perspective: through the lens

Our assignment this week was to think about perspectives. What is the lens and perspective through which we view life? Through what perspective are we viewed as students, volunteers, and (as much as it pains me to say it) tourists? 

I realized that my perspective is often through the lens of a camera. I am constantly thinking about the framing of shots, lighting, posing, yada, yada, yada. When I have Bella out (my fancy DSLR) it becomes much worse. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I always have a camera with me. People on this trip with me in BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina) right now will probably complain about how often I tell them not to move and how annoying it is that I’m always following behind or racing ahead to get a shot of the group. I just love documenting life by taking pictures. 

I brought 3 cameras with me to BiH (2 point and shoots – one with 720/1080 HD video capabilities – and my Nikon DSLR with two lenses). Some might call this excessive, but I call it practical.  I can’t imagine my life without a camera by my side, and I consider one of my best purchases for this trip (other than my Chacos which have been a major blessing despite the ridiculous tan lines they leave on my feet) is my new point and shoot camera – A Sony Bloggie.

There is a constant war going on in my head regarding my need to take pictures and document everything and my strong desire to not look like a tourist. Without a camera in my hand and a massive group of people to walk with, I can fit in pretty well here in Bosnia – as long as I don’t smile or open my mouth to speak – and I love that.  I absolutely despise looking like a tourist – which is a major difficulty for a photography nut such as myself. 

To compound this issue, many things I want to take pictures of here in this beautiful city are remnants of a part of its history most people would rather forget. I wonder what the Sarajevans think of us as we tourists wander around the city taking pictures of the Sarajevo Roses, bullet holes, and mortar blasts on buildings. What do they think about our fascination with the destruction of their home? What would I think if something horrific happened in Portland and tourists from all over the world came to see the after effects – not having any idea of what it feels like to experience what happened – and take pictures of the worst thing that has ever happened there rather than appreciate the wonder that is Portland? I can’t imagine that I would take that well. I would try my best to put the event behind me. That doesn’t seem to be something that is very easy to do here in Sarajevo/BiH – it really seems to follow you wherever you go.

Rather than ogle at these sites all summer long, I decided to document them as best I could through my perspective: the camera lens – hoping that it would not only allow me to see past the war to beauty of Sarajevo and BiH but also to display and explain to those who aren’t here what the war has done.

This is one of the completely bombed out buildings. I know I’ve showed it before on this blog, but I wanted to display it in a different light. It’s one of those sites that sticks with you and forces you to come to grips that there was a major war here.

The building at the mouth of the tunnel that was used during the siege to smuggle items/people/supplies in and out of the city. The tunnel ran under the airport, because it was one of the only internationally protected areas in the city. You can see the bullet holes all over the building.

More bullet holes along the back side – all over.

This is the bobsled track from the 1984 Winter Olympics held in Sarajevo. In the far right of this picture you can see a patched up part of the wall – Serb snipers made holes in the track and used it to shoot people (men, women, children – it made no difference) in the city. They were protected from return fire by the concrete. There were many of these patches interspersed along  the track.

Another bullet ravaged building. This one was in the city and right along what is known as “sniper alley” – for obvious reasons. Deaths and casualties in this area were not uncommon.

The largest cemetery in Sarajevo. They had to convert a soccer field into the cemetery because there wasn’t enough space anywhere else for all of the bodies.

A mortar/grenade blast on a building. These are all over. It’s really hard not to be distracted by it. One of our guides told us that some 4 million grenades/bombs/mortars were sent into Sarajevo during the 5 year siege.

Here’s another bullet ridden house. You can see where reparations were made up top – the rest of it is covered. While I was taking this shot a woman who lived there came out. Part of me was mortified. I said good morning to her in Bosnian and tried to make an apologetic face. I can’t help but wonder what she thought of me taking this picture of her house. I know I didn’t feel good about it.

I walk by this building everyday on my way into the CURE (pronounced tsoo-rday) office. I didn’t notice the mortar blast until about 3rd day. It catches you off guard a little.

Another Sarajevo Rose – right in the center of town. The diaspora of this one strikes me every time I pass by it.

There’s a temptation to think that some things are just wear and tear on old buildings, but most of the damage on buildings is from the war. There are even spots on the street that have been patched up from bullet holes.

I usually attempt to steer clear of more depressing topics in blog posts (and conversation in general – I know, crazy coming from the person working in anti-human trafficking). I like to make people happy and not depressed. However, in order to get past the war from behind the lens I needed to get it out of my system all at once. Hopefully from here on out you will see an abundance of the beauty that is Bosnia from my perspective: through the lens of a camera.

for more of our escapades – check out my blog at


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