state. Twelve months in the state’s service offered me absolute facing with all aspects of reality I had to live with. But something else happened as well– I’ve realized that even that much smaller country than the one I was born in, still holds something of difference and richness that, on the first glance was of lesser splendor and less photogenic then, at that time, easily idealized scenery. In the spirit of that pseudo-zen experience, I’ve started to love South quite easily and naturally, following the logic of contrast with not that far any more North of the country, of Vojvodina, where I’ve grew up. Discoveries were big and small, from striking language details and almost invisible everyday communication habits to, for me, very exciting and differently organized city space inside of which was easy though intriguing enough to observe different ethnic groups and read their habits. All of this wield something that could be defined as quite but constant fascination by the region. When invitation to participate in the workshops came, I saw it also as a chance I waited for a few years to return to this familiar place.
If I would have to choose, trying to be objective, my intimate moments or favorite photos from the eight months long adventure of going to Bujanovac and spending time with participants of the workshop, it would be a collage of very different sights. They all had certain tone of well balanced and functional but complex situation shown through more or less obvious contrasts and differences. Strange conditionality of richness and poverty. Intense provincial spirit. Crowdness of the border city. The optimism of the new houses and shadows of the streets through which you can hardly walk. Morning and afternoon habits running through monotony of Sunday idleness – Bujanovac for me, from week to week was becoming the place of absolute photogenicity.
That’s why, at first, I was a little bit surprised by photographic view of the city seen on the most photographs of young authors I was working with. I’ve realized that difference in perceiving and experiencing the city is not only determined by our different positions, lets call them position of an insider and an outsider, but it’s rather something that all twenty participants have in common – existential position from which the world and the city are seen in the very intimate manner. From that position they are aimed at very honest and often emotional interpretation of the city. Their photographs are, most of all, personal and almost lyrical representations of immediate physical environment. That usually also means social, existential and symbolic environment in which they live, go to school, spent their free time, work… At the same time, that space, which is defined by its historic, geographical and social coordinates could seem to us as completely authentic. But, if we take a closer look at its photographic but also teenage interpretation, we’ll recognize numerous archetypes and almost all genres and rules of big global culture that is, in this case, adjusted to language and values of specific time and cultural conditions that this time brings.
Insisting on assumption that you could see only what you are prepared to see, which we borrowed from the American photographer, George Tice, i.e. on an unwritten but functional rule that we seek and recognize photographic motifs in immediate surrounding, resulted in very different photographic series, most often in direct connection with daily routines and living environment of every participant. At the same time, they are offering us personal story, insight without intermediators and secondary meanings, and successfully starting discussion about our commonly accepted prejudice and stereotypes. Contraproductivnes of these very prejudice and stereotypes is most often product of lack of possibilities and opportunities for face-to-face and direct communications like this. Finally, these photographs, life experiences and attitudes of their authors could serve as a kind of material for establishing the new and differently idealized notions and stories about differences and richness that these very differences are inducing. Therefore, we do have to believe in their future.