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In my lectures and photo coaching sessions, I stress catching the essence of a destination. To do so, one must at times change lenses and styles. As I zoomed in on marine mammals and calving Andean glaciers in March, I was a nature photographer using long lenses to document the “Waters of Argentina.” (See “Alone and Nowhere – Photographing in Patagonia”)
In Croatia I switched to wide-angle lenses and a journalistic style to capture its war-torn culture. It was in Dubrovnik that I was the most affected by the tragedies wrought by war. Dubrovnik, a stunning walled town on the Adriatic, lost 68% of its buildings in the bombing of ’91 and ’92, causing $10 million damage. Mingling into the smells of sea air, chalky dust rises up from the ongoing restoration – yet Dubrovnik still shimmers.
Patched tiles, Dubrovnik
From the exterior, all seems fine. Thanks to an international aid team, all roofs are repaired matching the few remaining original ochre tiles as closely as possible. But, looking closer, windows are often shuttered and nailed closed and scaffoldings support damaged buildings. Interiors are still being cleared of rubble that is carried wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow, down steep, stepped medieval streets.
Tarps over bombed-out buildings, Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is a city of war, a tribute to spirit of survival and a damnation of man’s inability to keep peace. My recent conversations with photographer Sebastiao Salgado on the wretched conditions that humans impose on others (“Documenting Suffering”) certainly played over in my mind while touring Croatia. Through journaling, I wove together the threads of what seemed to be very disparate experiences in Croatia and Argentina, amazed at the connections to be found in photography.
Ron Haviv exhibit at War Photography Museum
Dubrovnik’s recently opened War Photography Museum offers a unique chance to dwell on the tragic implications of war. As I absorbed the museum’s exhibit and film of Ron Haviv’s work, I realized my recent study of Salgado’s work, Sontag’s critique, and photojournalistic styles had come full circle. No matter the style – classically composed, edgy, luminous, in-your-face, gory, grainy – all approaches are valid. Whatever it takes… Every moment tourists invest in seeing these images raises the stakes for peace.