Subversive and sumptuous reality: one visual anthropologists point of view

By Monday, February 26, 2018 0 No tags Permalink 8

Hello! Story that I’m about to share with you, begins on the Instagram. In my idle time, while looking for something that wouldn’t awake my raging sense for kitsch or make me think “Why are we doing this”, in front of my eyes popped out this photo:

Raw, honest and powerful, this street caption made me hungry (get it?) for more. So, I’ve instantly did my clicking and there it was… Mr. Igor Coko (, visual anthropologist from Serbia.

You see, Mr. Coko has a degree in ethnology and anthropology and is editor in chief of Grain photo magazine ( Mix of his education, experience as a research journalist, hard work and outstanding talent made possible for his photos to emerge outside of his homeland borders and tell, in more than a thousand words, tale about reality with all of its colors. He is known by his photo books “Subversive street aesthetic – Scenes from sumptuous reality”, “Living behind bars in the Belgrade County Jail” and e book “Trapped – Hell is round the corner”.

First thing I wanted to know about Mr. Coko’s work was how the photos he makes affected him.

Documentary photography takes careful devising and acting in circumstances itself, no matter are you photographing refugees, prison or street”, said Igor Coko. “If you want to get in a very core of the story, you have to enter it and be a part of it, interact on a subject level…And, than reset and return to your own reality.”

Subjects that Mr. Coko is developing are mentally exhausting, especially if he is working on them for a longer period. They have various layers in their complexity – it is hard to show it if you haven’t felt it. There is actual need to step out of it.

In these moments, with prepared soundtrack, I go in a shadow hunt. Toying, I rest my mind trough informal street photos, flirting with noir style, pushing boundaries of composition or playing with those that are defined ”…

When asked does his camera always catches what its operator intended, Igor Coko tells us that photography needs to be observed subjectively. Someone will se black as aesthetic and conceptual black, and someone else as dark and horror. There always comes in hand capture, an additional description of photo.

From strength of photography comes an intensity of a feedback. His photos of refugees moved community and made them react to presented problem, and ones from prison disassemble deep stereotypes about good and bad blokes. Those “bad” blokes showed Mr. Coko strong character beyond crimes they are convicted for.

Moment of a divine intervention

In one interview, Igor Coko talked about prisoner named Djordje Vasilijevic, whose life he was following for photo series “Living behind bars in the Belgrade County Jail”. This man was in prison for 12 years and, in that time, he managed to start a family. When Mr. Coko took a photo of Djordje meeting his newborn son, something unusual and very symbolic happened. He was taking this shot from 12th row, so, without authors intention, number 12 appeared on this snapshot – symbolizing years of Mr. Vasilijevic’s imprisonment.

There are a lot of instants you don’t see while making photo, but when you develop it in software, you find a pleasant surprise with the effect that sneak up to you and made your shot more powerful. A lot of these instants happen in street photography. That is a joy of a moment in which karma, for sure, dips her fingers ”.


Marija Krsmanović

Marija Krsmanović

Hello! My name is Mary - sometimes very merry, others not as much. I am student of Serbian language and literature, writer and poet in attempt. For me, world without art would be boring as hell (you could say I strongly disagree with Plato). So, out of the sphere of visual arts, I will bring you something old, something new, some of it borrowed, maybe even blue and hope you will enjoy it!

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