Bosnia & Herzegovina

Documentary Episode: Photographers Without Borders, in Bosnia with Project 1948

Last night I came home after drinking at the bar, cuddled up with my husband on the couch, and smiled for about 13 minutes straight as I finally watched the Photographers Without Borders ‘PWB TV’ documentary episode we made in Bosnia and Herzegovina last spring, working with and meeting the young people who are trying to change a country that’s creeping its way to recovery after a brutal civil war and genocide in the early ’90s. Check the video out—I think it speaks for itself.

Wait. Hold up. You were in Bosnia?

Yeah—I totally was. In May last year I spent about a month living in a little flat in Soukbunar in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was there with awesome PWB founder and photographer/videographer/goddess Danielle Da Silva, and videographer Jeff Garriock from Toronto. Photographers Without Borders is an NGO that matches photographers and videographers with NGOs that need to document their work.

The NGO whose story we were following was Project 1948, a photo-voice program that gives cameras to youth from different ethnic backgrounds in Sarajevo and brings them together toto express concerns and explore questions about life in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina.

How photography helps build relationships

One of the reasons I loved Project 1948 was the medium for their mission: photography. Photos, videos, stories—they all bring us a little closer together. Seeing the students who participated in the project embrace their roles as photographers and speak to what was important to them really made my heart sing. They were also invaluable in showing us around town when we were lost, recommending places to eat and drink, and filling us in on all the sides of the war and post-war feelings so we had a better picture of what’s going on in Bosnia today.

If photography can do anything, it can humanize struggle, and turn our fear of the unknown into empathy for others.

After the Bosnian war, what is the Bosnian future

The breakup of Yugoslavia, affecting Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia started in the ’80s, with political instability in the region, and reached a crisis point in the early ’90s when the ethnic wars started. Even though the Bosnian War ended in December 1995, the series of wars in the region left long-term economic and political damage. Not to mention, many who could left the area as refugees, leaving the country’s population decimated, and frustrated.

When I visited Bosnia and Herzegovina last year, I couldn’t believe something comparable to World War II atrocities had happened there in my lifetime. In one surreal encounter, I met a girl my age who remembers being in a concentration camp as a child.

And yet, many young people still have no idea what exactly happened during the breakup of Yugoslavia. I certainly didn’t.

[left to right] Photographers Without Borders Founder Danielle Da Silva, Photographers Without Borders Photographer Mel Hattie, and Project 1948 Founder Jenifer White, PhD.
[left to right] Photographers Without Borders Founder Danielle Da Silva, Photographers Without Borders Photographer Mel Hattie, and Project 1948 Founder Jenifer White, PhD. At the Project 1948 Student Gallery Exposition at Galerija Boris Smoje in Sarajevo.

Hi, I’m Mel, blogger and tea sommelier at Mel Had Tea. I love to explore, learn, and meet new people. Nothing inspires me more than reading, traveling the world, talking to strangers, and drinking tea.

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