New Internationalist

Sarajevo Self-portrait

Issue 346

With the trial of Milosevic reviving memories of the horrors of the Bosnian war, this photo-book seems timely. But it’s a lot more than that. Sarajevo Self-portrait is the work of local photographers, not foreign photojournalists. Fratkin has brought together the images and words of nine Bosnian photographers and the result is a series of pictures by people not just observing a war, but in a war. The subjects are their own people, sometimes relatives and friends. In the case of Kemal Hadzic they are his fellow combatants in the Bosnian Army. A different set of problems and sensitivities are provoked, especially when the photographers are also involved with the international media. Nihad Pusija relates: ‘I would be photographing some people and all of a sudden there were bombs and bullets, and then all around me there were dead people… I just couldn’t continue photographing my people who were dying. I felt like it was wrong to get paid for this… So I quit Reuters, which was terrible because I had been a professional photographer.’ The practical difficulties faced by these photographers — one describes using urine and rainwater to develop his pictures — also contrast sharply with the swarms of international photojournalists laden down with all the latest technological wizardry.

Don’t expect a Time-Life approach, packed with stunning images of war. This book is an altogether more subtle, more complex affair — and more movingly real for it.

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