Aye, I have been procrastinating on this post for far too long. I landed in Belgrade a week ago and have been trying to find the words to sum up what this move is all about and what I’m planning. Maybe I’m still figuring it out for myself.
I am currently staying with my friend Jovan of the wonderful XAOC group which we profiled a little bit with an interview with my good friend Djordje Jovanovic. Near the center of Belgrade and a nice flat (minus their fun but overly energetic and yappy dog named MimiNPCRambo), but I’m pining for my own place… unfortunately, finding a decent apartment here at an ok price is hard to do. Patience is called for. Patience is my life right now.
New York ended beautifully with a number of terrific and very encouraging meetings from diverse magazines and agencies, from Vanity Fair to GEO and Getty (and a lucky last-minute ticket to see the Colbert Report tape a show). Hopefully things will come of the solid reviews soon. As I will expand below, there is a lot that I have cooking here in the Balkans and Russia that I am incredibly excited about and I hope I have the chance to fund them and then get them published. DVA will absolutely be a big part of the latter, at least in the short term. I plan to post updates on my stories, travels, assignments and thinking.
This move to the Balkans is both a long time coming and a sudden impulse decision. Back in 2007, when I was on a Balkan study abroad program from the University of Washington, I had a chance to visit a number of cities in the region and then stay on to live and work in Kosovo. From my first few days in Belgrade then, in April 07, I knew that this was a city that was meant for me (like New York). From that moment I knew that I could, and should, move here to pursue my work. I visited again in May/June 2008 and it definitely strengthened this idea … (to utterly rip off my friend Boogie’s phrase, and ironically at that) … I felt that ‘Belgrade Belongs To Me’.
Ultimately there was not enough happening in Seattle for me and it is simply too damn far away from any of the stories I’m really interested in doing right now. Odd, but there really are more work possibilities for me outside of the United States (I see friends moving to the Middle East these days too; the American photographer diaspora?) and hopefully being ‘in a small pond’ will provide me a strong if not lucrative start to my international career. I’ve got a lot of faith, there are dozens of positive signs and I am receiving a lot of support (if only it were the financial kind), so I am very optimistic of success and important pictures. Time will tell, I am and will be forced to remain patient.
I made the decision and bought my ticket (first to New York then to here) about two weeks before I had to leave. Added to the impulse, and hurry, was the last minute decision to go to Washington to cover Obama’s Inauguration. So in a rush I packed up my books, gear and some clothes in Seattle into three bags and hit the plane running; still can’t believe I packed up my life and got away so quickly. Maybe this is the best way to do it, maybe not, but it is working for me. Since moving back to Seattle in the summer of 2007 I’ve been living lightly and without many strings, hoping to be able to get on the road should the opportunity arise. Unfortunately, it really didn’t so with extremely small savings I bought this one way ticket. Now, I’m here trying to find an assignment or two and am prepared to pick up an English teaching job. Yea, wish me luck 🙂
The short term plan is to head to Kosovo on Saturday to be part of the first anniversary “festivities” that will happen around the country. On February 17 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence amidst a strange international reaction and a strong festive and emotive party in the streets. Conventional wisdom amongst journalist friends, Kosovar and international, is that there will be similar actions this coming week, and maybe some stronger Serb reactions in Mitrovica and Serbia proper. No strong rumors yet to anything ‘big’ happening but it is a nice story and probably a very good follow-up chapter in my ongoing work there. It seems the world will be watching (i.e. publications will be interested) so I am quite hopeful to sell a couple of pictures. My agents (Invision and Grazia Neri) are also very enthused about the story and have told me that European editors are responding very favorably to my portfolios so who knows. Work soon, I hope.
Longer term I will be visiting Moldova and the Ukraine for the start of a series of projects on Russia’s influence in flux, centered around the energy economy. After, I hope to find a way to fund some trips across Russia where I have dozens of story ideas, including my dream project in Eastern Siberia, which I’ve mentioned obliquely before. Until I secure funding I still won’t describe what it is 🙂 But this is the month when I will hear from 4 or 5 grants and if luck will have it I’ll be there working by Fall.
More soon I hope, this time with new real pictures. Haven’t shot anything at all since I’ve been here except these pictures of the snowstorm at dusk today, too much work getting situated and recovering from the crazy push through New York. There have been some requests to describe that process of getting and preparing for meetings with NYC editors and hopefully I’ll get something together on that too. Cheers to all, friends and colleagues. For now from snowy Belgrade, the white city, M.