On day three, we started seeing evidence that the students were using the advice given to them during their daily edits. The work has grown stronger with each consecutive day.
The students began hitting their stride during day 2 of the workshop. As they grew more comfortable with their subjects, the photographers began to concentrate more on creating story-telling images.
Text by Joanna Whitehead
Today I traveled to Nemila, an urban area outside of Zenica to meet, learn, and document a family of six; three boys including twins and the youngest a girl. The family is living in extreme poverty, most likely the result of the war suffered in 1990.
I arrived early mid-day along with Truth With A Camera coach Josh Meltzer and a translator to help explain my role and purpose. The first hour was a bit awkward especially for the children. But as the hours passed, the comfort level grew and the atmosphere the Muslim Bosnians provided seemed nothing less of warm, friendly and inviting.
Despite the success of post-conflict rebuilding, the economy has not returned to its pre-war level and the country is now one of the poorest in Europe. However, what I have witnessed from my limited stay here in country is that the poverty situation in Bosnia is unique. The aftermath of the war has left some families with little to get by on. The family maintains a small steep hillside garden of potatoes, a cow and calf for milk and chickens for eggs and meat.
The ability to connect with your subject is vital in photojournalism. After a short while the children forgot I was there. We shared a cup of Bosnian coffee and I photographed the daily Islamic prayer, known as Salat, all the while with a peaceful silence of the language barrier.
***Joanna is a relative newcomer to the world of photojournalism after making a recent career switch. She has been learning the skill as she goes while attending various photography workshops.
Day 1 is mostly filled with nervousness and awkward moments as the students try to begin forming their stories. More important than shooting on the first day is the necessity for each photographer to begin establishing a strong bond with their subjects. If that connection is not made, it will not going to get any easier to make pictures during the course of the week.
by Britney McIntosh
What is the most important and imperative skill a photojournalist can possess? Creativity perhaps and obviously the ability to use a camera; or maybe its persistence or just flat out being charming. Some might argue for the importance of understanding light and the necessity of thoughtful framing.
After two days at Truth With a Camera in Zenica, Bosnia, and only about two hours of shooting time (total) with my NGO, I’ve learned that perhaps without patience and ingenuity none of those other skills would matter. That without the ability to drop your camera (or just put it down gently…) and exercise your plain old journalism reporting skills, then it doesn’t matter how amazing your tilt-shifted–rule-of- thirds–multicolored-over-saturated-5D–Mark- II-shot is: it means nothing.
The NGO I received, well asked for actually, is Pazi Mine, an organization focused on removing landmines from post- war Bosnia. A few people called me stupid, sure, for voluntarily going into a mine field, but I was really pumped about it. That is, until after my three hour journey to get there I realized they weren’t going to let me go up into the mine field with the workers, which left me stuck on a 8×8 foot plot of grass outside the woods sitting in a Land Cruiser with two chain smokers for 8 hours. Naturally I wasn’t going to make a 6 hour round trip to subject myself to such misery again so today, day two, I intended to head to a mass grave excavation. Small catch, the mass grave I was supposed to go to fell through also, again leaving me stuck all day waiting – this time in a classroom eating cornflakes and surfing the Internet.
Now that sounds really awful. But honestly it has probably been the best learning experience so far of any workshop I’ve attended – and I’ve been to a lot. I’ve had to be patient, learn to lay groundwork, and after reading and reading about the aftermath of the Bosnian War, looking through the photos I already have, and bouncing ideas off the poor workshop coaches who are desperate for me to stop bugging them and go shoot- I’ve managed to come up with a plan for a photo essay, that if done right, could turn out to be the best piece I’ve ever shot.
So day two is almost over… in the culmination of the 12ish hours I’ve waited for things to happen I have: ridden a horse, learned to understand Bosnian, chased a herd of cows down a street and seen the tops of the Balkan mountains. Pretty much everything except shoot pictures.
And I finally stopped pouting and realized that great journalists aren’t made by being handed things, they are made great by learning to fight, by learning to research, and by learning not to give up on a story just because you don’t speak a language or because it doesn’t turn out to be what you thought it would be. Great journalists are defined by their ability to report, to get access, not by how well they can manipulate a metal box and push a button.
So maybe I haven’t shot very many photos… but here in Bosnia, I’m learning from some of the best in the business exactly what it takes to be a great journalist. Sometimes it just takes a little waiting.
- This is Britney McIntosh’s second Truth With a Camera workshop. She previously attended the 2010 workshop in Quito Ecuador.
Ever since we settled on Bosnia as the location for this workshop, I felt a stirring deep in my soul. When I think of this country, all that comes to mind is the war that raged for three years in the early 90’s.
I was serving in the U.S. Army as a helicopter crew chief at the beginning of the conflict. I remember being at a loss as to why we were not intervening and saving lives. A pilot overheard my remarks one day and simply said, “That’s something you don’t want to get mixed up in.” I ignored his comment then, but it has always stuck with me. I still felt drawn to Bosnia.
As far as I know, I have no Eastern European blood running through my veins. I am man without religion or cultural identity. I have no direct connection to these people and I’ve struggled to figure out why I am so affected by the events that took place here.
Ethnic cleansing was the twisted machine that powered the war. Fathers and sons systematically murdered, while mothers and daughters were raped –”if you can’t wipe them out, then breed them out.” Sisters, brothers, uncles, nieces and in some cases entire families were erased from this world.
And therein lies my connection. I have a family. A wife and two sons. I have nieces and nephews, cousins and in-laws.
What if this happened in my reality? What if this were to happen to my family?
In the cities of Sarajevo and Mostar, evidence of the war is still visible in the bullet riddled facades of office and apartment buildings. The skeletal remains of destroyed homes whose inhabitants are long gone dot the countryside.
As I walk the streets of Zenica (pronounced Zen-itza), I search the faces of the people for any hint of their past. I look for the scars of the wounded and the eyes of the haunted. I wonder who among the men I see sitting at the cafes sipping cappuccinos were once so full of hate that it drove them to kill anyone who was not like them.
Fifteen years ago, peace for this region was finalized in Dayton, Ohio. The people of this land – Bosnians, Serbs and Croats – have found a way to move on and to live in relative harmony.
I am left to wonder how.