On Saturday I went to Belfast Exposed to see Dragana Jurisic’s YU exhibition. I was really excited about the exhibition as I have visited the former Yugoslavia many times, both before and after the conflict, and was intrigued about Dragana’s choice of subject. I’d read on her website http://www.draganajurisic.com how she took up photography when her family’s apartment was burned down along with her father’s photograph collection. I thought it was really sad that he had given photography after this, but it was nice to see Dragana carrying on her father’s interest, something positive coming out of destruction. The concept of the project onvolved Dragana following the route of Rebecca West as described in the book ‘Black lamb and grey falcon’ through the former Yugoslavia, taking photographs and documenting her journey. Dragana’s handwritten notes in pencil on her copy of West’s book are interesting observations of everyday life loaded with emotion and memory.
I found the notes telling the stories behind the photographs really added to the heightened emotion, Dragana’s diary drawing comparisons with the country back in 1937. I really liked the honesty of the photographs, one shot of an old woman and a young man taken where an atrocity happened during the conflict of the 1990’s seemed so normal.
People are just going about their lives as if nothing happened, while the tension continues under the surface of their lives. A photograph of a lone bear in the zoo reminded me of Emir Kusturica’s film ‘Underground’, it was as though all the other animals had escaped.
Then I went to see Fergus Jordan’s ‘Garden estate’ exhibition, about Dunclug housing estate where he grew up. His photographs portray the darkness brought to the estate by heroin users and dealers and social dysfunction. The low light handheld photography is grainy, taken at night, and shows the paths and open spaces used by dealers and highlights the failure of this style of town planning. I really liked the dark, secretive feel of the photographs, and chatted to Fergus about how he took the photographs and how his photographic style was in part dictated by the difficulties in taking photographs on the estate without being threatened or made to leave. The open spaces and paths designed to create a community have paradoxically created the perfect environment for criminals with lots of cul de sacs and overgrown pathways to enable unobserved movement and distance the residents from law enforcement.