September 24, 2007
Art of reconciliation focus of exhibit and panel talk on post-conflict societies
By Carol clark
Steve Horn first visited Yugoslavia in 1970, when he was an Amherst student and a budding photographer. He traveled around the Balkans armed with his camera and a sense of adventure. “I wanted to capture the spirit of places where the culture and the architecture was in danger of disappearing,” he said.
During the 1990s in Yugoslavia, this process of disappearing was greatly accelerated by the war that fractured the country and the lives of its citizens. In 2003, Horn decided to retrace his route through the Bosnia and Herzegovina area of the former Yugoslavia, bearing prints of the photos he had taken more than three decades previously.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Horn. What he found was tremendous devastation, eight years after the war ended. “Not only was there an immense loss of life — evident in row after row of graves in cemeteries related to the war — a lot of traditional architecture was targeted and destroyed.”
Horn strove to reconnect with the people he had photographed years earlier, including Jef, who was a 5-year-old, playing with friends in the streets of Jajce, when Horn photographed him in 1970. In 2003, the 38-year-old Jef welcomed Horn into the home he shares with his wife and daughter. “The photo [from 1970] meant a lot to him,” said Horn, “because he didn’t have any photos from that time.”
During the war, Jef’s relatives were among the Bosniaks who fled, taking almost nothing with them, when Jajce was overrun by Serb forces. Their home was destroyed. Jef served in the Bosnian army and lost part of one foot to a landmine. “He’s a plumber and he’s doing pretty well, given that conditions in Bosnia are bad,” Horn said.
Horn, who now lives in Washington state, recently published a book based on his two trips to the Balkans titled “Pictures without Borders: Bosnia Revisited.” He said that the main themes of the photos are the power of artistic images to forge connections between people and to help people reconcile the past and present.
“I’d like to facilitate a connection between people here and people over there,” Horn said. “Even in the face of a lot of negative news and struggle, I hold onto hope for Bosnia and I’d like to share that hope.”
Horn to lead Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding lecture
Emory's Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding initiative invites the public to a free event on Sunday, Sept. 30, titled "Reconstructing Self and Communities: Arts, Religion and Reconciliation in Post-Conflict Societies."
The event begins at 3 p.m. in the Jones Room of the Woodruff Library with a multimedia presentation by photographer Steve Horn, based on an ongoing exhibit of his work at Woodruff's Schatten Gallery and his book, "Pictures Without Borders: Bosnia Revisited."
Horn's presentation will be followed by a panel discussion including: Edward Queen, director of Emory's Ethics and Servant Leadership program; Thee Smith, Emory associate professor of religion; Joshua Thomas, Emory Ph.D. candidate in religion; Susan Anderson, founder and executive director of ArtReach Foundation; and Bernhard Kempler, program director and president of the board of ArtReach. The panelists will make brief presentations and open the floor to questions and comment from the audience. A reception will follow in the Schatten Gallery.