Photography has therapeutic benefits that can provide catharsis for those who need it. Photographer, Zaklina Anderson had to leave her place of birth, Yugoslavia due to the civil war. She writes for us on photography, displacement and the healing process.
Being a photographer has always helped me make sense of the world, but it was only relatively recently that I realised how much my art has been influenced by my personal experience of political conflict. The images I create are, and always were, the shadows of the war that destroyed my country.
In my latest series ‘No one could save me but you’ I explore my sense of identity, belonging, memory and displacement, stemming from the history of a country, my birthplace, which does not exist today. It is work inspired by the political events that ended up dividing Yugoslavia and resulted in horrific civil war which erased it from the map. The images are a way of dealing with the memory and loss that has made a large number of people orphans, both physically and symbolically.
As all the turmoil was happening, I was just coming of age and I had already embarked on the path of photography, following in my parents’ footsteps. For both my parents and I, photography made us nomads (my parents moved from Serbia to Slovenia, and I moved to Chicago to study photography due to lack of opportunities in Slovenia). Photography was an emotional outlet, giving us tools to ease the pain of displacement and helping us create new roots.
My move coincided with the start of the war, but my path was chosen well before. However, at such a young age I wasn’t interested in using photography to reflect on the unfolding events. At that time, I preferred to focus on beauty and fashion photography. Not only was I too young to think about what had happened, it was all too close and too raw to deal with.
Later, when I moved back to Europe to continue my photo education in Paris, I started developing several series that have led to my latest work. Lack of colour, shape, recognizable features became my metaphors for memory and loss. Thankfully I had teachers who noticed the potential in these early art works and were able to guide me.
The images in ‘No one could save me but you’ all have multiple layers, just as our memory does. Our mind often plays tricks on us and leads us to believe and remember certain things whilst hiding others. My aim is to let the story reveal itself after time, not instantly, just as it is in my own memory of Yugoslavia. I try to show the beauty of the passing moment, suffused with scars that are barely visible but present. When I presented my work, I met many people from the different republics that made up our country. We share a collective wound that has shaped our recent history. There is a very real sense of confusion, loss and grief for a place we called our home.
I would like to keep this memory alive, to explain to my children where I come from and what shaped me as a person. Through images and spoken word, I wish to remember the country that only exists in our past.
However, these photographs are not only about Yugoslavia. People all over the world have experienced and continue to experience dislocation and dissociation from their past.
Photography is a universal language. It can provoke feelings and thoughts regardless of our origin. When this happens, we experience a connection to people and countries far beyond our borders. It gives our work meaning and validation, and in some small way, a sense of healing.
Featured image: © Zaklina Anderson, The Armchair