This series was made to mark the 10th anniversary of the siege and destruction of Vukovar, a Croatian town sitting on the Danube close to the Serbian border.

I made two visits to Vukovar back in 2000 and 2001, during which I would stay with different families, both Serb and Croat. During my first visit I produced a series of images which looked at general aspects of the town — work, society, rebuilding — as I tried my best to understand something of the complex situation there. I wanted to make photographs that were suggestive but not dramatic. My hope was to offer an alternative to photojournalism, which I find is often short-term in its outlook and tends to dwell / represent the dramatic more than the quotidian. I wanted to make quieter images, that were sensitive both to signs of progress but also to feelings of leftover conflict and tension within familiar contexts such as the home, social club or factory.

For my second visit, I found myself drawn specifically to the Borovo shoe factory and the adjoining 'workers colony.' As one of the main employers in the region (and something of a communist ideal in its heyday), Borovo seemed to represent many of the problems facing the town as a whole in terms of both physical destruction and social change.

When I first created this series, it seemed destined for publication. But then September 11th happened and the Balkans fell off the media radar completely. In those days, it was a difficult series to pitch — the photography was considered somewhere between art and editorial—and neither side knew how to handle it…. But it seems like things are changing and there is space to create documentaries that linger on places somewhat forgotten.

—Colin Dutton