Stanko Abadžić presented in BLUR 15 | CLOSE UP section by Robert Gojević

But life is not something that the living being carries ‘in and of itself’. It is an inscription of the living being in life-context – in life-time as well as life-space.[1]

Stanko Abadžić is a photographer/geographer. He is also a scenographer of his own cultural geography. His method of authorial search can be described most succinctly in the words of Ola Söderström, who says that geographers of culture are analyzing the interplay between different forms of representation of space, they are always giving voice or muting certain things and actions, giving importance and visibility to certain processes and not to others, and thus contributing to the transformation of the world.[2] On the other hand, the nature of staging in the space of photography is, in fact, an ambience theatralization of the fictional space of absent events, and a certain way of their conceptualization. The transformation of the world then comes about by documenting that which is selected (i.e. that which the photographer/geographer selects to be visible), whereby the ‘document’ simultaneously becomes an individual myth of real space. Abadžić’s reality of displaced objectivity is an autobiographical track record (document) of his life as traveler/displacee, adding up all the obsessive returns to the places of departure. The documented places that the author frequently (perhaps even unwillingly) left behind represent the abundant archive of his nostalgic memory, coded by a limited number of quotations from his own experience and varied fragments evoking characters of an amazing language, both archaic and modern.


The aesthetic quality and visual delight of carefully staged shots lays out a spidery fan/veil of mood, visible only in a second/deeper/more attentive reading. These photographs thus emit a vague call upon our vulnerable subconscious, as if we were observing, across a significant time distance, people that are dear and close to us, or else our own childhood, or that of our children, in physically accessible, but actually vanished sceneries of old photographs. This places Abadžić’s confessional viewpoints quite naturally within the French tradition of the medium of the first half of the 20th century (H.-C. Bresson) and the contiguous theories of ‘shaping’ what is past in what is real, documenting small solitudes (R. Barthes); ‘ambiencing’ the levels of meaning of what is represented (G. Dorfles); ‘anticipating’ that which is seen (J. Lacan); subjectively ‘adding to’ the scenes (A. Bazin). We might ascribe the above theoretical sketches for understanding the choreography of Abadžić’s photographs to the theoretical space of ‘yearning’ for the evasive, transient experience. In opposition to most present-day photographs, they do not resort to ‘forceful reproduction’ of the world treated as an object.[3]

Let us now focus on the highly important markers of Abadžić’s toponymy singled out in this cycle – the Adriatic routes. Or, to be more precise, the north-Adriatic coast of deeper (and colder) shadows, of less open mise-en-scènes (visible and integral doings on micro-locations which do not ‘spill over’ into unique and all-embracing spatial wholes), of more discrete humour, of less salty sea full of submarine springs, of notions more liberal, and settings more private… than the ones we encounter on our way south (along the set route). Here, the sceneries are defined by the atmosphere of what is represented. They are slightly ‘touched up’ (or taken out of context) as fragments of ambience resonance of the humour of leisure or isolation from superfluous noise. The black and white photograph of north-Adriatic summer neutralizes the sweltering heat with an acute quiet, such as we come across more often on sunny days of the vernal or autumnal equinox. Everything that is moving is, at the same time, standing still. And it is quiet.

A rhythm framed with quiet, a visual rhythm – it alone isn’t standing still: circles, carousels, bike wheels, balls, car tyres, rosettes, hat brims, ellipses, laundry drying/swaying in narrow lanes between old facades cut across by sharp shadows, fragments of frozen memories cracking up, sequences of collision of the past with the present in an aesthetics of motionless fascination, children’s games in pairs (twos, fours, twins…); game in general: a capturing of realistic scenes in traps of abstract reflections of the architectonics of long shadows, harmonious, minimalistic structures of the ambience, the gone-by network of wire constructions left behind without reason – in a network of impressions left behind without reason – in time left behind without reason… And then: patterns, arabesques, ornaments, soft eroticism, signs, passages, arched doorways/streets/quays, collages of letters and messages (mare-parking-zimmer-camere-baćin dvor). And then, again: trees as centres of paradisiacal (ancient, empty, lost, important) gardens beyond some church, beach or shore…

The Adriatic route is, therefore, Abadžić’s own Adriatic route. The way in which the photographer reanimates the past experience of his artistic medium in a selected location is in accord with the poetics of reanimation of his own life-experience. He is not interested in contemporariness as visualization of signification. One may rather say that he is immersed in his personal archaeology of signs left behind. All his interests are focused on the ambience-related visual character of nostalgia for a world that could be best described as an ever-accessible image of irretrievable values. This world is assessed through the prism of Abadžić’s photography in inscenations of simple-minded observation, as if the embezzlement of light-heartedness would never take place, although it already has. Consequently, his photographs can be likened to light-records from a journey through the neighbourhood. We find them in our empty letter boxes, ‘written down’ in an archaic hand of wistful sequences. In the black and white absence from contemporariness, in the fully recognizable scenes within small-format frames, nothing remains darkened but responses to the unrest of our time. While passing through, the author has stopped for a while in the isolation of north-Adriatic summer resorts, restoring their resemblance to a gone-by quality. Resemblance due to a strong sense of recognition, the gone-by quality due to a strong sense that what is represented – is lost. What is at work here is, therefore, not a shaping of the represented, but of our view thereof. In the network of steep north-Adriatic islands and the indented steep coastlands we find scenes as if they were lost items which time has not harmed in any way in spite of bad weather. This applies to everything in close proximity of the sea. Mostly. In close proximity of the sea, where many ancient cities, lost Atlantises, bottled ships and remains of human garbage are hidden among the seaweed. What happens next? We shall see, if we but observe with patience the shaping of this undiscovered coast, weaving everything that has already happened to us and to it into a garment of the image (and the understanding of the image).

Nataša Šegota Lah, May 2013


[1]              Groys, B. (2006) Učiniti stvari vidljivima. Strategije suvremene umjetnosti (Making Things Visible. The Contemporary Art Strategies, ed. by Nada Beroš). Zagreb: MSU, Refleksije series, p. 27.

[2]              Söderström, O. (2008) Reprezentacija (Representation), in: Kulturna geografija (Cultural Geography, ed. by D. Atkinson et al.). Zagreb: Disput.

[3]              Cf. Sontag, S. (2007) O fotografiji (On Photography). Osijek: Naklada EOS, p. 63.