zuriti / gaze

September 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Twenty years after siege, Dubrovnik is once more awash with cruise ship parties, blinking and clicking at the alleys and pantiles.  Outside the old city, we duck into the cool of the Contemporary Art Gallery where, above the colourists and impressionist of early 20th century Croatian painting at the top of the final, empty staircase, we come to some startling photographs.

The first is a sequence of shots of the ancient, deserted city at the moment of the first shelling of Dubrovnik in December 1991, taken by Pavo Urban.  A statement next to the pictures explains that the 22-year-old photographer was killed immediately after the last shot was taken.  The sequence, bare and haunted, can be seen at http://www.pavourban.com/e/index.php?/fotografije/poslijednje-slike/

The second collection is an exhibition of work by Mladen Tudor, celebrating 50 years’ work as a photojournalist.  With Urban, my response was one of horror (in that they fixed me, emotionally and mentally, to the spot); Tudor’s pictures – populated, living, dynamic, their subjects staring / gazing out at the observer (curiously, sceptically, challenging), or at each other, or at something that is their business and not ours – immediately invite narrative interpretations.  I am lifted beyond the confines of the besieged city.

Zagreb 1958, I

The truck has come to him like a stray,
worn out, dull, empty; and for days now
it has slumped in front of his house
on blocks, stripped back to a prototype,
crude as a carved toy from before the war.

The mechanic works patiently, head bowed,
stripped to his vest.  In a time before this one
he’d have worked among animals: a farrier
or a whisperer.  Horses would have stood here
by his house, calm and silent like him.

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