Verses of Emptiness
Verses of Emptiness (2008-ongoing) consists of portraits of women — unembellished, bare, austere portraits of women anchored in their internal worlds. The series begun in 2008, as a result of personal unease. The idea that there is a right way to be a woman, which I acquired in my youth in Serbia but tried to suspend during my later ‘lives’ in Canada, the Netherlands and Germany, became increasingly troubling as my cultural contexts continued to change and the politics around gender increased.
In this sense, Verses of Emptiness is certainly about womanhood, about not knowing what that is, about looking for anchors that feel true; and about finding a way to belong to a gender whose parameters, pressures and contradicting freedoms disorient me. The portraits I make are also portraits of myself, of the different versions of myself: versions I lost and mourn, versions I feel I should be, versions I would like to be and idolise.
However, Verses of Emptiness has always been about a more general human theme to me. I always felt that my use of only female sitters stems from a simple fact that ‘female’ is the ‘language’ I am most familiar with. What I sense in the women I photograph, whose vulnerable yet unblemished purity moves me in the most profound way, is something that is not gender specific: it is the presence of a deep honesty, an untouched, unsocialized integrity. Photographing them then becomes a process of ‘peeling’ — peeling off of their outer, more superficial, more constructed layers until a more genuine, more universal layer is reached, a layer I can relate to on an instinctive, uncorrupted level. Photographing them becomes ‘sculpting’ them inwards, towards a more universal humanity.
As an antidote to the adrenaline-spiking chase for the newest and latest, as well as to our over-saturation with self-images, Verses of Emptiness stays close to the notion of ‘nothingness’ as the source of meaning, and slowness as the path to understanding. As such, the series develops with time: gradually, repetitively and patiently.