Portraits of Sarajevo
Photographer Amer Kapetanovic set out to capture portraits of people from different backgrounds in his hometown, Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He talked to them about their lives and personal stories of the city and soon found their responses caused him to reconsider his own relationship with the city.
“From the outside, the city of Sarajevo has been rebuilt and transformed. Its charisma is both intoxicating and breathtaking, as the people of the city look forward to a much brighter future. But, as with so many things, not all is exactly what it seems. For this project I wanted to shift the focus from the city itself to those who, like me, call this place home.
Many people, different backgrounds
I wanted to focus on those who live here that come from different backgrounds to me, and understand the relationship they have with the city. The young, the old, those who have left and returned, and those who never left. In a city with a turbulent history, I wanted to see the impact it has had on those who live here today.
As I set out to capture the series I couldn’t help but romanticise about what I would find. What I soon came to realise was that the people of Sarajevo weren’t as willing to take part in my story as I’d hoped, and those that did weren’t so forthcoming with their life stories.
It was this realisation that led me to dig a little deeper into my own relationship with the city. The portraits and conversations I had with my subjects tell one half of the story, but I believe the process I went through and the questions it led me to ask myself complete that story. I didn’t want to capture a literal representation of the city, I wanted to tell a story through emotion. I wanted the people to become the face of the city.
Asking the right questions
I tried to bring a unique perspective to the project by avoiding the city’s most prominent buildings and landmarks. I felt like a stranger in my own city for a while and it wasn't so bad. My original approach was to ask a single question "What do you love about Sarajevo?” However, I soon realised that, unlike other cultures, it was not within our nature to elaborate. The questions I asked the people I met along the way ended up being the same ones I ask myself all the time. I managed to meet an amazingly diverse range of people during the course of this project. The following is a glimpse into their world.
Amer: Would you ever leave this place?
Jozef: No. I never left, even in most difficult times. People needed me so I stayed. I had lots of friends here. People make places what they are. Most of my friends are gone so my bond with the city is weaker than before.
Amer: What do you like to do in Sarajevo the most?
Damir: I like to go running in the morning. Each morning I run through the city and I’m reminded by all those places where good things happened to me.
Amer: What improvements does Sarajevo need?
Đoko: We should be more open to each other. We are too much confined.
Amer: What do the tourists like the most about Sarajevo?
Selma:They say this is a place like no other they ever visited. Most of them are surprised to see all of this. They say it is the city from a fairytale.
Amer: What do you like about this city?
Faruk: What city?
Amer: People say this neighborhood is very dangerous. Is that the truth?
Almir: Children here play all day without parents having to watch them. It is safe. I have organised football tournaments here for the kids quite a few times and we all have a great time. If you need help, nobody here would turn you down.
Amer: What is your favourite thing in Sarajevo?
Amar: My favourite thing is The City Hall that is just behind me. I live next to it and each morning I wake up and see it from my window. It makes me happy.
Amer: What is so special about this place?
Gordana: This is a small city that lives the rhythm of a much bigger metropolis. I can't go for a coffee without making at least two new friends and exchanging phone numbers with them.
Amer: Do we treat animals right?
Goran: There are many stray dogs around. I feel sorry for cats. Their number declines. Did you know that, by Islamic teaching, cat is the cleanest animal of all? So clean that you can eat from the same bowl. They are good to have in your home.
Amer: Is it true that we have less and less children every year?
Nusret: No, on contrary I feel. This and last year we have an increase compared to previous years. My bus is getting fuller with kids. I drive them to and from the school everyday.
Show us the unique characters in your city
Now you’ve seen Amer Kapetanovic‘s portraits of his fellow city residents, why not capture photographs of your city’s characters for this month’s photo challenge? Take a stroll through your local streets, parks and markets or hop on public transport and see if you can capture the people that make your city special. Tell people why you'd like to take their photo and you may find they tell you more about themselves and what the city means to them. Don’t forget to ask their permission before taking their portrait!
When you’re ready, upload your images to our Gallery here