The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo jump-started WWI. Following WWII, communist leader Josip Broz Tito was able to unite the countries of the former Yugoslavia until his death in 1980, at which point the Republic began to slowly unravel until its final fragmentation in the early 1990’s. Only two decades ago, events tantamount to genocide took place in the region. Historically, the Balkan peninsula has served as a buffer between the East and the West, and, as a result, it has been conquered, re-conquered and influenced by the Ottomans, the Hapsburgs and the Russians. (To date, Serbian municipalities in Kosovo sport banners of Putin.) I am oversimplifying a culturally and politically rich region that I knew little about one year ago in order to provide some context to a photo series that began to take shape throughout my travels.
Clutching historical travelogues written by Rebecca West and Robert D. Kaplan, and Susan Sontag, to name a few, I ventured to every country that once belonged to the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. I stayed in iconic hotels that stood throughout wars and communism. I tiptoed around derelict, formerly iconic buildings and villages that had been abandoned in the 1990’s during ethnic conflict. I took self-portraits in spaces of significance that appeared to be held together by tape. If I could picture myself in a particular space and time, I could better empathize with a past I yearned to understand.
Traveling alone is a thrilling expedition—a secret that is mine entirely. But I’m sharing a few mirages that materialized from my self-portrait sessions. So here I am. Partially. In various buildings that remain. Some just barely.