Well with one semester down and another about to start, I figure now is just as good of a time to enlighten (ha) you all about my senior thesis endeavor. Focusing on the Serbian-American and Albanian-American communities across the nation, while also trying to find a definitive understanding of the Kosovar civic identity; I find myself trying to understand and show how these two ethnic identities use their own pasts to define their present and future. This whole discussion though has created some visual difficulties for me like; how do you take a picture of something that has already happened? and how can you operate under the banner of ‘photojournalism’ while also constructing visual representations?
While I wish I could write that I have some wonderful insight and answer to these questions, I don’t. But not all is lost (for now) as I have been doing a fair amount of visual experimentation and writing about these two ethnic identities and the whole role of an image in validating the past, which has led to some interesting results. One of those results is a collage series called, Operation Allied Forces, which is a visual history of the NATO military operation against the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War. The collages are based around major events that took place during the campaign and the testimony gathered through interviews of individuals who in one way or another were apart of the operation. These interviews though are not always completely factual of the events that took place, creating a reconstructed history of the actual operation that may or may not be more factual than the “accepted” history of the campaign.
Trying to keep this in the world of photojournalism though, the images used within the collages are all from public image archives that have been meta-tagged in one way or another in relation to Operation Allied Forces. My thought behind this was that these images are meant to serve as a historical document of the past yet their validity depends solely on either your ethnic identity (Albanian/Serbian) or the country you live in and their willingness to acknowledge the independence of Kosovo. With the uncertain validity behind these images, they form the perfect tool to create a visual history to the operation that also finds its own validity placed in question.
In total, I have created 78 collages (one for each day of the operation) and plan on releasing them within a book series that will go along side my thesis, Be Our Help As In The Past… If you’re interested in reading more about the Kosovo war, Albanian ethnic identity, or Serbian identity, these books were personal favorites of mine: