Lukomir is a small village of just few dozen houses situated south of Sarajevo. It is perched on the Bjelašnica mountains at a height of about 1500 metres. It is the country’s most remote inhabited area, and almost seems to lie outside the natural dimensions of space and time: here one can still find stone houses with wooden or metal roofing and the local people, descendants of the Bošnjaci (who converted to Islam between the 16th and the 17th centuries), still wear traditional clothing.
“[…] the young people now growing up no longer had clear and living memories of the time of the Turks and in many respects had already accepted the new way of life.” wrote Ivo Andrič in The Bridge on the Drina.
I decided to rediscover Lukomir through a series of photographs that capture the features and expressions of the local people in their own surroundings, like postcards of faces from hundreds of years ago.
The journey to Lukomir from the south was slow and quite difficult. Just a few kilometres from Konič, a very narrow road with no directions at all deviated from the main road, and as we drove along it, it started to become a very steep and rocky path.
Now at a high altitude, our car ground forward for about four hours through woods and gentle pastures, surrounded by beautiful Stecći (medieval religious megaliths with bas–relief decorations). June was coming to an end, and although we were enjoying the longest days of the year, the sky was overcast and it was drizzling when we reached the village. We were the only foreigners about.
Mujo and Mina, an elderly couple from Sarajevo, usually spend the summer there in the house where Mujo was born. The couple cooked us a plentiful and simple supper and offered us shelter in their barn, almost free of charge. We slept on wooden benches, wrapped up in woollen blankets. Before going to bed, they suggested that we follow them indoors, where they proudly showed us their old, badly–tuned TV set.
Mujo spoke his own language, but he managed to make himself understood with the help of a pen and a piece of scrap paper. He told us his house had been built a hundred years earlier by one of his ancestors. Throughout the war he and Mina had sheltered in that same house, far away from the city and all its horrors. Now they live in Sarajevo, but every now and then they like to return to Lukomir and visit a few friends and relatives, and devote some time to drying out the herbs they use to make infusions thought to be good for the heart.
We spent two half days in Lukomir, which included a sunset and an icy cold morning that at last brought a clear blue sky. During my stay in the village, I collected various images that capture the essence of the place: landscapes, details and local people.
During the post production phase my main aim was to evoke the atmosphere of times gone by. I kept the colour tone uniform throughout the series of photographs while, through saturation, rendering the colours lighter and colder. As in old photographs, the strong contrasts create a clear visual connection between the people and the environment. The setting of the optical black threshold at a level higher than a certain value and the digital grain effect simulate the use of (traditional) film, enhancing the desired result.
I decided to gather the reportage pictures in a booklet following a deconstructed layout, in order to recreate the dislocated images I had collected in the small village of Lukomir. I chose strong textured dark grey paper, quite sinewy; the white spaces for the pictures are set up in advance on the grey pages.