gopesa paquette – sarajevo

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Gopesa Paquette


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This is the first part of an ongoing project on the inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina who are trying to live through continued social, political and economic marginalization. BiH is one of the rare countries to be under international protectorate status. This means that there is a consortium of international institutions that holds the power to make the political and economic decisions which will mold the social fabric of the country for the coming decades. Thus considered politically immature, the inhabitants of the country are asked to prove that they are entitled to make the decisions directly impacting their everyday lives.

BiH, and more generally the Balkans, have been a geographical and conceptual bridge between Europe and Asia for centuries. From the Ottoman empire to the ex-Yugoslav quagmire by way of the Balkan wars of the early 20th century, this region has been relegated to an undefined otherness every time it seemed to threaten Western Europe’s fragile self image.

I started this project in the summer of 2007 with a 2 month stay in the capital of BiH, Sarajevo, which has been etched into our collective imagination as the epitome of collective suffering. My aim is to contribute to the reconfiguration of this infamous iconic status by showing the quotidian lives that unfold in this modestly sized city. I’m presently financing my next stay in BiH to continue this project.

Meanwhile, I’m starting to interview members of the Bosnian diaspora living in Quebec City and Montreal, Canada, hoping to get a better idea of what being Bosnian means to people on both sides of the ocean.



I am a young documentary photographer combining anthropologically grounded research into photojournalistic practices with my own photographic exploration of contemporary issues.

Presently completing a masters degree in social anthropology looking at contemporary photojournalistic practices in India, I am working on photography projects exploring differing degrees of marginalization in Quebec (Canada), Bosnia and Herzegovina and India. I’m particularly interested in border zones: the social, cultural, geographical and historical areas in-between set conceptions of the world.

My photographic reflection takes account of the whole process of image making and dissemination, looking at exploring ways of diversifying the making of images, the ways in which they are assembled and their social lives once they are put out there in the wild terrains of the contemporary mediascape.


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Gopesa Paquette


16 Responses to “gopesa paquette – sarajevo”

  • Gopesa

    Congratulations for your publication here. This sounds like a fascinating project and I wish you well with it.
    Unfortunately,I must be missing something. I’ve waded through the series four times now, hoping for a glimmer of whatever it is you are trying to say, but with no success. A few of the images are mildly interesting, but beyond that I’m afraid I’m not getting it.

    Hopefully some of the other commenters here can help me out.

  • Sarajevo, a city seems to be in peace. However everywhere the evidence of the war. Aftermath.
    Strange to see new buildings next to destroyed buildings. It looks to me, it was more important to come back to “normal”, instead rebuilding… or, the marks should stay there to remember.
    I am curious, how this essay evolves.

  • Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    This is peculiar series. Actually it feels like the beginnings of several series; each of them more focused on your claim of anthropology than photography – that your digging tool is your camera as you scrap through the strata of some society whose subtleties and intricacies you perhaps know more about than we do. That said, I dont feel you have provided enough clues to fulfill your pretty ambitious statement other than to reveal that this is part of something and not something in itself.

    I think as a series this collection lacks a focus and that your statement and bio are a tad grandiose. I think smaller bites and a more specific visual line would serve this project and your work in general well. You are probably on to something – somewhere in there.

  • I’m pretty sure when I first went through this piece it was 16 odd images long???!!!!
    Prefer the much tighter edit but it still feels a bit ‘vague’ as an essay for me. Granted though, it is part of an on-going series.
    The first image is great!

  • Jonathan, thanks for pointing out the tighter edit, yes, better.

  • Gopesa, Congratulations for being here.

    I have to agree with Gordon, Jamie and Jonathan on this one. Heavy and super-ambitious statement and a promising but weaker essay. The tighter edit works better. Looking forward to the next chapter.

    All the best.

  • having seen the longer edit first, i like the eye for photography here.. with the exception of the photos without people.. good contextualy perhaps, although when there is a talent for photographing people i hate to see it neglected
    people here seem disconnected though.. isolated and banal.. ponderous and absorbed in solitude.

    heavy history is difficult to overcome.. and there is heavy history..
    good for context.. for knowledge.. for balance and for intelligent approach.
    knowing the weight of baggage is a good thing.. as is putting it down and walking forward unhindered.

    moving forward it could be refreshing to see more of the contemporary city..
    approach the city and find what is unexpected.. fresh. alive and progressive.
    it is there.
    what is unique, beyond what the news has told us.

    i’d like to see that, the people of the city may like to see that.. and in terms of helping the city along, it could arguably be a great contributer.

    also knowing how fresh and close to the surface historical tensions are, i think care and attention is due to this project.. small, well placed steps in the shooting, the intention of the project and the consideration of possible outcomes of the work.. as it seems you are perhaps already taking.

    to your credit you speak in terms of months rather than weeks..

    in the origional, longer edit, there were some bill posters for the exit festival in serbia.. good people.. working hard and sometimes at risk .. to ‘exit’ from a time of war..
    i love photography which helps to illuminate this ‘exit’ and addresses the
    adjustment of foreign preception bought about by war and the media coverage.

    there is photography which confirms what we already, sadly, know about people who have been ravaged and devestated in recent history. and so it is good to see the less common sides.. reunification..
    the long fought ‘exit’ from war needs photographers as much as the media needs the spot-news eyes on the ground at the time.

    shell shocked isolation or cultural divides are only half the story..
    probably less than that in this region, after this much time..


  • Gopesa, I might not be the right person to comment on your Bosnian images presented here, since Sarajevo is my hometown and I am very sensitive to any presentation of it, which is not a great position to act from as a critic. I left Sarajevo in ’98 and live in Montreal since. Anyhow, I wouldn’t mind meeting you and talking in person, far from online forums, since your interest in the subject seems genuine and your writing reveals thoughtfulness. So, perhaps, we can talk… if interested, you can find my contact details following the link from my name here. Best,

  • Gopesa:

    congrats for being published :))

    I would really recommend meeting with Veba (Velibor Bozovic)…he’s a close/dear friend, wickedly gentle and beautiful soul and a thoughtful, poetic photographer in his own right…..i’d prefer to defer to Veba with regard to this essay and your approach….for me, photographing Sarajevo, or photographing any place haunted by a kind of universal consciousness (most of us have some ‘idea’ of what Sarajevo ‘means’ if that is even limited to the siege, which is itself only a recent weight upon a city carved and haunted by a history’s long and crookedly knotted finger, is not only difficult (impossible, in truth) but for me requires something of a superhuman act of hubris: to turn that history into your own…’s the only way, imho, to deal with place and history…..where the small, crooked streets that wind up the hills of Sarajevo are as truthful and import to see as the shelled buildings, where the words and tears of A Tomb for Boris Davidovich are as essential as all the photographs of Greene and Nachtwey and Morris and knight and rogers, and etc….a mosque, a tombstone, a church, a bar….a man’s face reflected in the mirror….

    in some sense i dont see sarjevo here…not yet :))…

    ….but that’s what beginnings are for, to clear the eyes until finally one begins to see :))

    contact Veba

    all the best

  • Very nice BW, may be just a little bit rhetoric story.

  • There’s not much here, at least not yet. The first image of the girl with the soldiers and the last one of the tram are interesting and engaged. The others are distant and lifeless. Yes, you claim you are shooting politically and economically marginalized people, but these folks have rich cultural and religious lives that presumably would be interesting to photograph. It would be nice, too, if there were more individuals. Who is Nino and why is he at the zoo? The photo is just of a guy with his shirt off, smoking, with no indication that he is at a zoo.

    Overall, there is little sense of narrative, just the evocation of a mood, despondency, which may be how Sarajevo felt when you were there. But lonely, black and white photos of Sarajevo don’t reveal much about the reality of life there.

  • Thanks everybody for the comments and sorry for responding so late, I just came back from overseas.
    I was expecting that some comments would be harsh but honest and that’s what I got. The main reason I’m practising photography is to learn.

    I agree that the statement is pretty ambitious and borders on pretentious but that really is my long term goal which will take many more years and a lot of grappling to even hope to achieve, if it is at all possible. My academic posture seems to be no great help here, when it comes time to open up my sensitivity and clear the eye to attain a deeper insight.

    A few points : in my mind individualising somebody is not automatically isolating that person (it’s just a matter of getting the right feeling to infuse the picture, which is a big challenge) as much as keeping a distance is not lacking involvement (here I’m reacting a bit against the dogma that you always have to be almost under the subjects skin to produce meaningful pics). Saying this I am aware that it demands a lot of skill and experience to produce meaningful and enduring images with this position in mind.

    This first short edit is only the beginning and I am working on other edits including more “positive” pics. From what I gathered from my short stay in Sarajevo and my interactions with people from the bosnian diaspora here in Quebec, it is difficult for me to go ahead and make a “Sarajevo shining” story, but I don’t want to blacken things more than they are. Time and more frequent contacts will permit me to get closer to the spirit of the place (because I do keep in mind the feeling that Sarajevo is a heartwarming city) and develop the ability to share it.

    Thanks for the positive notes that are there and make sure that I’m working hard to better my photography.

    And of course I’ll be meeting Velibor as soon as possible.


  • Congratulations for this report, with so powerful pictures of Sarajevo.

  • I both agree and disagree with the general flow of the comment. I disagree in that I think that there is a great deal in each photo that you have presented here (I did not see the original piece before it was tightened).

    They all feel very distant, but perhaps that’s how Sarajevo is to you – a distant place, even as you are right in the midst of it.

    Although I do find the photos to be quite good in their own individuality, what I do not get is the sense of the larger essay, where you are going with this or where you want to go.

    Maybe you will show us in the future.

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