This Time Tomorrow: Post-War Bosnia

I wanted to share my latest project which I shot over two weeks in March, which I probably hinted at in some earlier posts. This Time Tomorrow: Post-War Bosnia at the Crossroads is my attempt to describe a complex feeling that is settling in around Bosnia about its hopes for a prosperous future.
Victims of a mining incident are treated at the urgent care center of Zenica hospital. One man was killed and 14 were injured when there was a methane explosion at a small Bosnian coal mine outside of the city of Zenica. Many of the men working at the small mine lived in the surrounding village and much of the town, including the victims' families, surrounded the front gate waiting for information about who was hurt and their condition
I have been introducing these pictures with this text:

Bosnia is facing a growing challenge to efficient and prosperous survival as time advances with a peace treaty functioning as a constitution. We read more and more often news stories about Bosnia’s instability and ill-prospects for a unified future with two ‘entities’ – the Federation and Republika Srbska – butting heads amongst entrenched political and ethnic divides. Citizens and the economy are inching toward a precipice prepared by political interest and ineffectual international oversight. War is not going to be the answer, but innocent people will suffer just the same.

But here is the longer version (with informative links!) that I hope will more fully explain the situation in Bosnia today:

For almost fifteen years since the Dayton Agreement the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina has stayed together through one of the world’s most complex political arrangements. Bosnia’s constitution, which mandates two ‘entities’ (consisting of the Federation of Bosniaks and Croats and the Republika Srbska of Bosnian Serbs), is an annex to a peace treaty. Further, the EU’s High Representative gives the international community final veto power over the country’s tripartite presidency. It is obvious to most observers that this inefficient and corruption-rich system cannot exist indefinitely. In recent months politicians from all sides are protesting frequently about the untenability of the current arrangement as a challenge to their sovereignty (as an ethnic group, an entity or, rarely, as the whole nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina). Old tensions remain, there are divided cities where one ethnic group doesn’t cross an invisible line for lingering fears, real or imagined, of conflict.
Fans of the Bosnian national handball team rally and march from the Grbavica neighborhood of Sarajevo to the national stadium at Skenderija before a EURO2010 match between the Bosnian and Serbian national teams. Bosnia won the match 31:28.
A supporter of the Bosnian national handball team rally at the national stadium at Skenderija in Sarajevo
I hope these images can communicate the tensions that remain in Bosnia with high unemployment, political stagnation, a looming economic catastrophe and a pessimistic outlook on the future. Old interests and battles, frozen in 1995, remain relevant for much of the population and distrust is high. How will this nation, and the international community, reform and reconstitute one of the world’s more clumsy attempts at nation building?
A woman begs at the massive outdoor car market in Sarajevo.
This is a strange project for me, and of course I’m thankful for all the positive reviews so far, but I can’t quite wrap my head around these pictures. Maybe its the ephemeral thesis, trying to capture this feeling I was talking about, and I’m not convinced the pictures are successful in that vein. Of course they’re also a bit too focused on the Muslim portions of Bosnia, where I was living and where most of my friends are, but the ‘idea’ remains. I look forward to your feedback, questions or suggestions.. I’d love a conversation here on Dva.

Many thanks are due to my friend Jasmin Brutus for hosting me in Sarajevo and Dado Ruvic (who I just wrote about here on Dva) for showing me around Zenica. Two wonderful men and photographers, thank you both!

5 Responses to “This Time Tomorrow: Post-War Bosnia”

  1. Brett Gundlock

    Nice work, I would like to see more.

  2. Patrick

    Nice work Matt. I would also like to see more.

    For me the pictures of the handball rally don’t convey feelings of hardship or troubled times, they are really nice tough and they have that eastern European feel that I like so much, so they speak about Bosnia.

    Your photoshelter collection has some really really good shots in it, you’re definitely on the right track.

  3. Matt Lutton

    I’m a bit confused, more than the edit of 49?

    I agree Patrick that the handball pictures aren’t literally related to the story or the central emotion, but I see them connecting the youth into the story and seeing what they’re getting excited and worked up about.. sports with a political tinge. It helps that the match is Bosnia vs Serbia and these kids were marching through the street shouting some anti-serb stuff (pretty mild and much less than what I would expect from the same match if it were held in Belgrade).

    Thanks for writing guys

  4. Patrick

    I always like to see more and more shots of a project, even if they won’t make the final edit … but that’s just me, the edit you have is good.

    You’re right about the about the handball pictures, I hadn’t thought about it along those lines.

  5. Photo Reportage from Bosnia « David Cupp Photography

    […] the Crossroads. I suggest you start by reading a post describing the project on Matt’s blog, dvafoto. An excerpt: I hope these images can communicate the tensions that remain in Bosnia with high […]

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