To this day I clearly remember the old family camera, a 35mm Voigtländer with an optical viewfinder, which my father had bought in Germany before I was even born. It was during the time when he was working there as a migrant worker. It was mostly used by my mother, who ordinarily used it to record all the important things and events in our family. During my childhood and growing up into a young man, I was not really interested in photographing. I was more interested in the big box with the family photos. I loved those photos, I enjoyed browsing through them, and loved sorting them into groups that made sense only to me. It was my sanctuary.
IN LOST TIME
A long time has passed since I lost a big box with family photographs in war, and a few salvaged copies I found in the meantime, at relatives, are not enough to fill the void that was left after the loss. Although nothing can replace what was lost, I find images which, as a nostalgic illusion of some past reality, help me in my effort to fill the gaping void of introspection and recover from the loss of family photos. Those favourite ones that are gone, only exist in my memory anyway… until they fade from there, too, and vanish forever.
When I roll back the curtain of memory, all the way back to my childhood, I can say that I was always a collector: football trading cards which I exchanged at school with other kids, rockabilly records as a teenager or different interesting pieces of wood and rock which I used for aquascaping when I dabbled in home aquariums. But, ever since photography seriously entered into my life, this collecting urge I always had, has been the reason for the constant search for quite commonplace things and scenes, insignificant in their essence, but which gain a certain new, unusual dimension, and sometimes even an inexplicable meaning, hidden in its meaninglessness.
SHADOW IN A SHADOW
While me and my younger brother were just little kids, our parents did not tell us good-night stories. Instead, while we were in bed, our father often used to show us shadows of different animals on the wall, using his hands quite skillfully. Today, when I have long since outgrown the borders of the children’s room walls, the world that surrounds me has for me become the place where, in the shadow of my father’s hands, I am looking for new shadows. Those which I have not yet seen.
The occasional short trips, necessary to get away from the madness of the modern life, often take me to the Adriatic islands. Intoxicated with the sun, blue sea, the azure skies, scenes and smells of the Mediterranean, the comprehension becomes deeper, and the daily rhythm becomes slower, more human, forcing me to vainly hope to remain forever somewhere on one of the thousands of Adriatic islands with which I fell in love long time ago, when I served in the Navy.
Before taking any important photographs in our family, my mother always used to wipe the lens of the old Voigtländer camera with the edge of any kind of clothes she had on at the time. So, due to the scratched lens, the photos taken with that camera were never quite sharp. Although I have lost those photographs a long time ago, I still remember those most important for me, clearly recalling what they had shown. Like the lens of that old Voigtländer camera, I “modified” the taking lens of an old twin-lens reflex camera, thus turning it into a new unsharp witness of my own reality. I don’t care that the photos taken with that camera are not perfectly sharp: they are only the visual tickets to one’s own memories of the important things, anyway.
NOTHING LIKE MANHATTAN
As a teenager, and even as a young man, I had a big poster of Manhattan at night on the wall of my room. The small town where I was born and where I grew up was just a small working-class town, nowhere as attractive and exciting as the Manhattan night lights on my poster. Now I live in a big city – though, not as big as New York, but still a city with a proper night life. But, today I do not yearn for the streets of New York, nor does the night life of the city I live in particularly attract me. Today I am searching for that feeling I used to have once, when, hands in pockets, I used to walk the sleepy streets of my provincial hometown, with the quiet longing for the lights of the big city.