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Constellation Cafe Books : Farewell To Bosnia

Traditional photojournalism is really difficult to publish into a book. The very flaw lies in the way its created. Its made to represent a precise moment, a action which encloses the entire lifetime of emotion and its counter effects. And so photojournalism works against the very grain of narrative storytelling, every picture has its own direction and its own core which doesn’t necessarily come together to form a larger idea.

But thats what traditional photojournalism is like. Photographers soon realised it and then came to a point of experimenting, editing their work to form a larger story. Farewell To Bosina is very much one of those books which tries to bring out a larger idea out of traditional photojournalistic content.

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I was first introduced to the book by a friend in New Delhi but I really didn’t have a chance to look at it in detail. But I did find a copy here in the Magnum library. The book is large (14.4″ x 10.9″), hardbound, covered with a dark fabric which seems to have a black and white photograph of food prints in gravel. The text on the cover seems to be stamped, its not very sharp, much like the quick markings done by the military on their vehicles or boxes.

The book presents itself in a very cold manner. It opens with a centre spread but quickly changes to a very traditional layout of four images per page. The images are presented in a black border, simple and stark. There is a pull in the book which drains you emotionally as you look trough the blackness, men carrying arms, women crying and children bleeding.

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As you flip the pages, the photographer Gilles Peress makes sure that you feel the tug of restlessness in the images. All pictures show some sort of movement. Either they are shot from a car or they are pictures where people are moving or have already moved. Very much like the images below, you find relics of their lives scattered around, proof of their existence.

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One thing you notice about the book is also how thick the pages are. They have a really strong texture and weight to them, almost laden with the very weight of grief. The printing of the book is also very contrasty and deep. It encourages you to touch the images and feel the ink. This is one thing I love about great photo books that they let you become intimately involved with the photographs which even galleries can’t afford to do.

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Even thought the book mostly has four image spread per page, it does come back to full page spreads once in a while. As the images have no narrative structure, these spreads do really help bringing the idea back into the readers mind about the entirety of the project, the movement. Gilles Peress really works hard to let the reader experience what he felt as a observer and that emotion does come across very well.

Farewell To Bosnia is not a ground breaking book for me but its a important book full of emotions. Its very difficult to produce a photojournalistic work such as this in a book, its very clear. But Gilles Peress takes you one step closer to his subject with the book, trying to involve you emotionally which is what a good book should do. It would be a lovely addition to any library so if you do get your hands on it, buy it!

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