Giulio Zanni: Blog https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog en-us (C) Giulio Zanni giulio.zanni@gmail.com (Giulio Zanni) Thu, 23 Apr 2020 17:11:00 GMT Thu, 23 Apr 2020 17:11:00 GMT https://www.giuliozanni.com/img/s/v-12/u470931498-o158148113-50.jpg Giulio Zanni: Blog https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog 110 120 "Giulio Zanni and the images of a world in transition" inteview https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2020/4/-giulio-zanni-and-the-images-of-a-world-in-transition-inteview From Sassuolo to the Balkans: Giulio Zanni and the images of a world in transition

An established author who decided to live in Skopje. “The camera captures my visions of reality”

Interview by Gabriele Bassanetti for “La Gazzetta di Modena”

From Sassuolo to the Balkans and a non-conventional career. Giulio Zanni lives in Skopje and works as political adviser for the European Union and is an international awarded photographer and author of books.

What is your photographic path

I developed passion for photography when I was a child. I started playing with the camera at 12. The attraction increased and started to go through the books of the giants from Magnum, Cartier-Bresson etc. My artistic maturity came relatively late and I believe as a consequence of various life experiences. As Ansel Adams said, photography is the sum of the books that one has read, the music that one has listen to and the people that one has met.

When did you leave Sassuolo? For how long have you been living in the Balkans and why this choice

After the law degree I studied international relations in Milan and then some work at the European Parliament in Brussels. But I wanted to be on the field, in conflict zones. So my adventure in Bosnia started few months after the signing of the peace treaty, when the guns were still hot. There I stayed for about twenty years, working for various international organizations like UN, OSCE and EU. Since five years I live in North Macedonia. I was going to the seaside in Yugoslavia with my parents when I was a kid. It represented the different closest to Italy. After Tito’s death, the powder keg exploded. The war was so close and at the same time so far from Italy. I am fascinated from the history of a period of my life: the period of terrorism in Italy, socialism in the East, punk, the fall of the Berlin wall…

You are also working for the European Union. How do you combine your work with photography

It would be too simple to say that one pays for the bills and the other feeds the soul, but it’s not like that. They are two important elements of my life and I draw satisfactions from both. Both my education and photography target realities in transition marked by deep social conflicts.

You prefer black and white and stationary objects. Is it a specific choice of style?

I am not interested in conventional reality, which I believe it’s empty of inherent existence. I consider myself as an artist which uses the camera as a tool to translate his visions into images. I am a fine art photographer, post-production is as much as important. I photograph for not having to explain and I deliver an image to the viewer who is free to react as he wants. I prefer architecture and I find buildings to be a perfect basis for departure for my artistic interpretations.

Can you explain the concept of your multi-awarded book “Spomenici and Brutalism”

In Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian, “spomenici” means monuments. Monuments built during socialism to celebrate victories and battles against nazism/fascism are still present all over the territory of former Yugoslavia and some of the neighboring countries, abandoned and left to the nature by governments in denial of their past. From an architectural point of view, I find these structures extremely fascinating, they look like as they were coming from a different planet. My book is the result of six years of work and weekends spent driving anywhere between Ljubljana and Skopje. However, this is not a documentary exercise. I used these monuments as a starting basis for personal interpretations while trying to attribute new artistic identities to these structures.

What are the results of which your most proud of and future plans

My photographic series received several international awards. The most prestigious are the gold awards in the professional category of the International Photography Awards and of the Prix de la Photographie of Paris. My photography has been an evolutional path. Everything is changing, in every moment.

Sassuolo would be a good subject for architectural photography with its abandoned and post-industrial buildings. Did you consider doing a work in your hometown?

Indeed. It’s a project which I ran through my mind several times. 

 

]]>
giulio.zanni@gmail.com (Giulio Zanni) blackandwhite fineartphotography gazzettadimodena giuliozanni interview photography https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2020/4/-giulio-zanni-and-the-images-of-a-world-in-transition-inteview Thu, 23 Apr 2020 13:12:31 GMT
Spomenici and Brutalism - Fine Art Photography book https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/12/spomenici-and-brutalism---fine-art-photography-book

 

I started photographing spomenici artistically around 2011. At the time, I had been living in the Balkans already for more than a decade. I had already been passively looking at spomenici for a long time but the post-war tensions were not suitable to contemplative states. When things started settling down a little and there was more time to dive into intellectual reflections I started to "see", looking at spomenici for what they really were and how they represented it. In former Yugoslavian languages, spomenici means monuments. For the sake of this book I am referring to spomenici as state built socialist monuments. Spomenici are the backbone of this book, which carries also a substantial section on brutalist architecture and an appendix on related urbex style images. While some don't exist anymore, as they were destroyed during the latest Balkan wars as symbols of the previous regime, others are falling apart, taken over by nature, because of governments in denial of their past. This book is not a documentary exercise. I approached spomenici from a fine art point of view by taking the subject to the next level. Spomenici are an incredible basis of departure for abstraction and personal interpretations, which contributes to the revival of these mostly forgotten structures by attributing them new artistic roles. This book is not a list of monuments, it is about the architecture of an era. My images are in no way a political statement.

Podgaric, HRPodgaric, HRMemorial to uprising of Moslavina, by Dušan Džamonja

Popina, SRPopina, SRPopina, SR

Tjentiste, BiH (awarded)Tjentiste, BiH (awarded)Monument to the battle of Sutjeska

Makedonium, MKMakedonium, MKMonument to the 1903 Ilinden uprising and 1941-1944 national liberation struggle

The book is in English language and you can order worldwide in both digital and printed versions here:

 https://camerapixo.com/publications/book-spomenici-and-brutalism

]]>
giulio.zanni@gmail.com (Giulio Zanni) architecture blackandwhite brutalism brutalist fineartphotography monuments socialism spomenici spomenik yugoslavia https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/12/spomenici-and-brutalism---fine-art-photography-book Wed, 12 Dec 2018 15:31:12 GMT
"Stripping down the hallucination" - Interview for Ytali. https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/10/-stripping-down-the-hallucination---interview-for-ytali

You’ve mentioned that you’ve been taking photographs since you were a child, so you’ve had time to experiment as a photographer. Can you tell us how your current style evolved in your journey as a photographer?  Was there a moment in time, or it was a more gradual, organic process?
I still get excited when I smell films and chemicals. It was definitively a gradual process. I have been fascinated with photography since very young. I remember looking over and over at photographic books, which I now collect, mainly to the gigantic Magnum photographers, and being so fascinated. I started experimenting, but I did not know what I was and how to discover it. I believe in causes and effects and about walking on a path. I could not be what I am today if I did not go through various photographic phases and eventually there will be more to come. I think it’s self-defeating to try to stick with one subject or style. Everything moves, nothing remains the same, whether we like it or not.

You were born and raised in Italy but have lived in the Balkans for the past 20 years.  In what ways do the two cultures contribute to your photographic vision?
I think that the artistic vision is a consequence of all our human experiences. As Ansel Adams said, my photographs are the product of all the people I met, the book I read, the music I listened to, the joys and sufferings I was exposed to etc. Spomenici is the prime example of a subject that I would not have been exposed to if I did not live in the Balkans.

In your Venice series, the long exposures create an intense quality of foreboding stillness. There is such a deep quality of silence that I find myself holding my breath when I look at them. Yet, it is music that inspires you. What was the playlist for this series?
I have a deep interest in spirituality and the series on the iconic churches of Venice is part of it. I have travelled to Abu Dhabi and Istanbul to photograph iconic mosques and I have just completed a brand-new series, Caturmahapratiharya, on temples and stupas from the key places of the life of Buddha Shakyamuni in Nepal and India. When I photographed Venice, I imagined it completely empty, at the time of the plague of 1400, where people either escaped or took refuge in the churches. Yes silence, but a disturbing silence. The soundtrack is definitively Stigmata Martyr from Bauhaus, as, at that time, it was believed that those massive epidemics were the manifestation of God’s anger.

Many of the structures that you photograph feel monumental. There is a gravitas in their sculptural forms and in the way they are tethered to the earth. How does black and white support the notions of scale, abstraction and audacity?
Also in fine art photography there are several clichés, to which people stick to without really investigating them. Abstraction is one of those. Abstraction from what? Reality?! Reality, as we perceive it, is an hallucination, it’s caused by ignorance. If we investigate it, we cannot find anything self-existing. It’s conventional and it’s the effect of other causes. Black and white is a step towards stripping down the hallucination.

When you create a Cityscape series, how do you decide which buildings to include and their position in the panorama?
Usually those decisions are taken before shooting. Both in the New York and Brussels series, the images were developed in parallel to avoid having to replicate the style of one image into another, which would be an exercise similar to furnishing a house and trying to replicate the style in every room. Having said that, I believe that the concept of series is another fine art photography’s cliché. Why do we have to make all the images of a series look similar, with the same crop, tones etc? This is artificial and deceiving. I understand that a series of images as having a common thread among them, whether is the subject or the theme, but everything else is conventional and the perception of reality change from moment to moment. Why pretending it is not the case?

You’ve traveled extensively and shot in many countries. Where would you like to go next and why?
I will continue to investigate spirituality and there are a couple of south-east Asian countries that are definitively on my agenda. 


 

 

]]>
giulio.zanni@gmail.com (Giulio Zanni) blackandwhite fineartphotography giuliozanni interview spirituality Ytali https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/10/-stripping-down-the-hallucination---interview-for-ytali Fri, 19 Oct 2018 17:00:42 GMT
Caturmahapratiharya - Behind the scene - You don't want/need all that fancy stuff https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/9/caturmahapratiharya---behind-the-scene Bodh GayaBodh GayaBodh Gaya - India, Mahabodhi Temple, where Buddha Shakyamuni was enlightened under a the bodhi tree  

Caturmahapratiharya is a series about the four key places of the life of Buddha Shakyamuni: Lumbini – Nepal, where he born; Bodhgaya – India, where he achieved enlightenment; Sarnath, where he revealed the Dharma by giving the first teaching on the four noble truths; Kushingar, where he died.

These places are out of the usual touristic circles and are mainly visited by pilgrims form other Buddhist countries like Sri Lanka and Thailand.

I traveled on the second half of August/beginning of September, during the monsoon season. Tourists are generally advised to choose different periods to visit India, but this was the only time I had available. However, from a photography point of view, it turned out not to be a bad choice. It was indeed very sticky, very hot and humid, but I was not after blue skies and strong light. Overcast skies made it for me. Also, the off-season period meant less people around and cheaper prices. With a little bit of patience, I could wait for the bus groups to leave and I had the whole site for me before the next group came in.

Having been in India before, I wanted to travel really light. The heavy climate made every movement an effort and airport security checks on domestic flight were a pain. My bag got systematically emptied and every piece of equipment scanned individually. I wanted to be as much as mobile and inconspicuous as possible and having a silent electronic shutter has been a bless. A small camera with small lenses proved to be ideal for this project.  

Tripod was a no-no. Local people are not used to see tripods and even walking in the streets with a tripod in my hand drew a lot attention. The use of tripod was not allowed in many sites and I was immediately labelled as doing a professional movie for which either I was asked a lot of money or I was requested a special permit. Even if I had a very small tripod with me, I went handheld most of the times.

Long exposures were also a no-no. I did not want to spend much time on the same spot messing with ND filters. I would have looked wired, various people would have gathered around me, harassing, asking for money etc. In addition, I would have needed to use the in-camera long exposure noise reduction, which would have doubled the time, as the very high temperatures would have caused a lot of noise in my files. When I really wanted a long exposure, I shot bursts of 60/80 images and stuck them in PS.

While the circumstances forced me to use a classic photographic approach where I previsualized, set the exposure, lift the camera to the eye and shot, it has been indeed a liberation from all that "fancy" stuff, in line with the spirit of the project. Also, my camera and lenses were not weather sealed and the humidity was so high that some times I got condensation on the sensor and inside the lenses.

This was my third time in India. The country has developed in the last ten years and in the cities the prices have increased. However, the value of the services remains weak and I found that people have become arrogant. What has not changed though, is that, as a foreigner, they don’t miss a chance to try to rip you off and I find this element in huge contradiction with the deep spirituality of the country. I decided to travel alone, which some time made it challenging to focus on photography while being harassed by various people.

After Caturmahapratiharya, I went to chill out in McLeod Ganj, few km north of Dharamshala, in Himachal Pradesh, where the Tibetan government in exile and the Dalai Lama have their seat. All in all, the country remains “Incredible India”.

]]>
giulio.zanni@gmail.com (Giulio Zanni) birthplace bodhgaya buddha death dhamekh dharma died enlightment fournobletruths india kushinagar lumbini mayadevi nepal paranirvana sarnath shakyamuni teaching teachings temple https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/9/caturmahapratiharya---behind-the-scene Wed, 19 Sep 2018 06:11:30 GMT
Blokovi – getting derailed into social architecture https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/5/blokovi-getting-derailed-into-social-architecture As a lawyer, I am used to analyze the rules, including ways to circumvent them. This time I broke some of my own rules:

1)      Black and white and long exposures. This is the way that I often use to move away from the objective reality. However, I felt I was hitting on a ceiling. The results were aesthetically very pleasant, the images won several awards, but I felt they were becoming a cliché. I needed to move away from my own subjective reality and I thought: “There must be more to explore with a camera”. Good black and white photography usually has an edge in term of depth and presence, but selectively applied colors contribute very much to the emotions. I did not want to convey drama with these images but rather to give my own identity to these buildings, like in naïve painting. So far I have been trying to render the image to make it appear potentially real, so the viewer could not understand what I did to it. With Blokovi, I wanted to unveil the abstraction.

 

2)      A series of images must be consistent in the style. Same crop, same tones etc. As a father, I appreciate that my kids are different and unique. So, why standardizing my photographic subjects? They speak to me with different voices despite being part of the same family and each of them deserves its own interpretation.

 

3)      Photographic categories. I have beaten “dry” architecture to death. Walking around the blocks I realized that these buildings were backgrounds to various micro-worlds. Life had its full cycle within the blocks. I could see schools, playgrounds, shops, bars, restaurants, offices, funeral agencies and drug dealers. With Blokovi, I felt compelled to create “social architecture”. Many of my architecture black and white images include a human presence, which is not the main subject but can be spotted if carefully looked for. In Blokovi, I wanted to uncover the human element so I also included environmental frames.

 

4)      The file is my canvas and photoshop is my brushes. My fine art photography has been about vision translated through tedious post-processing. Often, I felt I was like a monk tediously copying books and drawings to ensure their survival. I do admire the perfection of the post-processing I see in some photographs and a fine art photographer must have photoshop under his/her belly, but I believe that the immediate impact of the image is what is left in the viewer. I did spend a more than fair amount of time in post-processing these images but I have been more focused in unveiling the character of the subject rather than in obsessive technique.  

 

5)      You built up a series over time. For me this is increasingly becoming not the case. I don’t want to build up a series in the same way in which I furnish a house, trying to artificially replicate over time the style of each room. The past is gone, the future is not real, there is only present. I try to squeeze the time as much as possible. My mood, which is influencing the way in which I photograph and post-process the images is where I want to ensure consistency. I shoot a huge amount of images in two days and 23 were utilized for the series. These images do not stand individually, all together they make the final image.

 

6)      Don’t drink and photograph

 

Background. For years my main project has been about spomenici, monuments from former Yugoslavia. Spomenici are considered by some as being part of “brutalism”, a term coming from Le Corbusier’s definition of “beton brut”, concrete. While working on spomenici I came across several amazing brutalist buildings throughout former Yugoslavia. So, the step was natural. Most of these images were taken in Belgrade but they will be probably followed up with images also from other locations. As I always associate images with music, for Blokovi it has been Brian Eno’s Music for Installations. I will also continue to work in black in black with my usual approach. but with Blokovi I got out of my comfort zone, which I believe contributed to my personal development.  

Link to the Blokovi gallery http://www.giuliozanni.com/p123318336

 

Eastern City Gate BelgradeEastern City Gate Belgrade

]]>
giulio.zanni@gmail.com (Giulio Zanni) architecture belgrade blokovi brutalism brutalist buildings fine art spomenici' giulio zanni yugoslavia https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/5/blokovi-getting-derailed-into-social-architecture Sat, 19 May 2018 21:13:54 GMT
Interview for LensWork Extended n.135 April 2018 https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/4/interview-for-lenswork-extended-n-135-april-2018

Brook Jensen. Giulio is a real thrill to be able to talk with you - even if we are talking via skype and you are in Macedonia. This is one of the great things about photography - is that it allows to connect with one another across all these distances, time zones, cultures etc. We are all together in this thing that we call photography. We have actually two projects that we are publishing: one is called “Spomenici” and a portfolio of architecture titled “Cityscapes”. But first, what is spomenici?

Giulio Zanni. In former Yugoslavia languages spomenici means monuments. They are spread all over the territory. I have been living in this region for 20 years, so for me it was a natural subject to pick up. Most of these monuments are abandoned now, for different reasons: political reasons, denial of the past, and lack of funds. It’s a pity because in the past they played a social role. My photographs are not a political statement, but as a fine art photographer I find spomenici an extraordinary basis of departure for abstraction. Mine is not a documentary exercise.

BJ. What was your motivating for photographing them?

GZ. I find them extremely fascinating and for been built in the 1960s and 70s they were very futuristic. Some say that they belong to the brutalist architecture [concrete] but I think that, architecturally, they have more a life of their own.

BJ. A lot of touristic snapshots of these monuments exist already but you have developed your own style…

GZ. The basics of my photography are long exposures and black and white, which represent a further step away from reality. I also love the mid grey tones, so I try to avoid pitch black shadows and bright highlights. Also, I like to include a human presence in my images, which is not the main subject and you have to look carefully to spot it.

BJ. In your introduction you had a fascinating quote from Ansel Adams who said: “you don’t make a photograph just with a camera, but you bring to the act of photography all pictures you have seen, the books you’ve read, the music you’ve heard the people you’ve loved…” I can see that this is very much a personal interpretation, These photographs don’t look like the world, they look like what you want them to look like, which is a function of your life.

GZ. I want to trigger emotions and feelings. You can see in my photographs what you want to see. When it comes to spomenici I am a sort of adopted child of this region. For me the quote of Ansel Adams fits perfectly.

BJ. I think it is also very interesting that you make a point out of the scale of these structures. Some of these are much larger than they might appear to us in the photographs, and some of them are much smaller, but your style brought hem together so they feel as a unified project even though they are different sizes from several different countries built in different decades.

GZ. Usually, series in fine art photography have the same style, like the same crop etc. However, each spomenik speaks to me in a different way, so that’s not always true for my series. Some of the images are square, some are panorama etc…Each of them has its own soul.

BJ. You used very long exposures to photograph these things that have no movements or whatsoever. What happens is that all the things around them move - the clouds, the trees - and that gives them a sense of stillness.

GZ. Long exposure for me is a further step toward abstraction. But also, technically, a long exposure gives me a softer light on the subject, especially when shooting in the middle of the day.

BJ. Let’s move on and talk about your architectural project, which is quite fascinating and for which you won several awards.

GZ. Yes, the Venice series has become quite famous and I am also very proud of the Brussels series. Actually, the Brussels series came out of an accident. I went to Brussels for business and I had a day to spare for which I planned to rent a car and go to photograph nuclear power plants in a couple of locations in Belgium. However, once I got to the airport I realized that I left my driving license in Skopje. So here I am in Brussels, with a day to spare - all set photographically with plenty of preparatory work done in advance - but without a car to get there. After some time spent in despair and a couple of Belgian beers, I was walking back to my hotel when I passed by one of these amazing buildings. I jumped on internet and made some research and, this is how the Brussels series was born. In each of the frame I included a presence, which is taken from the museum of socialist statutes in Sofia. Most of my visions are influenced by music. I needed to recreate the atmosphere and the emotion that I felt when I walked by these buildings on my way to the hotel in the evening.

BJ. So what is this composite panorama about?

GZ. I will work on a file for several days, and in the meantime, my mood will change. The result is that, if working on a series, the subsequent photograph is never going to be same of the previous one in term of feelings and emotions that I am trying to reproduce. Therefore, it’s going to be an artificial exercise, like furnishing a house and try to match the style of each room. Instead, what I did here, was to work on all the files at the same time in order to ensure maximum consistency. It has been quite an effort to work on seven images at the same time, but what you see as the final product is not just for presentation purposes. The images don’t stand individually; rather, together they are the final product.

BJ. When we saw the panorama of these buildings the visual energy just hit me: the result is very strong, very emotional, really terrific.

GZ. I am using this approach more and more. 

BJ. This is a new way of seeing and presentation that is very exciting. I am sure that our readers will be inspired. Thank you, Giulio!

 

]]>
giulio.zanni@gmail.com (Giulio Zanni) blackandwhite brussels brutalism bruxelles cityscapes fineartphotography giuliozanni interview jugoslavija lenswork magazine monuments spomenici venice yugoslavia https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/4/interview-for-lenswork-extended-n-135-april-2018 Sun, 29 Apr 2018 08:12:31 GMT
Spomenici published on LensWork https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/3/spomenici-published-on-lenswork

My Spomenici portfolio has been published on the March-April issue of LensWork. LensWork is a gorgeous US based fine art photography magazine, printed since 1993 in hard copy on beautiful duo-tone paper, a rare product in the digital era. The hard-copy features 15 of my most iconic Spomenici photographs, while the extended digital version features 20 Spomenici images + 30 of my best architecture photographs

http://www.lenswork.com/previewpages/lw135/lw135preview.html

 

 

]]>
giulio.zanni@gmail.com (Giulio Zanni) black and white brutalism communism fine art photography giulio zanni jugoslavija lenswork spomenici yugoslavia https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2018/3/spomenici-published-on-lenswork Sun, 18 Mar 2018 10:20:39 GMT
Spomenici – A fine art photographer's dream https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2017/4/spomenici-a-fine-art-photographers-dream What are they?

In former Yugoslavian languages, Spomenici means monuments. For the sake of this article I will be referring to Spomenici as state built socialist monuments from former Yugoslavia and other neighbouring Balkan countries. Most of these monuments celebrate victories and battles over nazism/fascism and some are even ossuaries. While being the product of a regime, these monuments marked important historic events and dramas, as it is the case of Jasenovac, which marks the location and commemorates the victims of a big concentration camp, "the Auschwitz of the Balkans", where hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in barbaric ways. During the socialist regime, these structures played also a very important social role. These were the places where families used to gather during public holidays and where children would go for school trips. 

 

Architecture

The architecture of Spomenici is often associated with the movement called "brutalism", where the term comes from Le Corbusier's reference to raw concrete. However, while most of the Spomenici are indeed built with concrete, their architecture has more a life of its own, where abstraction and futuristic elements dominate. Among the authors of the most fascinating Spomenici there are: the architect Bogdan Bogdanovic and the sculptors Dušan Džamonja and Miodrag Živković.

Bogdan Bogdanović (20 August 1922 − 18 June 2010) was a Serbian architect and Dean of the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade. He fought as a partisan during World War II and has been also Mayor of Belgrade. When Slobodan Milošević rose to power and nationalism gained ground in Yugoslavia, Bogdanović became a dissident. Among the Spomenici developed by Bogdanovic there are: Jasenovac (HR), Prilep (MK), Mostar (BiH), Stip (MK), Mitrovica (KS), Cacak (SR), Bihac (BiH)…

Dušan Džamonja (31 January 1928 – 14 January 2009) was a Macedonian sculptor who worked on some of the most famous Spomenici like: Podgarić (HR), Kozara (BiH) and the Memorial Ossuary to the Fallen Yugoslav Soldiers in Barletta (Italy). 

Miodrag Živković (1928) is a Montenegrin sculptor who worked also on some of the most famous Spomenici like: Tjentište (BiH), Priština (KS) and Kadinjaca (SR). 

 

Why photographing Spomenici

I am not interested in engaging in a documentary exercise. I approach Spomenici from a fine art point of view. In this respect, with the exception of Marc Koegel, I claim to be the first fine art photographer who has applied a fine art approach to Spomenici in a systematic and comprehensive way. Sure you will find many photographs of Spomenici on the web, but that’s not fine art photography. Jan Kempenaers, a Belgium photographer, has the merit to have been the first photographer to document some of the main Spomenici after the latest Balkan wars and to collect them in a book, disclosing the existence of these structures. However, he used exclusively a documentary approach. As a fine art photographer, my aim is to take the whole subject to the next step. Spomenici are spread all over the territory of former Yugoslavia. While some don't exist anymore, as they were blown-up during the latest Balkan wars as symbols of the previous the regime, others are falling apart, taken over by nature, because of governments in denial of their past or in some cases due to lack of funds. However, some are looked after by the authorities as national monuments, as it is the case for Jasenovac (HR), Krusevo (MK) and Kadinijaca (SR). Artistically, Spomenici are an incredible basis of departure for abstraction and personal interpretations, which contribute to the revival of these mostly forgotten structures by attributing them new meanings. Recently, there has been an increase of interest in these structures mostly by alternative tourism. There are few tours on offer, mainly targeting "urban explorers" which would take you through a tour-de-force across the Balkans to see and take some snapshots of some of these structures. However, there is currently on offer only one fine photography Spomenici tour which would take you to some of the most remote locations and assist you with the necessary expertise. A Croatian film director, Irena Skoric, has recently presented a superb documentary on Spomenici called "Nezeljena Bastina". The Slovenian Primoz Smajdek has an impressive blog called Simboli Polpretekle Zgodovine (Symbols of recent history) where he documents the whereabouts of Spomenici throughout the Balkans. He has also a detailed collection of what I call minor Spomenici, smaller statutes, throughout Slovenia. 

There is no space for politics in my photographs, as I deal with politics in my other professional life. However, as other artists, I like to provoke. My images of Spomenici are in no way a political statement. My photographs are politically agnostic. I am not doing photo photojournalism anymore. I think that in this time of "photographic anarchy", where everybody take pictures with a mobile phone and send them viral on the web in a matter of seconds, photography has ceased to be a safeguard of reality. I love the aesthetics of Spomenici, which inspire me to take them to a new dimension through my artistic interpretation. 

 

Some of the most fascinating Spomenici

It would be very difficult to just pick one, but if I had to, it would be Podgaric (HR). It is dedicated to the people of Moslavina who fought and died during WWII and it was developed by the sculptor Dušan Džamonja. It is one of the most wired, futuristic structure with a style that would suit the 70's UFO hysteria. The monument is still in pretty good shape but it doesn't look like that somebody is taking care of it. 

Podgaric, HRPodgaric, HRMemorial to uprising of Moslavina, by Dušan Džamonja

The Makedonium (Ilinden), in Krusevo, is the most beautiful Spomenik in Macedonia. Authors are Jordan and Iskra Grabuloska. It was officially opened in 1974, on the 30th anniversary of the Second Session of the Anti-fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia and the 71st anniversary of the Ilinden uprising. The authorities take very well care of it. 

Makedonium, MKMakedonium, MKMonument to the 1903 Ilinden uprising and 1941-1944 national liberation struggle

Petrova Gora (HR) is dedicated to the uprising of the people of Kordun and Banija. It is located in Petrovac, the highest peak of Petrova Gora mountain range. It is falling apart and is being progressively looted of its metal panels. 

Petrova Gora, HR (awarded)Petrova Gora, HR (awarded)Monument to the uprising of the people of Kordun and Banija

Tijentiste (BiH) commemorates the 1943 Battle of Sutjeska and was developed by the sculptor Miodrag Živković. It is abandoned to the elements but due to its massive size is resisting well the signs of time. 

Tjentiste, BiH (awarded)Tjentiste, BiH (awarded)Monument to the battle of Sutjeska

Banj Brdo (BiH) commemorates the fallen soldiers of Kraijna and was developed by the Croatian sculptor Antun Augustinic. It is on top of a hill, not far away from the centre of Banja Luka. It still plays its social role, with people walking or cycling up to the monument. The authorities take care of it.  

Banj Brdo, BiHBanj Brdo, BiHMonument to fallen Krajina soldiers

Jasenovac (CRO) is built on the location of a former concentration camp, known as "the Auschwitz of the Balkans", where hundreds of thousands of people were reported to have died. The authorities take care of it. It was conceptualized by Bogdan Bogdanovic. 

Jasenovac, BiHJasenovac, BiHMonument to the victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp by Bogdan Bogdanovic

Kadinjaca (SR) is a memorial complex to the Workers Battalion of Uzice Partisan Detachment who were killed in the battle of Kadinjača. It is a huge site, with several structures, which still plays its social role by attracting tourists and local citizens during the week-end. It is well maintained by the authorities. Authors were the sculptor Miodrag Živković and the architect Aleksandar Đokić. The memorial complex was officially opened by the Yugoslav President Tito on 23 September 1979.

Kadinjaca, SR (awarded)Kadinjaca, SR (awarded)Memorial complex to the Workers Battalion of Uzice Partisan Detachment who were killed in the battle of Kadinjača

Buzludzha (BG) is the most important Balkan Spomenik outside of the former Yugoslavia. It is massive. It was the house-monument of the former Bulgarian communist party commemorating the events of 1891 that led to the founding of the Bulgarian social democratic party, a forerunner of the communist party. It's located on the top of a mountain in the middle of Bulgaria and it has become a place of pilgrimage for urban explorers. The monument is snow sealed, as it is in danger of collapsing, but people often find ways to sneak in. 

Buzludzha, BGBuzludzha, BGHouse-Monument of the Bulgarian communist party commemorating the events of 1891 that led to the founding of the Bulgarian social democratic party, a forerunner of the communist party

 

Among those that do not exist anymore

Monument to Stjepan Filipović, Opuzen (HR). Filipović was a Croat commander of the Partisans' Tamnavsko-Kolubarski unit in Valjevo (SR). He was captured on 24 February 1942 by Axis forces and hanged on 27 May 1942. As the rope was put around his neck, he defiantly thrust his hands out and shouted "smrt fašizmu, sloboda narodu!” (death to fascism, freedom to the people). In that fraction of a second, a photograph was taken from which the statue was cast. The monument was blown up in 1991. 

Makljen (BiH) commemorated the battle of Neretva. It was blown up by vandals in 2000.

Makljen, BiHMakljen, BiHMonument to the battle of Neretva. Blew up by vandals in 2000

Bijeli Potoci (HR) was looted during the latest Balkan wars

Bijeli Potoci, HRBijeli Potoci, HRThe monument was looted during the latest Balkan wars

 

Living Spomenici

From Jugoslavija with love (awarded)From Jugoslavija with love (awarded)Vergnacco was an Italian village in the region of Istria. After WWII the region was taken over by Tito's Yugoslav communist forces. Since then the village has been abandoned. Nowadays is located in Croatia.

 

For more fine art photographs of Spomenici please visit my website http://www.giuliozanni.com/p566783243

If you are interested to attend the first fine art photography exhibition of Spomenici please see below:

Spomenici leaflet.jpgSpomenici leaflet.jpg

If you are interested in joining myself and Marc Koegel for a fine art photography Spomenici tour please contact me

Warning: if you decide to visit some of the Spomenici in Bosnia-Herzegovina or in areas bordering with BiH please remember that these areas are still heavily mined. Stay on hard surfaces and don't walk out of beaten paths. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

]]>
giulio.zanni@gmail.com (Giulio Zanni) https://www.giuliozanni.com/blog/2017/4/spomenici-a-fine-art-photographers-dream Wed, 12 Apr 2017 23:13:41 GMT