Photographs, words and sounds
Posts Tagged ‘war’

Remembrance Day 2012


So how far behind am I exactly with all this photo stuff? Well, here I am posting a photograph made during last year’s Remembrance Day ceremony in St. John’s. I also have a bunch of undeveloped film. Unfortunately, most of this will be on hold until I finish my MA thesis which should take another couple of weeks for a complete draft. Until then, I’ll post some old stuff. Some of it very old.

Photographically, last year has been a mixed bag. I had a chance to see more photography than usual thanks to a couple of work related trips where I could piggyback some gallery hopping. I also got to think and write about photography more than I normally would, which, i think, was very good for me. I had plans to submit some work to a few competitions/art bank acquisitions/ archive acquisitions and I wanted to submit some magazine stories/story pitched, but none of that happened. Just way too busy between actually making photographs, work and finishing my MA. This year, hopefully, will be a bit more photography centered. Maybe I manage to enter at least Arts and Letters competition for the first time since we moved to Newfoundland almost 5 years ago. I also have some exhibit ideas and I have a whole lot of photographs I want to make, but for now focus has to be firmly on my MA.

Photo links

I think it’s kind of a photo links day. I haven’t done that in a while.

The photo above is from Memorial Day this July 1 when Newfoundlanders remember those who died during the First World War, but also other conflicts since.

Check out two essays on Burn:
– The first one is about rural America by Danny Wilcox Frazier.
– The second one Matt Lutton’s take on modern day Serbia. The comments accuse him of presenting a one-sided picture. Well, that’s true of any photography. This is Lutton’s take and I eagerly await somebody else’s.

I have also been goign through some of my flickr contacts and came upon this remarkable set from Vjekoslav Bobić on Adriatic tuna. His other photographs are beautiful, too.

And do not miss fantastic story of Alan Lomax, American ethnomusicologist and photojournalist, on John Stanmeyer’s blog.

Srebrenica links

I meant to post this on the day of the arrest of the former Yugoslav Army general Ratko Mladić who was responsible for the massacre of some 7,000 men in Bosnian town of Srebrenica, but somehow didn’t. It doesn’t matter because Srebrenica is one of those stories whose horror is of such magnitude that it becomes a timeless warning to all of us of just what a human being is capable of doing to another human being.

Damir Šagolj, a Bosnian photojournalist working for Reuters, in his post Srebrenica: The story that will never end said it better than I ever could.

Also, check out the work of Dijana Muminović, another Bosnian photojournalist working on a long-term project dealing with the post-conflict issues of closure in Bosnia. You can (and should) support her work through her IndieGoGo campaign.

David Campbell also has a post looking at media coverage of Srebrenica massacre that is worth reading.

In the photo is old Irish cemetery in Tilting, Fogo Island.

Croatian word of the day: smrt death


Change Islands, Don McCullin, War Photographer

I was sitting at the dining table after breakfast at our hostess’s house on Change Islands and right there in front of me was this photo. I like it a lot because it for some reason says Newfoundland to me.

Two photography movie links today. A photographer I know recently posted a link to the entire War Photographer movie. If you haven’t seen it, it is an exceptional and disturbing film. It is essentially a documentary about photographer James Nachtwey, but there is much more to it than that.

The second link comes courtesy of Fred Lum, a Globe and Mail photographer, who recently posted it on a forum I occasionally check out. It’s a short documentary about photgrapher Don McCullin. He is truly a remarkable human being first and foremost. Just a word of caution: in today’s sterilized media, especially in North America, some of the images and footage are quite disturbing in both films.

Croatian word of the day: zavjesa curtain [za v ye sa]


[Old Blog] Vukovar, PTSD is a mystery to American military experts

Two days ago, on November 18, was another anniversary of the fall of Vukovar, a city in eastern Croatia. Two years ago, I spent some time visiting my relatives in Vukovar and produced a radio documentary for CBC’s Dispatches that you can access here.

In the news today, American military is trying to predict which soldiers will develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Apparently:

”Military doctors have been mystified as to why certain warfighters exposed to bombings and bloodshed develop paralyzing stress symptoms while others who witness the same trauma shake it off.”

Really fucking mysterious…

”However, none of the factors explored so far are reliable predictors.”

Really? It couldn’t be because we would all break at some point, it’s just matter of where, when and how. Idiots.

Croatian word of the day: vojnik soldier [voy nik]


[Old Blog] Snow, geographical aspects of racism and other forms of spatial segregation

And a bit more snow on the ground today again.

Entry 15 – February 15, 2009
Place for everyone
It was the summer of 1996 and I worked with a team of observers whose area of responsibility was one of the UN Protected Areas near my home town and a little over an hour drive from Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Refugee camp Kuplensko was within our area of responsibility. If you ever wanted to see how surreal deliberate spatial segregation can be, Kuplensko was the most extreme example I can think of. As far as refugee camps go, this was a relatively comfortable one. After all, these were white refugees. It was not by any means a place you wanted to be in. There were outbreaks of typhoid fever, armed militants who operated within the camp, horrendous stories of rapes and starvation. There was a man who lived in a tree who would some time ago be declared shell-shocked, but now was simply left alone to preach his own peaceful religion to a band of followers. The camp had two entry points and was completely separated from everything and everywhere else. The people within were mostly muslims, all of them Bosnians and none of them exactly welcomed anywhere else but within the confines of that camp. I could work in the morning surrounded by people who once were farmers, dentists, doctors, engineers, violin players and factory workers, but who were stripped of their identity and treated like slightly backwards and completely crazy tribesmen caught in the middle of a bloodshed they were not responsible for, and an hour later I could sit in a stylish Irish pub drinking Guinness and listening to my friends complaining about exams, bad dates, and lousy food at the student centre. It was truly surreal.

Mitchell’s discussion on race and how carefully constructed racial barriers are were fascinating reading. They were also a reminder of why Sachs’ approach to discussion of wealth and poverty is lacking substantially when it solely focuses on environmental and geographical aspects of world’s poverty. I am also reminded how prevalent that kind of spatial and social engineering is not only along racial boundaries, but class boundaries as well. After all, that’s what gated communities, immigrant neighbourhoods and ghettoes are all about.

Croatian word of the day:izbjeglica refugee [iz bie gli tza]


[Old Blog] Landscapes

This is Vukovar in the fall of 2007.

GEOG 4010
Entry 8 – January 30, 2009

My interest in geography, cultural geography, really comes from my interest in landscapes. I can safely say that I have been jinxed by the old Chinese curse of living in interesting times. In the 1990s, Croatia went through a war and transition to market economy. The changes in the landscape were formidable, violent and fast. After the fighting finished and the ceasefire was negotiated, I worked as an interpreter with EU military observers. As I was roaming the roads nobody had any business to be on, I was struck with how important it was for the Serb paramilitaries to obliterate the landscape. The houses, churches and production facilities were not simply damaged in fighting, but blown up and bulldozed down. In order to make ethnic claims on the territory it was obvious that the occupiers understood well the importance of changing the landscape and the social, political and religious marks on that landscape in order to be able to claim it as their own.

The other thing that fascinated me was the wildlife, which in short few years has taken over entire villages and towns. There were hawks and falcones and deer strolling among the trees growing out of ruined houses. It was tempting to say that the nature was reclaiming its own, but anyone with eyes to see could not mistake the mess for anything else but a distinctly human work.

[Old Blog] GEOG-4010 – Entry 1 – On Maps

Officials from the Croatian Mine Action Centre and a private de-mining company are explaining the standard operating procedures to a group of foreign military and diplomatic officials in Petrinja, a small town south of Zagreb. Fall 2007.The maps on the wall indicate suspected and known mine fields.

For my cultural geography class I am supposed to keep a journal with at least three entries a week. Since the readings we are responding to are very interesting, I thought I’ll share those entries here. It will also be good for the blog. I will try to match the photographs with the text. Here we go…

Geog4010 – Entry 1 – January 13, 2009
Where are you?

Home. It’s 5 a.m. My daughter woke me up and, now that she is back asleep, there is no really point in me going back to bed because I’d have to get up in an hour and a half anyway. I keep going back to Brealey and his exploration of VancouverMackenzie and Arrowsmith’s approach to the mapping of British Columbia that dispossessed the aboriginal groups and legitimized the land grab. The idea that maps are ideological weapons really resonates with me. During the war in Croatia and in the aftermath when I worked as an EU interpreter maps were all over the place.

The presidents and warlords drew maps on napkins intensifying or deescalating conflict depending on how closely military and demographic realities matched their crude drawings. A napkin map could move entire groups of people, contain them in prisoner camps, displace them or simply murder them on a large scale. All was allowed as long as the maps came true. Imaginations were in overdrive as we all poured over the maps trying to figure out where ‘our guys’ were and where ‘they’ are. In the aftermath, the maps changed and instead of army movements we got mine fields, mass graves, demarcation lines, ethnic enclaves, cantons and disputed borders. There were also CNN maps and BBC maps and RAI maps and dozens of others where outsiders, to our delight (‘God, how stupid those Americans are!’), moved the entire cities and regions arbitrarily around; as if we were not doing precisely the same thing – for real. The viciousness of it would put Vancouver, Arrowsmith and Mackenzie to shame.

If maps are ideological weapons – and I can’t find an argument against it – than Google Maps is a weapon of mass liberation (or maybe deception). We can all now create our own maps. I am toying with the idea of mapping almost five years of blog entries – out of curiosity really, but, maybe, secretly, I am afraid of being mapped out. The age of personalized geography.

I recently listened to a fantastic CBC Ideas podcast called Ocean Mind. Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) use echo sonar to establish sound maps of their environment, but they can also intercept each other’s soundings thereby creating a communal map whose complexity we will never be able to grasp. Maybe we could overlay personal geographies of Google Maps and create our own version. What would that look like?

Croatian word of the day:karta map


[Old Blog] Musician, 100 years of photography at the Guardian, old Guf

Photographing musicians is always fun. This photo was made while shooting an assignment for the alumni magazine here. This expressive bass player is a member of Jazz East, a 17 piece big band accompanying a male and a female choir.

I have a whole bunch of links I want to share. Guardian has a small multimedia piece on 100 years of Guardian photography. If you are in UK, you do have a chance to enjoy an exhibit on war photography featuring, among others, work of Robert Capa and Gerda Taro.

British photographer Simon Roberts shares his approach to photo editing. Check out the rest of his site. There is a lot of good information there.

Also check out the latest production coming out of the Bombay Flying Club – this time on a 73 year old man living in the woods.

Croatian word of the day: pustinjak hermit [poo stee niak]


[Old Blog] Dispatches piece from Vukovar

This is not a multimedia piece in a sense that the photos are simply snaps I was never happy about and really had no intention of posting them on their own. The photos were not made so that they support the story. However, as Dispatches piece ran today, I decided to string them together for you so that you can get at least a little bit of a feel for the place as you listen to the radio part of it. I hope you like it. I also included the captions which have a bit more information if you are so inclined. As always, I encourage you to subscribe to the Dispatches podcast – really, really good radio.

Speaking of radio, I picked this up while listening to BBC’s The Now Show podcast. Apparently, there is a device shopping malls are installing to prevent teens from loitering. It’s called Ultrasonic Teenage Deterrent (I kid you not). It emits high frequency sound that usually only people under the age of 25 can hear. British teens already figured out it makes a perfect cell ringtone that teachers can’t hear.

Croatian word of the day: rat: war

[OLD BLOG:] Neil McKelvey

“I caught the tail end of it. Not really much to tell,” claims Mr. McKelvey. He served ‘only’ in Holland and as a member of the Canadian Occupation Force in Germany. After a couple of years overseas, he continued with his original plan – he became a lawyer. “I knew I wanted to be I lawyer in high school. There was really nothing else,” he says. The war interrupted his plans. “It was the thing to do. There was also excitement about it. A lot of people were enlisting and everybody was trying to figure out why the hell I wasn’t in it. So I joined.”
It takes a bit of prodding before Mr. McKelvey divulges a bit more information. He has practiced virtually every form of law you can imagine for the simple reason that a lawyer in 1949 needed to be able to do everything. Later he specialized in Labour Law and after that in Civil Litigation. He also volunteered with some legal organizations. After a bit more urging, he recalled that he was also a President of the Canadian Bar Association. It also turned out that he was the first Canadian President of the International Bar Association as well. When asked about the book of memoirs he wrote, which can be seen in the lobby, he waves his hand dismissively: “Oh that, yes. A couple of people asked me to write my memoirs so I did. It took me two years. Afterwards I found a lot of things that I could have put in it. I could probably write another one.” I was just about to leave when I noticed, hidden in the corner of the office behind a plant, a framed Order of Canada bearing Mr. McKelvey’s name. He claims he does not remember the citation. The Governor General’s website is not nearly so modest. According to Her Excellency’s office, Mr. McKelvey was honoured as the Officer of the Order of Canada as “The only Canadian President of the International Bar Association, this distinguished member of the New Brunswick Bar [who] has contributed to the legal profession at all levels.” He tried 21 cases at the Supreme Court of Canada. Today, he also serves on the Board of Governors at Dalhousie University.






[Old Blog] Entry 93

This is Peggy Smith. She has been painting the Symphony for over 20 years. Her brilliant watercolours capture perfectly the fleeting notes of the music performed on the stage. She is very, very fast. We joked that she is almost as fast with her brush as I am with my camera.

Please visit Magnum’s website and the Paul Fusco’s photo essay on the grieving families of American soldiers who died in Iraq. The images will make your heart ache as they should.

[Old Blog] Entry 88

Another Symphony New Brunswick photo.

I watched the presidential debate yesterday. How can anybody still be undecided, for heaven’s sake?

Bosnian news magazine BH Dani [BH Days] features a column by Aleksandar Hemon about eerie parallels between the Bosnia just before all hell broke loose and today’s U.S. I know that only one and a half people who read this can actually read it, but I felt compelled to share it. The text is about the time that the columnist recently spent with an American friend Andy and the inability of “good Americans” (pretty much everybody outside the current administration) to imagine the world they are slowly being dragged into. He compares it to his own reaction to a speech full of fear and hatred by a Bosnian Serb leader in which he threatened Bosnian non-Serb population with genocide. Here is my inept translation:

In other words, I could not even begin to imagine what was already his reality and what was – while he was giving the speech – becoming our reality. That was a moment of total defeat of imagination – a moment when my reason and my imagination were not able to comprehend that which was already happening.

He goes on describing how he feverishly tried to explain to his American friend what the horrors of Abu Ghraib really mean, to talk to him about “contractors” who are nothing more than mercenaries recruited from former South African death squads and Balkan butchers and as such responsible for disappearances of Iraqi citizens and alleged terrorists:

While I was telling him all this with a paranoid passion, I saw in his face that he cannot conceive that which is already happening. In that moment, I understood that Bush had already won because the reality he created cannot be conceived by good Americans.

I am more optimistic. I think that good Americans have intelligence, and innate respect for themselves and their neighbours to make a right decision in November. After last night’s debate, how could they not?

[Old Blog] Entry 80

This is a cruise ship Voyager of the Seas docked at the Pugsly Terminal in Saint John Harbour. It’s huge. It’s the ultimate illusion of luxury. Just think about it: well over 3,000 passengers and over 1100 crew members crammed on a floating hotel…Brrrr… This is a view down the Duke Street.

This is terrible.

“The medical system collaborated with designing and implementing psychologically and physically coercive interrogations,” Miles writes in this week’s edition of The Lancet, regarded as a leading international journal on medical ethics.
“Army officials stated that a physician and a psychiatrist helped design, approve, and monitor interrogations at Abu Ghraib.”

The prisoner abuse by soldiers and guards is terrible, but you can look at it and be cynical and say what did you expect from people trained to kill and humiliate. When medical personnel does it, people who swore to protect human life at all cost…

[Old Blog] Entry 70

This is old Milan. I photographed him ages ago and I don’t even know if he is still alive. He is 72 in this photograph. He and his wife lost more or less everything during the war in Croatia in the 1990s. They lived as internally displaced people for six years in Karlovac, Croatia. He said at the time that he is eager to start all over again. “After all, we are the lucky ones.”

It has been a while since I posted something here. A combination of being busy at work and, incredibly enough, being busy freelancing kept me away. That is probably a lie, though. It’s been foggy for two weeks straight with temperatures hovering around 18 degrees Celsius and I have been reading Aleksandar Hemon. No sunshine and too many ghosts awakened, that is a recipe for depression.

Then this piece of news came along.

I passed through Mostar once of twice as a child and I know nothing about the city or its people. Yet, I do know that there are places in this world full of magic and I believe the Old Bridge of Mostar was one of them.

Hajrudin’s bridge, build in 1556, and its graceful arch should not be able to hold its own weight – according to computer calculations- and yet it does. According to the legend, Hajrudin, the architect of the bridge, had to go in exile upon its completion because Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent, who commissioned the work, threatened to cut his head off if the bridge did not last for eternity. Its beauty graced the world for half a millennium, but it could not withstand the XX century barbarity of my own people.

I’ve been told that there is more undeveloped film in our fridge than food. I’ll get to it.

[Old blog] Entry 35

Here, on the borders of death, life follows and amazingly simple course, it is limited to what is most necessary, all else lies buried in gloomy sleep; – in that lies our primitiveness and our survival… As in a polar expedition, every expression of life must serve only the preservation of existence, and it is absolutely focused on that. All else is banished because it would consume energies unnecessarily. That is the only way to preserve ourselves… life is simply one continual watch against the menace of death; – it has transformed us into unthinking animals in order to give us a weapon of instinct – it has reinforced us with dullness, so that we do not go to pieces before the horror, which would overwhelm us if we had clear, conscious thought… thus we live a closed, hard existence of the utmost superficiality, and rarely does an incident strike out a spark. But then unexpectedly a flame of grievous and terrible yearning flares up.

All Quite on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

A slight deviation from my current South End project postings. This is an old photo, but it goes well with the quote from Remarque’s beautiful book. – I think. This is Danube in the Croatian city of Ilok. This is the most eastern point in Croatia, right on the border with Serbia and Montenegro. Beyond this small island in the middle of the river Croatia ends and Serbia begins. The photograph was taken in the summer of the 1997. I worked in the area as an interpreter for a European monitoring and humanitarian agency. These boats had not moved for long six years of war and massacres and in many ways for me represent the time when “all else lies buried in gloomy sleep.”