Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the start of the war in Bosnia. Cities, like people can produce strange feelings in visitors – leave tiny traces of discomfort and Sarajevo always struck me as being a little odd; a little schizophrenic… of course I never knew it before the war as a place of civility and culture. The work I made there was always conditioned by conflict but I thought I’d take this opportunity to show a small selection of work from the city taken almost a decade apart that show two different sides. The work from 1997 was made as I’d just returned from a near fatal trip to Sierra Leone and I came back to a landscape of a bitter and fragile winter. I remember the dark coffee and the sleet, the ominous surrounding mountains and the deep, jagged gouges in the buildings – and in the people. I photographed the Blind School, devastated by shelling but trying slowly to come back to life. I photographed children learning to use their canes on a path that the instructor, Borko swore was surrounded by unexploded ordnance. It made the children – and me – very diligent. A decade later I came again in better weather and better spirits with an old friend of mine from Delhi, the critic and writer Meenakshi Shedde to make a story on the Sarajevo Film Festival. Clearly, for me and the city, most of our visible scars had healed.


Bosnia – Sarajevo – Two friends navigate their way to school through a possible minefield, Sarajevo.The Blind School was the only centre in the region for visually impaired children and young adults. It was extensively damaged during the civil war and was used by the Bosnian Serb army as a military position from which to snipe and shell the city. The few teaching staff left during the war managed to visit some of their blind pupils and continue a limited education. The school reopened after the war ended but conditions remained dire.


Bosnia - Sarajevo - A boy makes his way to class in the destroyed Blind School.
Bosnia - Sarajevo - Two friends walk together at the Blind School


Bosnia - Sarajevo - A teacher pays a home visit to a deaf-blind boy and his family


Bosnia - Sarajevo - The Peace Statue and the Orthodox cathedral, Sarajevo


Bosnia - Sarajevo - A square in Sarajevo's Old Town showing the Sebilj and the minaret of the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque


Bosnia - Sarajevo - Men play outsize chess in a park, Sarajevo


Bosnia - Sarajevo - A couple enjoy drinks in the late afternoon sun at the Sarajevo Film Festival, Sarajevo, Bosnia