BOJAN'S BLOG

Photographs, words and sounds
Posts Tagged ‘Croatia’

The doctor is in…

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The doctor’s in the house! It’s been a long and rather treacherous road to the very end – to the very last minute – but my fabulously smart M has successfully defended her PhD. No idea what’s in store for her after this, but I bet it’s going to be interesting.

Patriots on the march

15-Family027At first, reading the stories about newly elected (installed? appointed?) Croatian government run by a group of right wing political parties calling themselves the Patriotic Coalition was like watching a Monty Python skit. From a safe distance of some 5,000 km, it was almost funny. It isn’t any more. It is rapidly becoming a horror show.

More that a hundred years ago, speaking in San Francisco, Emma Goldman described what we call patriotism in terms that ring very much true today:

“Patriotism […] is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit. Indeed, conceit, arrogance and egotism are essentials of patriotism.”

The photograph was made in St. John’s, NL.

Thirteen

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Miss F. turned thirteen today. So ridiculously proud of the young woman she is becoming.

Saying random things is not a good idea

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Poor Little Miss F had a rough night with a stomach bug. The worst and the messiest of it was over by 3:30 am and she fell asleep on the couch in the living room. By the time noon came about she was almost herself. M asked her if she wanted to go to school after lunch. Thinking about it for a moment, Little Miss F calmly explained that if she goes, she feels like she’ll be tired and if she is asked a question she won’t remember what it was and she’ll just say something random so it’s not a good idea. She stayed home for the day.

A sleepless night and Interstellar science

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Aware just how pointless it is to be irrationally angry at the fact that on one night we could use a good night of sleep, Little Miss F, poor thing, had to come down with a stomach bug, I spent the early hours of the morning watching Interstellar on Netflix. Not a great movie, but it beats laying in bed seething.

After finishing it, I was wondering about the science of the whole thing – in fact, it was a particularly silly scene where the little spacecraft hits an ice cloud and the shards of ice FALL DOWN while the cloud itself defies gravity that lead me down some interesting internet rabbit holes (there was no explanation for that particular silliness, though). Here is an interview with Kip Thorne, scientific advisor on the film (he spends a bit too much time selling his book, but whatever).

The photo is from Vis Island.

Photo links from New York to Yangtze River

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Photo links galore:

Apparently, Bruce Gilden has a new book out and it makes Sean O’Hagan uncomfortable. Bruce Gilden makes everybody uncomfortable, but I doubt he cares.

Robert Frank’s series From the Bus is interesting and totally new to me.

Fantastic photographs of East and West Germany from 1977 to 1987 by German photographer Rudi Meisel. Now a book, too: LANDSLEUTE 1977 – 1987. TWO GERMANYS.

Tatiana Plotnikova’s photographs of Russian pagans are beautiful. Really nice work and a fascinating story.

I am not sure what is more odd, the story of photogrpaher Mustafa Abdulaziz and his photographic work or the photographs he made along the Yangtze River in China.

The photograph above was made in Komiža on Vis Island in Croatia.

Photo links from Cuba to neighbourhood shops

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Photo links post today:

Three things you should take a look at on [LENS] (incidentally, see how good and smart a photo section in a newspaper on-line can be when you dedicate resources to it!):

Photography in Cuba: It’s Not Easy. An interesting take on the International Centre of Photography retrospective of Cuban photography by both Cuban and non-Cuban photographers.

Visualizing the Common Core Curriculum. How do you photograph a government policy? Here is one photographer’s take on a new education policy in the USA.

In China, the Photobook as Art and History. I would love to get my hands on this one.

After [LENS], head over to The New Yorker’s Photo Booth and take a look Zoe Leonard’s photos of old neighbourhood shops. As somebody who photographs corner stores, I suspect I find this more interesting than most.

In the photograph is a scene from Vis Island, Croatia.

Silently cool

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We passed this skateboarder on Vis island in Croatia whose board had lit wheels and we all commented on how cool that was. In fact, Ms. M. said she wished she had a cool husband like that. Little Miss F., without missing a beat, looked at her and said with absolute conviction: “Dad is cool in a silent way.”

Take that world.

Photo: Vis island, Croatia.

The end of a journey

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And so it is official now: Bojan Fürst, MA.

This is a photograph from a story on Wood Island, New Brunswick, reunion I did for CBC’s Maritime Noon many years ago and it kind of started this whole islands adventure. It’s been a great ride. If you are interested in seeing what my thesis ended up looking like scoot over to Islands of Sun and Ice page.

Tito in a St. John’s cab

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When I looked at the driver and even before we said a word to each other, there was a jolt of recognition, a sense of familiarity every immigrant sometimes feels – a genetic alarm telling you that the person in front of you hails from the more or less same ancestral pool. It is not necessarily a joyous feeling, rather a mix of caution and a hope that you might be able to exchange a greeting in a tongue that feels familiar and mysterious this far from its homeland. This cab driver, a Bosnian, and I got along alright. At some point, he pulled the card hanging on an elastic band from his rearview mirror and turned it towards me. And there was Marshal Tito, in all his uniformed glory, in a St. John’s cab. We laughed and he looked out at the snow buried streets and said: “And here we are.”

That was a few months ago. To tell you the truth, I forgot about that photograph. I just developed some film this past weekend and this photograph suddenly became more significant than if I looked at it a couple of months ago. In two weeks, we will be leaving for a much needed family vacation to Croatia. It’s a cause of great excitement. My older daughter has fond memories of a couple of visits she can remember. How could she not? When she is there, she is surrounded by people who genuinely love her and care about her and what is more, they get to see her so rarely that they are willing to fulfill her every wish. That is certainly not how her parents treat her. For the younger one, this is the adventure of her life so far – she is looking forward to almost two months of firsts: a first plane ride, a first train ride, a first trip abroad, and the first visit to grandparents who last saw her when she was a gurgling bundle of diapers and blankets. Above all else, for my daughters, Croatia is a place of madcap stories, odd relatives, happy childhoods and magical beauty. It is that because of me. I am the one who over the years created that narrative and now, as I read yet another surreal article about the rise of nationalism, poisonous catholicism, and glorification of the country’s fascist past I feel guilty about it. I feel I lied to them. I never told them about this other Croatia rapidly unfolding over the last few months on the screen of my laptop.

This Croatia is a country whose nationalists seemingly read Orwell’s essays on nationalism and totalitarianism not as a warning, but a how-to manual for achieving a supreme state of paranoia, xenophobia and the hatred of everybody and everything that is not Croatian. “Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered,” wrote Orwell and Croatian nationalists took it to heart. From nazi salutes at football games to wilful blindness when it comes to the horrendous record of the Croatian nazi collaborators, to fascist movements, to Marshall Tito and five decades of socialism, Croatian nationalists are re-imagining history busily following Orwell’s advice that for nationalists: “…history is something to be created rather than learned.”

And it’s not just history. As the economic recession drags on and the number of the unemployed stays stubbornly high, as those who can leave the country in search of a better life somewhere else, leave, the range of issues that sends nationalists frothing at the mouth is growing: homosexual and reproductive rights are out, misogyny is in, asylum seekers are not welcome, anything to do with science and technology – from vaccines to large hadron collider – is suspicious, Catholic Church is trustworthy, and every crackpot conspiracy theory makes perfect sense to them. After all, Orwell said that “totalitarianism […] in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth.”

And so what am I to say to my daughters about this place we are going to? That their worth will be measured by how they look because the opportunities for women in a society overrun by rabid nationalism glorifying violence and subscribing to a bizarre version of fundamental catholicism are non-existent? That nobody will say a word of encouragement to a 12-year-old who is writing her first novel? That the 8-year-old’s ambition to become a chef will be laughed at? That just by virtue of having this cocktail of Austro-Hungarian, Scottish, French and Cree genes running through their veins they are less then perfect? And, maybe worst of all, that their parents are antifascists and humanists who find the crassness and futility of cheap nationalism as scary as it is repugnant?

“And here we are,” as the cab driver would say.

We will go first to an island. Small islanders everywhere still know how to live. After that, we’ll thread carefully. We are going to see a Rodin exhibit and we’ll spend a lot of time with grandma and grandpa discovering some old recipes that have been in the family for generations. We’ll build some memories and strengthen family ties. We’ll hike in the countryside and visit some rural places. We’ll sunbathe and swim in crystal clear waters. We’ll read lots of books. Hopefully, all of it will serve as a bit of an inspiration to a budding novelist and a beginner chef. And I am sure we will have conversations about poverty and unemployment, and what it does to people. And we’ll talk about nationalism and fascism.

And most of all I hope that we will also make some new stories – the family kind we can all share with friends and hopefully they will be just as crazy as those I told to my kids already.

Fundamentalisms…

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In the light of yesterday’s referendum in Croatia that made one form of discrimination (agains gay marriage, in this case) a part of the country’s constitution the words of Karima Bennoune yesterday in an interview with Michael Enright ring sadly true:

“Fundamentalisms are the political movements of the extreme right that in the context of globalization manipulate religion to achieve their political aims. They are basically power projects that use religious discourse to justify an extremist agenda.”

Karima Bennoune in an interview with Michael Enright
(You can hear the whole thing on CBC’s Sunday Edition website.)

On the photograph is the Old Bridge in my home town of Sisak.

Library as a place

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On October 15, I had a chance to speak to provincial library technicians during their annual  conference. There was a bit of dithering on my part about what was that I was going to say, but at the end, with the help of one of the organizers, I settled on Library as a Place, which worked reasonably well, I think. Here is the presentation with a script (or something close enough to one).

131014-LTAIG.001Good afternoon. My name is Bojan Fürst and I am a photographer and a geographer an I love libraries. Some of you may also know me as the manager of knowledge mobilization with the Harris Centre, which is what I do for a living, but that has nothing to do with what I want to talk about today.

131014-LTAIG.002Originally I was going to photograph library technicians and librarians as they work and then speak about that experience and how it relates to another project I am working on. For mostly unpleasant reasons, that did not quite happen. However, I was a bit dubious about that project from the beginning. I’ll tell you why. In 1999, I was flying back home to Croatia from Calgary. I was on a direct flight from Calgary to Frankfurt. Sitting next to me was a very pleasant old lady in her 80s. She was traveling to Venice where her grand-niece, I believe, was getting married.  She asked me if I’d like to see a photograph of her niece. I was a polite young man and she was a very nice old lady so I said yes. She, and I am not exaggerating, pulled out some 300 family photos of people I never met and never will and she went through all of them with me. Twice. By the time we landed in Frankfurt, and it is a VERY long flight, I knew two things: 1. I knew a lot about her family; and 2. I knew I am never going to be the old man that makes a complete stranger look at 300 of my photos. Making you sit here and look at photos of some of your colleagues as they go about their work felt a little bit like I was about to break that rule.

131014-LTAIG.003One thing most people don’t know about photojournalism, is that there is a lot of waiting that happens between actually making photographs. And that, more than anything else, is the reason why photojournalists often seem to notice things that everybody else misses. It is also why we often muck around with weird ways of taking photographs. We are also like lemmings, always ready to follow the latest trend – even if it kills us at the end. So in 2001 or so, David Brunette, one of the living legends of photojournalism, got himself a cheap, plastic, Chinese made, holga camera. It is as rudimentary a photo tool as you can get. In the hands of David Brunett, however, it became a superb photographic tool. He used it to photograph Al Gore during his presidential campaign. Next thing you know, every photojournalist is rocking one of these plastic and pretty much useless things. As a good little lemming, I got one, too. Now, to my eternal credit, I did realized that as good as David Brunett is, photographing Al Gore with a plastic camera probably had more to do with the fact that the photo ended up on the front pages of some of the world’s largest newspapers than the camera itself. Since Al Gore was not available, I carried that camera around with me without actually making any photographs – until the day I had some time to kill between assignments in Fredericton. Those of you who know Fredericton, know that it is not the most exciting place on the planet. It was a summer day, it was hot, and I was pointlessly driving around.

131014-LTAIG.004And than I saw this sign in front of a little corner store. Before I got an ice-cream, I pulled out my plastic holga and I made this photograph. For me, this was a beginning of a fascination with place making. Let’s look at a few more corner stores, but only a few. And let’s play “spot it” while we at it.

131014-LTAIG.005Ice box.

131014-LTAIG.006Lottery sign

131014-LTAIG.007ATM inside

131014-LTAIG.008Coca-Cola

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131014-LTAIG.010Pepsi

131014-LTAIG.011Word “Convenience”

131014-LTAIG.012What is fascinating to me about these photographs is the perfect blend of the familiar and the unique. Each of these stores advertises the familiar. Smart move because it lets us immediately feel safe. We know exactly what is that we are going to find inside. What is wonderful about them is that they are also very much unique places reflecting the personalities of their owners, but also the larger community they are situated in.

131014-LTAIG.013So a corner store on Grand Manan is unlike any other.

131014-LTAIG.014And a corner store on Change Islands, or The Store, does not look like a corner store at all.

131014-LTAIG.015It was photographing corner stores that started to turn me into a geographer. Geographers think about space and place a lot. In fact, some would argue that the “most enduring legacy of humanistic geography is [its] theoretical engagements with notions of space and place.” And if you look at some of the definitions of place and space we came up with, you could be excused if you thought we think about it way too much. We talk about mobility, about time-space compression, about commodifcation of space and place. We talk about the destruction of the vernacular and the leisuring of rural landscapes. We talk about place as “a qualitative, total phenomenon, which we cannot reduce to any of its parts or properties without losing its concrete character.” We, as geographers, try so hard to be impartial, objective, scientific, clever and complex, that the best advice I can give you is to stop talking to geographers about place and instead ask architects. I am kidding, but only just so… I envy architects. They are the only people I know of who comfortably straddle the world of art, science and spirituality and, the really good ones anyway, can talk about it in a rational and engaging way without sounding flaky. So for our purposes today, I think Christian Norberg-Schulz’s definition of place will do nicely. He says that “the spaces where life occurs are places… A place is a space which has a distinct character.” Just like those corner stores have distinct characters.

131014-LTAIG.016And if you are interested in things like place and space and distinct characters, than islands are among the best places to explore all those things. Being a Croatian, my encounter with islands started in childhood. We have over a thousand of them and sooner or later you will end up visiting one of them. But my true involvement with the islands started in a resettled community of Wood Island just off the coast of Grand Manan in New Brunswick. I was working on a story for CBC radio about the reunion that takes place on the island every year. It was August of 2008. It was windy and overcast with light rain. But there was not enough wind or enough rain to prevent the islanders from making their customary annual visit to their ancestral home.

131014-LTAIG.017It takes about 10 minutes on a small boat to cross from Seal Cove on Grand Manan Island to Wood Island. There is not much left there: a church gleaming white among the island greenery, an old schoolhouse, a cemetery, and three houses scattered around the island that serve as summer residences. What there is left is a strong sense of attachment and identity among those who moved away from their homes in 1950s as the provincial government refused to provide any services to the island community. Hence, every year, the former islanders and their descendants board a small boat and get together for a church service and a reunion. It is a story only too familiar to most Newfoundlanders. It was towards the end of my stay on Wood Island that I managed to talk to one of the last teachers who had taught at the island school. She tried to explain to me just what the island meant to her. This is what she said. “In the winter, I might feel down and my husband knows – he’ll drive me to Seal Cove just to look over and get a fix. It’s awesome.”

131014-LTAIG.018Islands are funny places. Geographers can’t really figure out how to define them and so we don’t really know how many islands are there in the world. You think it would be easy. Tim Robinson, writing about his time on Aran islands off the coast of Ireland recounts the anecdote from his first day on the island: “On the day of our arrival we met an old man who explained the basic geography: “The ocean,” he told us, “goes all around the island.”” What Edmond and Smith call “obstinate separateness” of islands has been drawing people to those specks of land in the sea for centuries. Islands are mysterious, romantic, sites of paradises and prisons. They are difficult to get to and appear stubbornly unique in a world that has “institutionalize placelessness.” The  islanders manage to hang on to the authenticity of their island communities and we all want to figure out how they do it. How do they hold on to a life as Ann Buttimer writes “which is attuned to the rhythms of nature, … anchored in human history and directed toward a future?” How do they “build a home which is the everyday symbol of a dialogue with one’s ecological and social milieu.”

131014-LTAIG.019It’s not easy and it requires generations. There is an art to living on an island and it is a complicated one to master. Talk to islanders and they will tell you that the best thing about an island is that you know everybody. They will also tell you that, after a lousy ferry service, the worst thing about living on an island is that you know everybody. But knowing everybody is exactly one of those things that makes islands such unique places. It takes human interaction – unplanned, unavoidable and sustained random human interaction – for a space to become a place. Another architect, Canadian Avi Friedman, said that sense of place is an outcome of the physical features that surround us, the space between them and the interactions that happen among those for whom the places are built for. It so happens that small islands seem to naturally encourage those meaningful interactions in ways that it is becoming difficult for most of us living in urban and especially suburban environments to experience.

131014-LTAIG.020And when I say difficult, I mean difficult. In urban environments we all live in, and I swear I will be talking about the libraries soon, we have worked really hard to remove even a chance of a random meeting in a public space. Among my photographic interests is street photography. It is a branch of photographic expression with a long history that has created some of the best loved photographs we all know. Cynics would say that street photography appeals to me because I am an introvert who needs a reason to leave his house and an opportunity to hide behind the camera, but that is not true. I love street photography because it is unpretentious, honest, and it requires engagement and involvement with the world outside of our doorstep in precisely the ways that are conducive to place making. Except, it is really, really difficult to do street photography in St. John’s.

131014-LTAIG.021There are no natural public spaces here. Our streets, even in the heart of downtown are mostly empty. I call this photograph “The Optimist.” What else could he be playing to the empty streets? And while we can build our urban environments to encourage place making and development of a shared identity, the fact remains that we don’t. However, I do believe that a quest for a sense of place and a sense of identity is so strong in us that we will find ways to engage in its creation no matter what.

131014-LTAIG.022Let me tell you one more kind of a funny photojournalism story. In 2006, I went to cover a story in Bosnia for a Canadian magazine about Canadian efforts to rebuild Bosnian health care system. It was a very successful program carried out by Queen’s University department of family medicine and funded by CIDA. In the old socialist system in former Yugoslavia, we did not have family doctors in a Canadian sense. You had a GP that was attached to your place of work or to your school. So my mom had her doctor, my dad had his doctor, my brother had a paediatrician as did all other elementary school kids and I had a doctor that took care of my high school classmates. It was a bit of a mess. If you need to see your doctor you would take your health card and you would go in early in the morning to your doctor’s office and you would wait as long as it took to be called in. The Canadians came in, introduce the concept of a family doctor, and, crucially, the idea that you can make an appointment to see your doctor at a prearranged time therefore eliminating hours of waiting time. It worked like a charm and everybody loved it, except the retired people who just would not accept the new system. Canadians and Bosnians got frustrated and decided to conduct a thorough survey and figure out why did these old-timers insist on showing up before the office even opened and then waited until the doctor could see them. It turned out that for the elderly patients, a doctor’s waiting room was a social place. They talked with their peers there, they played chess and backgammon, knitted sweaters and hats for their grandkids. In most cases, they did not even really need to see a doctor at all. So now, some community health centres simply have a community room, where anybody can come and have a cup of tea or coffee and do all those things they did while waiting for a doctor and sometimes there is even a nurse or a student measuring their blood pressure and providing advice about their medication or nutrition. Family doctors’ waiting rooms were places and yet nobody understood that.131014-LTAIG.023There are other such places that we create for very specific purposes, but that perform a dual role. For example, architect Avi Friedman lists farmers’ markets as one of those places. He says that markets “not only provide basic amenities and contribute to economic vitality, but they act as social magnets. They are scenes of trade, as well as places for communal interaction and gathering spots where one can watch the theatre of life.” I would argue that libraries are also such places. And we are enormously attached to them. We have all heard about the cellist of Sarajevo and Sarajevo market where people died in mortar and sniper fire, but one story that we don’t hear very often is the story of National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a repository of knowledge and identity and in 1992 it was mercilessly shelled by Serbian forces in a campaign designed to erase any evidence of just how complex the identity of Sarajevans and Bosnians really was. I wish I had a better photograph of it. During the shelling, majority of the books and manuscripts did not survive the fire, but nonetheless, citizens and librarians worked under fire to save as many of the books as possible. At least one person died. True places, like libraries and markets, and public squares, matter immensely to us –  enough that we are willing to protest against their destruction, fight to save them, and, as in Bosnian example, even die for them.

131014-LTAIG.024I believe that libraries are vital when it comes to place and place making. American feminist and social activist bell hooks once said that “One of the most subversive institutions in the United States is the public library.” Some 18 years ago, in my first year of college I discovered that I am a photographer in Calgary Public Library. Also there, I attended a lecture, and I can’t even remember who it was that was speaking, but that person was introduced by the director of the Calgary Public Library who said that every single one of us in the audience should be able to find at least one book in his library that would offend us. And if we couldn’t find such a book, than he failed as a librarian. I never forgot that.

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Good libraries are much more than repositories for books and periodicals. They are not about buildings, or comfortable chairs. The good ones are true places. That means that they bring together people who would otherwise have no need to meet or interact with each other. They are truly subversive in a sense that, while making us perfectly comfortable, they also make us expand our worlds, confront our ignorance and make us better people whether we want it or not. Every good library is at the heart of its community. That is certainly the case of the Memorial University Library System and places like the Resource Library at the Faculty of Education.

131014-LTAIG.026You as library technicians, archivists, and librarians have enormous responsibility. Avi Friedman, at the end of his book “A Place in Mind” writes that today “The number of meeting places and their quality has diminished. Neighbourhoods, built for seclusion, have fewer people, fewer or no sidewalks, walking or bike paths, benches or civic squares. We have fewer public markets or corner stores.” But we still have libraries and you are the custodians of those places. Neil Gaiman said that the “Rule number one is: Don’t fuck with librarians.” And he couldn’t be more right. We need libraries that are at the heart of their community, the way our library is here at the university. We need libraries that are easy to access and libraries that challenge us to be better when we leave them than we were when we came in; libraries that are true places where communal life is lived to its fullest. I did not photograph library technicians at work, because I am not sure I know how to photograph people whose work is not to catalogue books, answer questions and mend broken spines, but to create places that make the heart of who we are. So instead of giving you photographs, I just want to say thank you.

You have to be careful with the island…

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“You have to be careful with the island. There is a trap here. If you prevent a young person from leaving, the island turns into a curse. They must go and get to know the world and it has to be their own decision to return and to love the island. If you tell them: “Don’t go there. That’s not for you,” then there is going to be resentment. It’s our job to push them out into the world. We have to give them the love for the island, we have to teach them about life here, but it has to be their decision. If you don’t do that, than they have no reason to come back. It’s only love that works… That is what happened to me. I had a grandma who passed that love on to me and I left to see the world, but I also felt that I can affirm myself the best here, that here, I am myself and that here I can make the greatest contribution. But if I didn’t learn that love, if I did not have that contact with the island, I would have left and would be contented somewhere else and I would not feel that I belong to this island. It’s all about where you belong.”

That is a quote from one of my interviews on Vis island, Croatia.

Also in the news today is the inclusion of a particular style of a cappella singing on Croatian coast into the list of the world’s intangible cultural heritage. The song bellow is performed by Klapa Otok (Island) and it’s called “Islanders’ Ballad.”

My not so great translation is below:

Islanders’ ballad

We live off sea, by nets and lines,
We count the blisters from oars, picks.
Red are our eyes from sleepless nights and tears,
Our callused hands are hard as rocks.

And we are lashed by storms and rains,
And every day we are bent over a bit more,
And yet, more than anything and more than all other beauties
Our entire lives we love sea

Our blue sea, you know all our desires
You are strength, fortune – our life

We count the sails and white ships,
The days are passing with nor’easters and sou’westers. 
Miserly land gives all it can,
Life on an island is a joy and sorrow.

Tearsheets

Between work, family, finishing off my MA thesis and other assorted academic obligations I barely have time to breathe. The tearsheets are from the latest Newfoundland Quarterly  magazine. This is a tiny, little bit of my thesis in a magazine opinion piece form. You can read the whole thing here.

 

Miss F. is 10 today…

Wow! Ten!

What if…

Hmmm… this project I have in mind may not actually be a 6×7 project or just a holga project but an infrared film holga project…

That idea is thoroughly inspired by remarkable work of Wolfgang Moersch.

The photograph is from Split, Croatia.

CBC Dispatches

In 2007, I did two documentaries for CBC’s Dispatches. One was on Croatian elections at the time and the other on the aftermath of the conflict in the Croatian city of Vukovar, which was completely destroyed in the war during the early 1990s. That documentary, with a selection of photographs that were never really meant to be published, is below.

Today, due to recent government cuts, CBC has cancelled Dispatches. This was, without exaggeration, one of the top current international affairs programs in English language anywhere. What made it great was the team that put it together. I learned more about journalism and radio from Alan Guettel, Alison Masemann and Naheed Mustafa during our brief conversations while putting those documentaries together than in four years of university. And that is the real loss to Canadians. CBC and its flagship programs, like Dispatches, don’t just provide news and entertainment programming, but also provide mentoring and teaching opportunities for journalists, especially freelancers. I will miss the voice of Rick MacInnes-Rae and I will always be grateful to Alan, Alison and Naheed.

The last show will air in June. After that, in this increasingly interconnected world, we are going to be slightly poorer, slightly more parochial, slightly more ignorant, and slightly less Canadian- not by much in the grand scheme of things, but I am afraid that it is starting to add up.

In the photo is a door on a stage in a resettled community of Fair Island.

EU: Za ili protiv?

Prije otprilike godinu dana, prijatelj me je pitao što ja mislim o Europskoj uniji i eventualnom hrvatskom članstvu u toj uniji. Rekao je kako već dugo živim vani, ali sam dovoljno često u Hrvatskoj i pratim što se događa pa bi ga znimalo kakvo je moje viđenje stvari iz neke kanadsko-hrvatske, novinarsko-akademske perspektive.

Nisam mu tada uopće odgovorio. Nisam odgovorio uglavnom iz istih razloga iz kojih nikada nisam glasao na hrvatskim predsjedničkim ili parlamentarnim izborima od kada sam se odselio izvan granica Republike Hrvatske. Kao državljanin Republike Hrvatske čija obitelj i prijatelji još uvijek tamo žive mene zanima što se u Hrvatskoj događa, ali mislim da nemam pravo odlučivati na hrvatskim izborima o tome tko će voditi državu u kojoj ja ne plaćam poreze i u koju dolazim samo kao rijetki turist.

Imao sam priliku studirati u Kanadi na poziv moje obitelji koja je tamo živjela više od dvadeset godina. I oni i moji roditelji su se zadužili i puno toga odrekli da bih ja završio faks. Nisam imao namjeru ostati, no zaljubio sam se, oženio i danas živim na otoku Newfoundland u kanadskoj najistočnijoj i relativno siromašnoj provinciji. Radim na sveučilištu u centru za regionalnu politiku i razvoj i spremam magisterij uz rad. Studiram zemljopis i moj se znanstveno-istrazivački rad bavi problematikom malih otoka u Hrvatskoj i Kanadi. Imam plaću nešto veću od kanadskog prosjeka pa se mogu smatrati srednjim slojem. Supruga mi sprema doktorat i primanja joj ovise o stipendijama i slabo plaćenim istraživačkim projekatima. Klinke idu u školu i vrtić. Podstanari smo i nemamo auto. Da smo u Hrvatskoj u sličnoj situaciji, vjerojatno nam život ne bi bio bitno drugačiji. Da budemo iskren, životni standard, ako ga ne mjerimo samo u materijalnim dobrima, bi nam gotovo sigurno bio i bolji.

Zašto vam sve ovo govorim? Prije svega zato što mi je još uvijek neugodno soliti pamet ljudima u Hrvatskoj, a onda i zato što hoću da znate da ovo piše običan čovjek bez nekih skrivenih namjera.

Dakle, kad bih ja 22. siječnja morao odgovoriti na pitanje “Jeste li za članstvo Republike Hrvatske u Europskoj uniji?” što bih ja zaokružio, ZA ili PROTIV?

Da budem iskren ja još uvijek nisam odlučio i da moram 22. siječnja izaći na referendum ovo što slijedi je vjerojatno ono što bi mi prolazilo kroz glavu.

Prije svega, bio bih ljut kao pas. Bio bih ljut na one koji su pljačkali državu 20 godina. Gledali su samo svoj osobni interes i natjerali nas na ponižavajuće pregovore koji su trajali duže nego s bilo kojom drugom državom članicom EU. Sram me je da su nam kojekakvi europski birokrati morali objašnjavati da su ljudska prava, pravo na povratak izbjeglica, prava nacionalnih manjina, osuda ratnih zločina, pravna država, poštenje i tolerancija neke osnovne civilizacijske stečevine koje moramo barem nominalno prepoznati kad već nemamo dovoljno dostojanstva da ih ustvari poštujemo. Bio bih ljut kao pas na ljude, prijatelje, susjede, pa čak i obitelj, za koje znam da su glasali za i podržavali lopove na vlasti koji su na očigled pljačkali državu i grad u kojem sam odrastao. Činili su to zato da bi se pokazali većim ‘Hrvatima’ od svojih prijatelja i susjeda i zato što su bili uvjereni da će im članstvo u jednoj političkoj stranci kleptomanske kulture donjeti osobnu dobit, posao ili povoljni kredit. Ono zbog čega sam doista bijesan je da su ti isti prijatelji i susjedi digli ruke od svega i u najboljoj hrvatskoj maniri jamrali kako im je teško, ali im nikad nije palo na pamet da izađu na izbore i glasaju za nekog drugog ili se, pazi sad, angažiraju u političkom i društvenom životu vlastite zajednice. Krivi su za te ponižavajuće pregovore baš kao i oni koji danas sjede u Remetincu i oni koji još tamo ne sjede, a trebali bi. Bio bih ljut na vlade koje su dozvolile da se ‘pregovori’ svode na naše klimanje glavom jer kako drugačije objasniti pristupni ugovor kao što je onaj kojeg možete pročitati na stranicama Vlade RH ako se samo udostojite kliknuti na ovaj link: http://goo.gl/lz6OK. Na mom putu prema glasačkom mjestu bio bih ljut i zbog toga što su me natjerali da se izjašnjavam o ugovoru kojeg su već potpisali u moje ime. Možemo zahvalit samo toj Europskoj uniji da NJIHOVA pravila ne dozvoljavaju takvo ponižavanje i omalovažavanje građana pa ipak imamo priliku glasati na referendumu. A bio bih ljut i na sadašnju vladu koja nije u stanju angažirati građane i stvoriti ozračje u kojem se rasprava o pristupu Europskoj uniji može voditi argumentima a ne deranjem i prijetnjama. Trenutna ministrica vanjskih poslova koja je ovaj referendum svela na običnu ucjenu jer o rezultatu ovog referenduma, kao, ovisi hrvatski kreditni rejting i umirovljeničke penzije bi se trebala ispričati građanima i barem ponuditi ostavku. Kao što bi rekli moji kanadski prijatelji, “I won’t hold my breath.”

Ljut ili ne, to sada više nema smisla jer na kraju ja ipak moram zaokružiti ZA ili PROTIV. LJUT jednostavno nije opcija.

Koji su argumenti PROTIV? Na žalost, ima ih puno. I, što je još žalosnije, u Hrvatskoj ne postoje euroskeptici koji bi o tome mogli govoriti na nekakv racionalan i pristojan način. Razlika između euroskeptika i eurofoba, ali i eurofila, je upravo racionalno razmišljanje. Euroskeptika možete uvjeriti argumentima i ustupcima. S eurofobom se ne može razgovarati jer je po definiciji njegov strah iracionalan baš kao što je eurofilovo zatvaranje očiju pred nepravednim i štetnim pristupnim ugovorm također iracionalno.

Ako pročitate pristupni ugovor i sami ćete vidjeti da ima puno toga što ne valja. U principu, bilo koja vlada koja želi napraviti pravu razvojnu politiku morat će to učiniti s jednom rukom zavezanom iza leđa. Na primjer, odredbe o zabrani sadnje novih vinograda i ukidanju malog ribarstva su u principu protuustavne jer vladi onemogućuju ispunjavanje 52. članka Ustava koji zahtjeva posebnu skrb o hrvatskim otocima. Pristupom EU podliježemo strogim proizvodnim i izvoznim kvotama i moramo ukinuti većinu poljoprivrednih i industrijskih subvencija. Da stvari budu gore, pristupni ugovor također kaže da ulaskom u EU mi istupamo iz svih regionalnih i bilateralnih ugovora o slobodnoj trgovini što znači da smo upravo pristali na to da si ograničimo pristup jedinom tržištu na kojem trenutno jesmo konkuretni kao što je to tržište jugoistočne Europe i zemalja bivše Jugoslavije.

Kad bih ja bio radnik, poljoprivrednik, ribar, ili kad bih radio u prehrambenoj industriji ili brodogradnji i glasao samo iz vlastitog interesa, morao bih glasati PROTIV. Pristupni ugovor nije morao biti takav kakv je, a na tome što je takav kakav je možete zahvalit gospodinu u kućnom pritvoru i gospođi s velikom crvenom torbom kao i svim ostalim zastupnicima i pregovaračima koji nisu znali i nisu htjeli ispregovarati pristupni ugovor koji bi bio pravedan i koristan za Hrvatsku.

Naravno postoje izvrsni argumenti ZA pristup Europskoj uniji. Pristupni fondovi, ako se pametno iskoriste, mogu pokrenuti hrvatsko gospodarstvo u novom i dobrom pravcu. Pravna stečevina i pristup europskim sudovima dodatna su garancija ljudskih i radničkih prava i zakona o zaštiti okoliša. Europski fondovi za znanost, kulturu i regionalnu suradnju bit će od izuzetne pomoći našim znanstvenicima, umjetnicima i raznim nevladinim udrugama koje se bave svime od kazališta i folklora do zaštite okoliša i ljudskih prava. Kad bih bio znanstvenik, umjetnik, profesor ili kao netko tko je zaposlen u bilo kojoj nevladinoj udruzi ili u tzv. kreativnim zanimanjima i gledao samo vlastiti interes, glasao bih ZA bez razmišljanja.

Sva ostala natlapanja kako ćemo sada moći studirati u Europi, kako ćemo moći otvarati tvrtke u Češkoj i putovati bez ikakvih problema po EU i kupovati nekretnine na Malti su obične gluposti – sve to možemo i sada. Mi i sada možemo napravit pametnu razvojnu politiku, i sada možemo reformirati školstvo i zdravstvo, i sada možemo kreirati progresivnu i humanu politiku prema manjinama, imigrantima, okolišu i bilo čemu drugom. Prema pravilima Europske Unije, sve odluke se ionako moraju donositi na najnižoj mogućoj instanci tako kao što sada moramo sami izorganizirati vlastitu budućnost, morat ćemo to isto napraviti i unutar Unije, ali u okviru ograničenog suvereniteta.

Dakle kad ja pogledam razloge ZA i PROTIV, da budem iskren, PROTIV je možda racionalno bolji izbor za većinu hrvatskih građana. Pristupni ugovor je loš i Hrvatska se ne bi smjela zadovoljit s mrvicama.

Međutim, postoji tu još nešto. Možda to zvuči naivno, ali ideja ujedinjene Europe je još uvijek ideal za koji se valja boriti. Usprkos korupciji, malograđanštini i primitivizmu europskih političara i nepoštenom i neokolonijalnom odnosu velikih europski država prema novim i malim članicama, ideja Europe kao zajednice ravnopravnih građana i naroda koji su odlučili zajednički sagraditi budućnost koja se temelji na njihovim različitostima je još uvijek svijetla civilizacijska točka na kontinentu koji je izazvao toliko zla i sukoba. Današnja Europa ima puno problema, od buđenja neo-nacizma i odnosa prema manjinama, posebno Romima, do nehumanog tretmana imigranata koji samo žele bolji zivot kao i svi mi. Usprkos svemu tome, ideja Europe je nešto za što ja osobno želim glasati. Ne želim biti protiv nečega u što duboko vjerujem samo zato što se mi nismo udostojili izabrati kompetentne i poštene ljude da nas vode kroz pristupne pregovore. Hrvatska je oduvijek bila, a i danas je dio europskog kulturnog i političkog prostora. Ja želim i dalje biti dio tog prostora jer mislim da pametnom politikom i regionalnom suradnjom s onim europskim partnerima koji se, kao i mi, moraju boriti protiv samovolje velikih, mi imamo priliku ne samo izgraditi bolju budućnost za sebe već, nadam se, ponuditi nešto i drugima. Da ja mogu glasati 22. siječnja, ja bih duboko udahnuo i glasao ZA. Hrvatska može osigurati budućnost svojim građanim i unutar i izvan Europske unije – to ovisi o nama samima. Na kraju će nam biti onako kako si sami napravimo, no mislim da će nam biti lakše ako imamo prijatelje s kojima možemo podjeliti i uspjehe i neuspjehe. Ugovor je nepravedan, ali je ipak samo to, slovo na papiru koje se može promjeniti i ispregovarati unutar unije. Ideja Europe je puno više od pristupnog ugovora i nešto za što vrijedi glasati.

The photo is from Vienna, Austria.

Street photography and merry-go-round

I am slowly making my way through fabulous Street Photography Now. Hands down one of the best books on street photography out there. Here are some photographers I really like:

Jens Olof Lashein is a Swede doing pretty darn interesting work all over eastern and southeastern Europe. Check his Moments in Between series as well as White Sea Black Sea.

Arif Asci is a Turkish photographer working on the streets of Istanbul and all over the world.

Cristóbal Hara is a Spanish photographer working in rural Spain and presenting his work almost exclusively in books.

Also check out Steidl’s website and awfully tempting collection of photography books.

The photograph above is from Split, Croatia, during the Saint Domnius celebrations this past spring. I love that old-fashioned merry-go-round. Made me think of Cliffhanger, Susan’s fabulous photo blog about carnies.

Croatian word of the day: vrtuljak merry-go-round

Islands – Otoci

 

Wow… It’s been a while… Lots of good news to report.

The printing for the exhibit is coming along nicely; the frames have been picked; and I think I’ll manage to do all this on time.

I also have a trip scheduled for Fogo Island and Change Islands in the first week of October so that I can slowly start working on a new but related body of work around my longterm islands project.

The most exciting news of all is that I have also started writing what is probably going to be a monthly column for a news website on the Island of Vis in Croatia. It has been good 12 years since I wrote something in my own language and after initial jitters, it was such an enormous pleasure to string those words together. They flow so much more naturally for me than English. Below is the first text on island landscapes for those of you comfortable reading in Croatian. I am also wondering if it is the time to make this blog truly bilingual, although that my be more work than I can now afford to do. Still, it would be quite fun to do.  Above is a photo from Vis…

Otočni krajolici – krhka opstojnost

I opet ta riječ “fragile”. Svaki put kad se razgovor dotakne otoka i otočne tematike, netko će već posegnuti za tom riječi: krhki otoci. A meni dođe da vrištim.

– Krhki?

Evo ovdje na ovom mom otoku Newfoundlandu, kojeg tako nemilosrdno tuče sjeverni Atlantik, mi stojimo na nastarijim stijenama na svijetu. Nema tu ništa krhko. A na Visu, ‘mom’ drugom otoku, Višani, sve nešto krhki i lomljivi, već 6,000 godina žive na svom otoku.

Ali ništa se tu ne može. Čak i ovdje na Malti, na konferenciji o otocima, okruženi debelim zidinama i kičastim crkvama koje stoje kao spomenici rasipništvu i potrebi da se dokaže kako je moj ipak veći od tvoga, profesor nakon profesora, akademik nakon akademika, ustaje i priča o krhkim otocima koji, eto, samo što se nisu raspali rastočeni od mora, ljudske nebrige i neke, očito samo meni nevidljive, prirodne krhkosti.

Otoke sam zavolio još kao dječak koji je čitao Julesa Verna i Raphaela Sabatinija i nadao se ljetnim praznicima, kad morski vidici nakratko zamjene one industrijske kojima je moj rodni Sisak oduvijek obilovao. To dječačko romantično ljubovanje s otocima nije me napustilo ni kasnije, ali se pretvorilo u nešto zanimljivije i kompleksnije.

Ja sam fotograf i geograf.

Spojiti te dvije strasti, naravno, nije teško čak ni danas kada su i fotografi i geografi više preokupirani zaslonom svojih računala i matematičkim modelima, nego onim sto se nalazi ispred njihovih vrata. A i jednostavnije je tako, jer nepredvidljivost onoga što se nalazi s druge strane naših kućnih vrata je toliko nerazumljiva da se često čini zastrašujućom, umjesto uzbudljivom. No još uvijek ima nas kojima su udobne cipele najvažniji dio fotografske i geografske opreme. Tako su i moji otoci meni neprekidno izvor inspiracije, ali i ispitivanja ne samo otočnih krajolika nego i sebe samoga.

Otoci se često smatraju zatvorenim i nazadnim sredinama, no daleko je to od istine. Okruženi morem, poput pustinjskih oaza, oni su utočište lutalicama i spas brodolomnicima. Otovoreni prema svima koji pokažu malo dobre volje, otočani su upućeni prema svijetu barem isto onoliko koliko i prema vlastitim obalama.

John Donne je napisao da nitko nije otok, i mogu mu to oprostiti jer on nije imao prilike upoznati modernog imigranta. Podjeljenog identiteta, mi imigranti nemamo izbora. Biti otok, čvrsto se držeći morskog dna, upućeni na sebe i otvoreni prema drugima, to je jedini način da ostanemo normalni – barem donekle, rekli bi zlobnici. I tako svaki imigrant izgradi za sebe identitet koji je samo njegov baš kao i što svaki otok ima neki svoj, neponovljiv izričaj koji ne može postojati nigdje drugdje – arhitekti bi rekli “genius loci”.

Može li se taj “duh mjesta” uhvatiti fotografskim objektivom? Ne može. Ono što se može, a možda čak i mora, je držati oči otvorene i pokušati opisati neke od osebujnih načina na koje otočani žive sa svojim otokom.

Na samom početku svoje priče o mostu koji spaja beznačajne ljudske sudbine i svemoćne carevine, Ivo Andrić je napisao da “nema slučajnih građevina, izdvojenih iz ljudskog društva u kome su nikle, i njegovih potreba, želja i shvatanja”. Kakvu nam to priču pričaju kamene stepenice viške crkve i drvena sojenica za ribolovnu opremu okovana ledom na Change Otocima u Newfoundlandu? Zašto su Komižani izgradili svoj gradić kao kompaktnu urbanu sredinu, a zašto mještani Joe Batt’s Arma, mjesta na otoku Fogo, ribari kao i Komižani, vole svoje drvene kućice raštrkati po ledom okovanim granitnim stijenama svog otoka?

Ja duboko vjerujem da fotografski proces ne završava fotografijom u galeriji, na masnom papiru časopisa ili zaslonu računala. To je za mene samo početak. Fotografija je uspjela onog tenutka kada postane razlog da razmjenimo doživljaje, iskustva i priče i pronađemo nešto zajedničko u našim različitostima. To je ta snaga otoka i otočana, koji usprkos krhkosti ekonomskih i demografskih prilika uvijek nekako pronađu načina da opstoje i da se prilagode novim vremenima, baš onda kad svi zaključe kako je, eto, došlo vrijeme da se još jedan mali otok pretvori u morsku hrid.

Bojan Fürst
Newfoundland, 13. 09. 2011.

 

 

 

On ferryboats

I wrote this recently and I don’t feel like shopping it around. If you like it, consider contributing a couple of bucks to the Islands Landscapes campaign.

No journey to an island begins until the ribbed, rusty, steel-plate ramp scrapes along a concrete ferry dock.

Ferryboats are strange beasts. Unloved, but necessary. Step on one and there is nothing like casting off lines to make you feel you are truly abandoning familiar shores. But, you are not quite there yet – wherever there might be. That slight apprehension you feel comes from being in a limbo, a non-place. Maybe that’s why ancient poets depicted poor Charon as a bad tempered, old grouch day in and day out ferrying frightened souls across the river separating us from the Underworld. Unlike his passengers, who have a whole new world to explore, the old man is stuck on his little piece of the river, immortal, but without a destination. What could be worse?

In the old world tales, greed was punished by the eternity of ferrying duties. In the Brothers Grimm version, it is the greedy king who gets an oar handed to him, but in the story collected by Russia’s folklorist Aleksandr Afanasyev it is the rich merchant Marco who is condemned to row travellers across a river until the end of time. It’s the Russian version that resonates here in Newfoundland where rich fish merchants kept a tight grip on small outport communities and where large boat owners threaten the livelihoods of small inshore fishermen to this day.

Ask islanders what is one change that would make the most difference in their lives and ferry service will inevitably be the first thing they mention. Those from away will sagely nod their heads in sympathy and understanding, but they understand only a half of it. To them, a ferryboat is a symbol of isolation. It’s the only way to get to this place that sits in the middle of unpredictable, capricious, ever-changing sea. Of course one would want a better, faster, more frequent crossing of those treacherous waters that can shimmer invitingly one moment only to rise and swallow a man, snatch a child or wash away a home a heartbeat later. And it’s true that when your loved one is ill, when island families gather from afar for funerals, births or reunions, a faster, better, more frequent crossing is desirable. What those not of the islands don’t know – cannot know – is that to an islander the sea is not only a barrier to be crossed, but an open field to be savoured. The ferryboat is not just a lifeline, a beast of burden to carry the ill, the old, and the newborn, but also a guardian of their islandness who allows only so many and not one more to come onto their shores.

And those who come, usually when the weather is fair, are driven by curiosity or nostalgia, by a sense of mission or just dragged along to a godforsaken rock sticking out in the middle of the ocean.

Teenagers, feigning indifference, refuse to leave the deck as the summer storm gathers clouds and pours rain amid flashes of lightning and rumbling thunder. They sit on the deck, hair sticking to their wet faces, inadequately dressed, texting their friends and complaining about boredom while their eyes betray a mix of fear and awe for they just glimpsed their own insignificance.

An elderly couple stares out the window, hungrily. The first glimpse of the island of their youth will ease the pain in their swollen joints. It will make everything bearable again for a little while.

There is that other couple, middle aged and sophisticated. Instead of a red convertible, they have a saltbox house on the island and know exactly how that place should be run. They, like Bosnian folk hero Đerzelez Alija who hated ferryboats and boatmen, would prefer to skip this old rusty boat altogether and, in the absence of Alija’s winged steed, they might settle for a bridge to leap across the water. But a ferry is all they have – it’s the only thing we all have.

On a ferryboat we are all in it together. The three young men who, in preparation for a wild night out, drank a bottle of hard liquor and six litres of beer in two hours it took to cross the sea between their island and a city on the mainland throwing a party to celebrate its patron saint. The older couple whose arthritic fingers contort once more in pain of departure. The bored teenagers. Toddlers bouncing up and down still high on sugar that their grandparents secretly fed them before the ferryboat snatched them away once again. The writer talking to his wife about a story on ferries he’d like to write. “Faeries,” she says surprised. “That’s different for you,” she says while imagining lighter than air creatures full of magic. “Ferries,” he says feeling under his feet the grumpy rumble of this hulking, rusting beast of burden with its crew stuck in limbo, but dutifully taking them all to the other shore.

 

 

Campaign update

The fundraising campaign for my Islands Landscapes exhibit has officially launched two days ago. I announced it on facebook, twitter and Google+ and it took less than 15 minutes for the first donation. That was really amazing. And it was a bit humbling because it came from somebody I don’t personally know beyond the fact that we have common interest in photography and occasionally contribute to the same photography forum. There were also friends who shared the campaign with their contacts and networks as well as sent kind words of encouragement.

On my end of things, I am making final selection of the prints that are going to be on display and trying to make some decisions on sizing and sequencing. I would also like to make the exhibit a bit more interactive and am exploring different possibilities to do so. I am also pleased to confirm a show in New Brunswick in spring 2012. And, again thanks to a Croatian photographer I met on a forum, but not in person, there is a possibility that the exhibit might see more than one location in Croatia.

Finding darkroom facilities remains a challenge. In fact I am surprised that there are no professional darkrooms left in the city that I can find.

One thing at the time, though. For now it would be great to hit $750 which would cover all of the materials necessary to produce the prints.

Below is the pitch video and you can also visit the campaign page:

A doorway on Vis Island, Croatia.

Croatian word of the day: stranica page [stra ni tza]

Support Island Landscapes exhibit

 

 

Film photoblogs

Neat thread on rangefinder.com featuring several film photoblogs including Colin Corneau whose work is familiar to most folks in Manitoba and Trevor Marczylo whose style I quite like.

A brass orchestra crossing the main square in Zagreb, Croatia.

Croatian word of the day: orkestar orchestra

Support Island Landscapes exhibit

 

 

Island wisdom…

“…ni bogât oni ku ima puno, nego oni komu je potriba mālo!”

Anela Borčić
Garbîn, zao vjetar

 in my clumsy translation:

“…rich is not the one who has a lot, but the one who needs little!”

 Anela Borčić
Garbîn, evil wind

 —

Komiža, Vis Island, Croatia.

Croatian word of the day: bogat rich

Support Island Landscapes exhibit