In my photographic practice, I have been interested both in the visual character that tourism imposes on popular sites, and the way that people act when they are at true leisure at the beach. Dubrovnik offers an opportunity to explore both ideas at the same time, setting into relief both the detached and at times thoughtless way people consume the world around them, and a beauty that can be found in genuinely engaging with nature and our surroundings, and each other. This project has two distinct parts (entitled "Town Hall" and "Consuming the City's Soul" respectively) which, nonetheless, become more meaningful when taken together.
While in Dubrovnik, I had an incredibly difficult time connecting with the city. I was overwhelmed by the crowds and tourists in a way that I had trouble seeing past. Banje Beach, just outside the walls of the old city, became my haven. Despite the fact that it, too, was plenty crowded, it seemed to represent a total escape into pure joy in contrast to the aggressive crowd within the city walls.
After spending time with my images of the city, I am struck by its overwhelming beauty which has been difficult to see and appreciate while I was there. Looking at the photographs, I am able to take in the city itself in a contemplative way. They reveal a certain quiet to the architecture itself, and a seeming absence of permanent inhabitants. But the also lay bare the disconnected and performative way the tourists experience the city. The city itself has a stillness, but the people passing through seem to generally rush past things, occasionally stopping to capture the world they are not truly experiencing, or freezing themselves almost as if caught in the act and unsure of how to respond.
Directly outside the walls of the Old City is Banje Beach, a popular spot for tourists and residents alike. The beach is populated from early in the morning to late in the evening. Much of the time it is more crowded than the city, with barely an inch to spare. And yet, within the chaos of the crowds on the beach, I find a celebration of life and ease which was lacking on the city streets. Surprisingly for such an urban beach, the water is impeccably clean and crystal clear. The people are literally at their most exposed, but their least self-conscious. The bustle of people's hurried consumption and motion through the streets, and their unfettered relaxation at the beach, are both punctuated by that fleeting moment when they catch themselves being seen.