I’m very pleased to introduce you all to my friend, and source of inspiration, Djordje Jovanovic of Belgrade. I met him and his ‘crew’ in 2007 while studying abroad in the Balkans and from the very first beer we had I knew he was a special one. And not only because we had the very same taste in photographers and ideas on what photography should and can be, but because of his passion and ideas for how to push things forward in the otherwise stifling society of post-conflict, post-communist ex-Yugoslavia. Though he has recently put photography aside (makes me sad.. look at this work!) to pursue innovative and ground-breaking projects with his company XAOC Creative (the Serbian word, in Cyrillic, for Chaos) he still edits, designs and publishes the amazing XAOC Magazine, which has introduced me to countless interesting photographers from around the world. He was even so kind as to feature M. Scott in Issue 3 and Me in Issue 2. If you click on no other links for this post, check out these magazines.
Tell me a little about your city and your country
Belgrade is the capital of a small European country – Serbia. Serbia, in a recent history, was part of a larger country – a communist Yugoslavia. Now the country is in a process of transition and European integration. There are ongoing reforms in almost all state and social sectors . Belgrade is a vibrant city that has a tendency towards a group violence every few months. Interesting and loved city by many westerners and locals… known for cheep drinks, friendly people and beautiful girls :)) bla bla
What did you go to school for?
I went to a High school for design – graphic design department, and just got my degree in computer arts and design at the academy of arts BK in Belgrade.
How did you decide to pursue this?
I really don’t remember but I guess that I like to draw when I was a kid and being a son of a photographer kind of pushed me into it… and I liked it.
What are you doing now?
Now I’m working on a creative and administrative processes in a company called Xaoc Creative that I started a year ago with two friends. Essentially it’s a creative center dealing with all kinds of visual communication. We’re mostly focused on graphic design for web and print, advanced web development and of course image production.
What changed between school, your first jobs as a photographer and where you are now?
A lot! Everything. My first full time job was in Serbian national news agency Tanjug. I was a kid just finished high school that suddenly was attending all the government and parliament sessions and traveling around the country and region with all the heads of state. It had a big impact on my process of thinking. Later on I started to work for Kurir daily newspaper simultaneously while working for Tanjug and studying. That brought even more fun to my life. Kurir is a tabloid, something like The sun in UK, so I was now in a even wider company of people, including entertainment and sport stars, criminals and a lot of very diverse ordinary folks with big problems. It was very interesting period, parliament session in the morning, gypsy settlement in poverty on the afternoon and VIP fashion show/party in the evening… that’s how my days looked like. :). Later on I switched to Gazeta news paper and later to Hello! Magazine. During this four year period I was mainly interested in documentary photography. But I realized that photography is not enough for me anymore in terms of expression and impact. So I decided to start a company and put some more media in, some more people and more serious projects.
What did you enjoy about working as a photojournalist?
Process of creation was most enjoyable compared to the same process in other media. It was fast, simple and powerful.
Then of course the interaction with people and places that I was able to have working as a photojournalist.
“Photographing because I want to change the world and help people in need” is the line that we can hear from many big names in this business but I think it’s a big lie. I seriously doubt that anyone is photographing with that goal in mind.
Why did you leave photography?
Photography just don’t have big impact on society anymore. At least I think so. I wanted something with much bigger impact and that’s why we’re working with more media now. Also I wanted more control and more freedom and I felt that I could contribute more than I could as a photojournalist.
Tell me about Xaoc and your team.
Core team consist of tree man. Marko Kecman (Ed- Another terrific photographer and friend of mine.. check xaocphoto.com), Jovan Damjanovic and myself. We also have two developers, and two men that are dealing with photo production and a lot of contributors.
What kind of work are you doing?
A lot of web and print projects. In image production we are doing everything that a newspaper or a magazine would like us to do in a BtoB model. Fashion editorials, Products, reportages, interviews, campaigns… whatever you can think of… (Ed- Have a look at this project XAOC has done called Victims! of Serbian Politics. It combines nifty design, terrific photography and a social motive in an interesting and engaging way.)
Tell me about Xaoc Magazine. Who do you feature?
Xaoc magazine is a noncommercial free time project that has a potential for growth. We weren’t satisfied with the photo scene in Serbia so we felt the need to do something about it. Web magazine was the easiest way to do it… we’ve done only three issues for now, but had a nice feedback from people all over the world. Selection is based upon the aesthetics that we find interesting and that cant be found in a media scene in Belgrade… not in a mainstream at least. It’s internationally orientated but we always put at least one Serbian photographer in it.
What is the media scene in Serbia?
Rich and expanding. Quality I want comment on.
What kind of relationship do you have with the rest of the region (Balkans) and Europe?
Rich and expanding. Yes we do have a big problem here with visas, but we’re managing to overcome it. Other than that it’s fine. Balkans and Europe are rich in war history but I don’t find it to be an issue.
What are your goals for Xaoc? For yourself?
To expand our business internationally is the first next step. On a long run we want to contribute to an ongoing evolution for a better society. We’re living in a very interesting time now and not just in a last few decades or centuries but form the beginning of a mankind. We believe that humans are soon to evolve into much more powerful and peaceful beings and with great anticipation are looking into the future.
Any predictions for the Serbian, Balkan and worldwide media scenes?
For a serious answer a serious analysis is necessary but I’m not worried. I think that things are going In a positive direction and that we’re going to enjoy much richer and better media in the future.
On a personal note, I cannot wait to be back in Belgrade; Djordje and the other guys from Xaoc know how to have a good time and still get up the next morning and work your butt off. And, I’ve just got to say, that opening picture is simply one of my favorite pictures from anyone anywhere.