“Absent” – photo book
On March 24, 1999, I was at my Spanish class when I heard the sound of bombs and felt the ground begin to shake: NATO had just launched airstrikes against Yugoslavia, starting the military intervention of the Kosovo War. I decided to leave my hometown, Novi Sad, since I couldn't see any future for me in the Balkans. After several attempts at a new life, I finally got accepted to do my Master’s degree in São Paulo, where I live and work until today.
After many years of absence, I took a three-month trip to visit my family and my native land, now called Serbia. I wanted to produce a book that expressed, only through images, my feelings and thoughts on the occasion of this visit.
During the trip, I was searching for revelations regarding my own existence, wondering who I am, what my origins are, and what my heritage is. In search for answers, I visited relatives, flipped through photo-albums and rummaged through family heirlooms. I desperately tried to find belongings of my father, who passed away while I was in Brazil, without me being able to say goodbye in person. I found only one x-ray showing a large part of his lung already destroyed by the disease, and imagined myself in the situation of my mother, living alone in a house that was once full of life. The house where I was born. I felt guilty for leaving her.
I tried to ease my constant feeling of exile and incompleteness by visiting the places that once meant so much to me: where I spent childhood holidays, where I studied, where I had my first kiss. But I felt a strong disharmony, although I felt my senses still connected to those sites, through familiar sounds and smells, my feelings remained indifferent. I also felt the absence of my friends, as most of them also became immigrants, trying to get out of a cycle of poverty and lack of opportunities that still remains. Given this difficulty in re-rooting myself, the specter of a possible permanent return to my home country became more distant but remains present.
The experience was quite painful, for I had to directly confront this anguish in order to be able to photograph. And after taking the photographs, I did not know if I wanted to see or erase them. Nothing is familiar anymore: neither here nor there. And what is "there"? What is "here"? Where do I belong?