The Song of Sarajevo

After winding my way on the bus from the dry rocks of Herzegovina through the lush, rugged mountains of interior Bosnia-Herzegovina, I was let out at the Sarajevo Autobusni Stanica. I took a cab to my pension, the Pansion Cobanije, a quiet and family-run place off of the Old City. I dined that night with my delightful traveling companion, Femke, a graduate student from Holland–all legs and blue eyes with the brains to match…After walking her back to her hostel (she flew back to Holland this morning), I continued on and was stopped in my tracks by the
sound of raucous singing…

They were all pretty drunk, and invited me to join them..Orange juice for me, thanks. In this town of Muslim practices drinking juice is not seen as an oddity.  There were 8 or 9 of them, all about 50-60 years old.  One had an old guitar and he was playing furiously while they all sang gypsy songs as if their lives depended on it.  I was able to get some images and they were open with conversation.  They all spoke good English.  One explained that they had all been friends since childhood and that they all came from different backgrounds. ‘In the past,’ he said, ‘to ask someone what they were was considered rude.’  ‘Like where I live’, I said.   This meant that I was in an enclave of peace where Muslim, Catholic, Christian and Atheist alike all came together to pray to the God of Song – perhaps the only God they needed. Myths have been shattered.  These were Yugoslavians.

I have been sparing with my cameras.  The GIII Q17 rangefinder is fun and small, and I am anticipating the black and white prints more so than the immediacy of the digital.  I am shooting mostly 200 speed due to the bright glare of the Balkan sun, but I have been lucky so far with the times I been using 400…mostly cloudy. There have been some good moments in markets and on the street, I think, in both formats.  In Belgrade next week I will be focusing more on the Invisible People–those living on the street, Roma encampments, etc…

It feels good to unwind my eye from the American landscape.

John Masters

2 Responses to The Song of Sarajevo

  1. Karl Haudbourg May 31, 2009 at 12:54 am #

    What an interesting post, along with excellent pictures.
    I can’t wait to see your pictures of Belgrade. That said it seems a bit strange to plan a trip to Belgrade to photograph “the Invisible People–those living on the street, and Roma encampments.”

  2. John June 20, 2009 at 12:52 pm #

    Karl–I apologize for not responding earlier…I was unable to do so. I visited Belgrade to visit friends who live there. My work with the homeless (Invisibles) and the Roma populations is on-going regardless of where I am. Here in the US it is particularly distressing, and the homeless are more reliant on the good deeds of the population rather than any kind of assistance. Thankfully I could focus on many things in Belgrade while I was there. I enjoyed ‘Museum Night’, some sunny days at Ada, the food (always) and the general demeanor of Belgrade itself. I will have some new images up on my photography site eventually that tell a more well rounded tale. Thanks for commenting!