Jim Marshall: I was unable to accept this Barbarism happening in Europe!

April 6, 2015 1:30 PM

 [wzslider autoplay=”true”] Jim Marshall has lived and worked in Bosnia and Herzegovina continuously since 1994, with the exception of a year in Serbia. As an activist and consultant he has worked with countless international organisations in the fields of social inclusion, gender equality, youth development, refugee and IDP return and resettlement, and mine risk education. His photographic work has been presented at nine solo exhibitions to date, as well as through numerous local and international media outlets. His noted photographic work known as “15 Years” that examines the urban landscape of Sarajevo in 1996 and 2011, is on permanent exhibition at the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

When did you come to B&H for the first time?

I came to B&H in the autumn of 1994 and have been here ever since, with the exception of living in Belgrade for a year in 2002 / 2003. I lived in Mostar for the first few months of my time in this country.

What was your main motivation for going to Bosnia and Herzegovina?

I was volunteering in Edinburgh, raising donations and loading trucks headed for B&H. Edinburgh is a small city that was however home to an inordinate presence of B&H-related charities. Through the contacts I made with these organisations I gained an opportunity to travel to B&H, with a plan to stay for around three weeks. In Mostar I met some German volunteers who were setting up a youth project there and I started volunteering for their youth organisation.

What was most shocking for you back then, as a younger person?

Obviously it was a war-affected society. After 4 or 5 months in Mostar I came to live in Sarajevo during the last brutal months of the siege and I simply have to say: despite having seen it on TV and in newspapers I was unable to accept that the Europeans were willing to tolerate this barbarism happening in Europe at the end of the 20th century. I was disgusted with people in other parts of Europe for allowing it to happen.

You are quite known in B&H for your photography work. How did you discover photography and what does it represents for you?

I always had this vague interest in photography. I always liked music more, and film, literature and theatre too. I came to photography quite late, four years ago, at the age of 41. I believe in lifelong learning; you don’t have to do everything when you are young. I always say that it’s a manifestation of my middle-age crisis (laughter); instead of buying a red sports car I started taking lots of photos. Traditionally, I always do one exhibition every April in Sarajevo as people started quite early on to take an interest in my photography. It’s very flattering when people take an interest in anything you produce artistically and I’ll always appreciate that people react positively to my photography. And when people need my photos for academic or educational purposes I always give permission. I particularly love that interaction. I don’t really make money from photography; I don’t do it for living, as my consultancy work pays the bills. I don’t really want to become a press photographer or for it to become a routine job. I do admire such photographers but it’s not for me. Photography has to be entirely my own vision, in my own time.

What is mostly in focus of your photographs?

I very rarely photograph people. I don’t know why or what that says about me. I photograph empty streets, landscapes, walls, and ugly things in contrast with beautiful things. There is a certain sense of emptiness to almost all my work. While you are photographing, you are transferring emotions to people. If you do it successfully then the viewer fully shares those emotions with you, and becomes part of that moment captured or even lost in that moment with you.


Interview by Maja Ručević






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