Only unit – Serbia in the Aftermath of Yugoslavia

Depois de viver durante cinco anos nos Balcãs, o americano radicado em Belgrado coletou essa série de flagrantes nas ruas traçando um retrato psicológico dos sérvios e da própria região que figura oespírito com que se enfrenta a radical mudança nas fronteiras e na paisagem dos costumes, tencionando conflitos relativos a identidade nacional e ao futuro a ser enfrentado.

Belgrado (Sérvia)

“Only Unity”: Serbia In The Aftermath of Yugoslavia has emerged from five years of living and working in the Balkans; it is my personal response to the confounding atmosphere of the region. My project presents a psychological portrait of Serbs from across the Balkans as they confront a radically changed landscape within physically contracting borders. Serbia is emerging from the hangover of the 1990s, where atrocities were carried out in their name just across newborn borders, and constructive reflection about the consequences of those years is over due. I am photographing details of society that both reflect and undermine the popular Serbian creation myths. Many issues are rooted in the complicated phrase “Only Unity Saves the Serbs” which was popular in the narrative of mass political manipulation during the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the wars that took place in its vacuum. Serbia is still recovering from the post- traumatic stress of those years, leading to a national confusion about their identity and a productive path forward.
I have focused on diverse subjects within the Serbian landscape which are far removed from any reality espoused by politicians. Young men and women are being raised in a divided, uncertain atmosphere and I hope to capture that essence so that we can further consider the implications of a Balkan region that is led by this generation. It is impossible to analyze or understand any event in this region without first considering its historical roots. I am interested in exploring and understanding the parts of today’s Balkan society that the next generation will read about in their history textbooks. What is happening now in the streets and in political negotiations will have profound impact on regional stability in the future.
The final vision for this project will be a printed book but before this I will exhibit Only Unity in Belgrade with the aim of bringing the photographs back to the figurative capital of the story. I am seeking a direct reaction from the community. I am also excited to explore the possibility of traveling with the work around the region and gauging the diverse receptions it will receive.
There are many elements that contribute to a hostile and sometimes desperate atmosphere in Serbia today. But there too are moments that show healing and a glimpse at a different future than many have seen for themselves in the last decade. The growing pains of this developing democracy must continue to be carefully documented and explored, as the battles of the 1990s have yet to be finally played out. I’ve experienced alarming apathy and lack of compassion from many youth across the Balkans, and I hope to confront them directly with a different picture of the countries and history they will inherit. I hope my pictures will help bridge local borders, real and imagined.