Book Club: Velibor Božović “photographing in character”

The NYTimes Lens blog just posted a piece including the words and images of Velibor Božović, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in Sarajevo. In the interview Božović said some things that have really echoed with some earlier thoughts of mine: is it possible for a photographer to photograph as someone else? In other words, to photograph in character? Actors can assume new personalities and do things (on set a least) that they would never say or do in their personal life. Does this, can this, should this apply to photography?

“[Hemon and I] spent hours talking about what these guys would do and about Rora — what would he really photograph,” Mr. Božović said. Through their conversations, Mr. Božović would discover that Rora possessed aesthetic tastes and instincts that drastically differed from his own.

This did not always sit well with him. One photograph he took still leaves him feeling uneasy. At a sidewalk café in Lviv, Ukraine, he sneaked a shot of a woman’s bare legs from underneath a coffee table.

“I simply would never do that,” he said. “But Rora would do that kind of thing.”


This is a proper book club post because Božović’s comments are referring to the book that he made with his friend, the writer Aleksandar Hemon called The Lazarus Project. In it there are two characters traveling through Eastern Europe (Bosnia, Moldova, Ukraine) in search of certain historical events and this is exactly what the author and his photographer friend, Božović and Hemon, did in real life. This curious parallelism is found often in Hemon’s books, which I count amongst my favorites of recent years, especially his first: The Question of Bruno. This mixing of first person narrative, of fiction and real experience, even to the point of having a character named Hemun that fits biographical features of the real Hemon, work incredibly well at playing the tensile strings of fragile immigrant identities. But what about doing this with photographs and blurring the line of who is the photographer? Does the biography of a photographer matter? Does it matter if they exist at all in a non-fiction world?

Interesting ideas for me.

Be sure to look at Božović’s work, especially the whole Lazarus Project set on his website and the Stone Sleepers project which we’ve previously written about on dva. Word is that he is traveling to Russia at the moment, I hope for some nice new secret project. Can’t wait to see it when he’s back.

2 Responses to “Book Club: Velibor Božović “photographing in character””

  1. NOTHING EVER GOES AWAY, JUST LIKE IN A PHOTOGRAPH | On Strand And

    […] few years ago Matt Luton of Dva Foto, reflecting on the NYT Lens article about my work on The Lazarus Project and some things I had said there, […]

  2. NOTHING EVER GOES AWAY, JUST LIKE IN A PHOTOGRAPH | on strand and

    […] few years ago Matt Lutton of Dva Foto, reflecting on the NYT Lens article about my work on The Lazarus Project and some things I had said there, […]

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