New Internationalist

Sarajevo Self-portrait

June 2002

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.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 346 This column was published in the June 2002 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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