Photographs, like memories, are fleeting; they capture a moment in time and frame it forever. And like memories, photographs invite us to imagine, dream and conjure up stories to help form our identities.
The photo book YU: The Lost Country is Dragana Jurisic’s visual account of her search for her own identity. Born a Yugoslav she sees herself as an exile, a wanderer who has no roots since the destruction of the utopia that was Yugoslavia in 1991.
To help her find a path through a country that no longer exists Dragana Jurisic sought the guidance of the British writer Rebecca West. Published in 1941, West’s masterpiece Black Lamb and Grey Falcon weaves three separate trips through the Balkans into one complete memory of what the Yugoslav identity was about.
Following in West’s footsteps, Dragana Jurisic captures glimpses of these memories through her lens and recreates a fictional version of a modern day Atlantis. The muted palate of colours and hazy, sometimes a little out of focus, contours add to the sensation of memories once forgotten, now remembered, a dreamlike world just beyond our reach.
Punctuating these images with words, a combination of her own and West’s, Dragana Jurisic allows the viewer to enter into the images and gain an insight into a lost world. And while memories may be subjective, just as the creation of photographs is subjective to the viewfinder of the photographer, the memories become real, an objective representation of something nearly forgotten.
YU: The Lost Country challenges the idea of what defines identity and encourages the reader to rethink what they believe to be true, but it does this in a very delicate, subtle way. This understated approach is also reflected in the sophisticated exterior of the book, its canvas cover is pleasant to the touch, and the elegant design invites the eye to linger and revisit. A small issue is the closeness of the print to the edge of the pages; one or two millimetres would have saved the illusion of toppling off the edge.
Not only is YU: The Lost Country an unusual photo book, as it gives more than just imagery and frames the stunning photographs with words, memories and history, it also resembles a time-capsule that stores lost knowledge for generations to come.