We meet Vedad on transit – just freshly landed from Bosnia, his home – he stops in Berlin before proceeding to Hamburg, where he lives. He is talking quickly, gestures, laughs and takes us on a journey to his projects.
Tell us about your latest project.
Some years ago Arabic tourists from the golf states began coming to Bosnia to built their holiday homes. There has been a war in Bosnia and the Bosnian Serbs were selling land which was then bought. There are villages with less than a 90 houses and 40 of them belong to Arabs. They’re not present throughout the year, but you hear the Arabic language in the summer. I’ve also seen many more Bosnian women with head scarves than just one and a half year ago. Things are changing.
When you are working on something like that is it a free project?
Yes, it is a free project. I did not really start working and don’t have job assignments yet. Last summer I finished my studies and since have earned money. My last travel was to Moldova last November. It’s a poor country, they say the poorest country of Europe. And I did a piece of work there about the Moldovan political identity.
Moldova is very Russia friendly isn’t it?
No, that’s a misunderstanding. Some want EU others want Russia. From bottom to top everything is split. All is corrupt. And they are unsure about their identity. There has been no war, but the country is fractured. In Transnistria, where I haven’t been unfortunately, clocks stand still. They still have Lenin statues and tanks and a currency that is not acknowledged nowhere.
What’s your link with the Balkan, and with Germany?
I grew up on the Balkans and lived 20 years in Sarajevo. Six years ago I’ve went to Germany, where I spent four years in the 90’s when I was a child. I went back, finished school and wanted to study photography in Germany. Maybe I go on studying, but then in the US. But only maybe.
What is the focus of your work?
I am interested in politics and would love to work in Asia. I am a fan of Asia because everything is cool there, it’s funny and fascinating the different cultures. I’ve been to Shanghai with a university excursion and then flew to Vietnam and bought a motor bike driving through the country. It has been such a great experience. And later on Cambodia and Bangkok. I’d like to go back.
How do new ideas for photo projects develop?
Most of the times it’s reading the news. I am reading a whole lot and when something catches my attention, I start researching. It can also be mere interest, like in the case of my bachelor. It was about ex-Yugoslavia. I intended doing something about borders and it became a piece of work on the borders in people’s heads.
How did you depict that?
Very metaphorical. It was hard to grasp and I don’t know if I succeeded. I looked at a country that fell apart into seven countries but lived a common identity for 50 years. A communist, later a socialist regime. If you have a state with its own borders you need an own identity. Last week they started a survey in Bosnia: There are different languages spoken, and they were asking which language should be taught: Bosnian, Serbian or Croatian? Until now, all of them were taught, because they are in fact really quite similar. Now it is probably just one language, we’ll see which one.
What feelings do you have about Yugoslavia?
There is a strong yugo nostalgia. But I don’t regret that I did not live in these times. My parents tell me of a city that does not exist any more. They say it was the most beautiful city in the world. Sarajevo. I would have loved to see it, but now what is happening there is frightening, the whole nationalism and the corruption. The political situation is miserable. In Sarajewo for instance there is no water between 11 pm and 7 am, because of broken pipes and no one repairs them. People stood in front of the parliament screaming that they needed water. It was really sad.
Are you in Sarajevo quite often?
Now I’ve been for the first time in one and a half years, but I try being there each six months.
Is that home for you?
Yes, absolutely. Hamburg is just the place where I live. But Srajevo becomes more and more alien to me, also because of the things I’ve told you. I like Hamburg and it’s the only place in Germany where I would live.
What do you like about Hamburg?
It’s more honest than Berlin I think. The Berliners are too suspiciously nice. In Bosnia people are a good blend between Hamburg and Berlin, just not as German. But more affectionate. Not too nice but affectionate.
What is ‘Across the Interstate 45’ all about?
I did an excursion with university. Austin in Texas is growing incredibly quick because of the IT branch. Allegedly, it’s going to be the new New York. And there is a ghetto, East Austin, which is ‘across the interstate’, cut off by the highway. The Highway was being built between the black neighborhood and downtown, the white neighborhood. Now that Austin grows many young people with money are coming, similar with Berlin, that dislodge the poor inhabitants.
How did you take the portraits?
I am just taking a seat in a bar for instance and then trying to talk to people. When I see they trust me just a tiny bit, I take a photo. I always ask people before taking a photo, because I don’t own the rights. The moment I look for or the glimpse that I aim for won’t appear without giving trust to each other. For capturing a good image, something needs to happen.
What I really enjoyed were the portraits of your mum…
My mum lives in Bosnia, Sarajevo. I had this university project and shot the first photos within 10 hours. Then I realized how beautiful it was and how it could one day become a very important series for me personally. These tired eyes by the way, only occur when she looks at me. (laughs)
Thanks so much, Vedad!
More on Vedads web page: divovic.com