Graffiti Wall, Zagreb, Croatia, 2005
This wall is virtually exploding with energetic graffiti. Its dominant colors are navy blue, white, and red. I saw a nun moving down the street, wearing a navy blue and white habit, and carrying a bright red bag – a perfect match. As she walked past me, she raised one hand to her collar, as if to adjust it, and in raising her arm, she fits perfectly within the design on the wall, bonding herself to the scene behind her. She expresses her vocation by the clothing she wears, just as those who have embellished this wall express themselves by the color and style of their signatures. The wall speaks, and inadvertently, the nun becomes a part of its expression.
Franciscan Cloister, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 2005
The fantastical sculpted heads that look down on us from the columns of this 14th century Franciscan Monastery cloister express the essence of the medieval times in which they were created. While columns are not technically walls, their function is the same. They hold up a roof. These columns speak to us just as vividly as any wall could. This is fine art. At the time they were created, a sculptor wanted the “walls” of the cloister to speak to us. Seven hundred years later, they are still doing just that. To make them speak to us from within the frame of a photograph, I shot these heads through the palm fronds that fill the center of the cloister, which helps to animate them by comparing them to a living thing and adds the illusion of depth to the image. By stressing the evocative play of light and shadow on their faces, and the musty ancient colors, I try to make my viewers listen to what this long-dead sculptor is expressing to us.
Gravestone, Mirogoj Cemetery, Zagreb, Croatia, 2005
A tombstone is, in effect, a miniature wall. It is part of a symbolic house, albeit with only one side. It not only marks a grave, but guards it, as well as telling us about those who lie within it. This one speaks eloquently through the interplay of a vintage photograph and the coloration of the granite that surrounds it. The portrait of the woman and daughter is poignant. Perhaps it’s because of their beauty, their costume, and the fact that they are not smiling. Death is not taken lightly. They are surrounded by sea of granite, set against a deep green background, and brushed gently by the shadow from an overhead tree. It is a wall that speaks of the short span of life and the unyielding nature of eternity, and if we listen hard enough, we might even be able to imagine their voices.
Hand Railing, Rectors Palace, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 2005
The old walled city of Dubrovnik was once known as The Republic of Ragusa. It ranked among the world's great trading powers in the 15th Century, when it built this palace for its rulers. This staircase is one of its more memorable sights. I was astounded to see a huge hand coming out of the wall to support the hand railing I was using to haul myself upwards. It seems as if the strength of the past is sealed within that very wall, extending a small part of itself into the present to help us ascend the stairs to view the rooms from which this place was once governed. Talk about a wall that speaks! My image is very simple – built on a series of interlocking diagonals. The hand railing is the dominant diagonal, complemented by the diagonal flow of the steps and the rows of old stones in the wall. The incongruity of the exaggerated hand coming out of the wall is the force that makes the wall speak and the viewer listen. I originally posted this image in color, but later took a look at it in black and white. In monochrome, it becomes more surrealistic and timeless.
Evidence of War, Karlovac, Croatia, 2005
Croatia has been at peace since the mid-90s. But if you look closely, you can often find the scars of Croatia's war with Serbia and Serb-led Yugoslavia. This building is in a rural area near Karlovac, which saw heavy fighting. The punctured and pitted walls come as a shock. The tree, an expression of life, contrasts strongly to the ruined building, which is utterly lifeless. The shadow of an upper stairway extends down into the scene, embracing the shell holes and calling attention to them. The shadow is an apparition – it makes the dead building, which is made of solid concrete, seem ephemeral. These are walls that have suffered, and by extension, they represent people and nations who have suffered as well.
Savings Bank, Zagreb, Croatia, 2005
The paint on this building, one of the first banking institutions in Croatia’s capital city, is badly in need of repair. The peeling walls speak of neglect, probably due to lack of funding, yet two elements express ideas that contradict the decay. The ornate 19th century sculpture in the corner niche conveys a sense of faded grandeur – at one time, the bank must have been prosperous, and the sculpture was meant to prove it. The bright red flowers on the balcony tell us that even today, somebody cares enough about the image of the institution to grace its exterior with beauty.
St. Michaels Church, Samobor, Croatia, 2005
Samobor is a little town 12 miles west of Zagreb. Its 13th century rural charms have always drawn visitors from the big city. A shallow trout stream winds its way through the town center, dominated by the vividly painted St. Michaels Church. With its yellow walls and red roofs, the keepers of this church are carrying on a Samobor tradition that goes back centuries. Yellow and red are both primary colors, and in this image, the early morning sun intensifies them, creating a warm and inviting feeling. I exposed the image to surround the church with large dark areas, which further emphasizes the warmth of its yellow walls. It’s the color that does the speaking here.
Main Gate, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 2005
The fortified walls of Dubrovnik have protected the city for seven centuries, and while today they are charming relics of the past, their presence gives the old town its character and helps make it one of the most fascinating cities on the Adriatic. I used a lapse of human interaction to tell the story of the walls here. The guard never even looks back as a little boy skips past him and invades the town. The age and height and strength of these ancient walls – interlocking as if in a maze -- seem to be mere child’s play here, as well they should be. The guard symbolizes another time, the child represents today.
Shadows of the past, Kotor Town, Montenegro, 2005
Medieval Kotor Town is a warren of medieval streets and tiny squares. I wanted to use the looming late afternoon shadows to abstract a small section of the town and allow the old walls to speak to the imaginations of my viewers. I found one small square where the shadow of an entire building overlapped with another, creating a dark wall superimposed upon a lighted one. I waited for a small figure to step into a thin window of light falling between the two shadows. In doing so, her own shadow is projected on an old wall precisely where the shadows come together. They embrace her, but she is too deep in thought to notice. These shadowy walls, which are hundreds of years old, are living history, the stuff of dreams. It is the abstraction of light and shadow that gives voice to them here.
Café, Kotor Town, Montenegro, 2005
Medieval Kotor Town is filled with small cafes such as this one. Although this is essentially a café scene, it is really built around a stone wall that is hundreds of years old. Three people sit on one side of it, talking and listening. On the other side of the wall, a man sits in a window. They take no notice of him. And he seems to ignore them as well. Isolated by that wall, he is in own world. And that is what walls do. They divide, isolate, and often insulate. And that is what this image is about -- space and separation.
Asleep, Ancient Agora, Athens, Greece, 2005
The Ancient Agora is a huge display of ruins in the middle of downtown Athens. It contains the remnants of the buildings that served as the political heart of ancient Athens as far back as 600 B.C., as well as whatever may remain of the great Roman public buildings that succeeded them two thousand years ago. I photographed this humble stone wall, perhaps once part an ancient structure, as it recedes into darkness, making it seem as if it were running back into time. Rocks are randomly strewn around this slumbering dog, as if to extend the influence of that wall entirely around it. The dog must sense comfort here or it would not be able sleep so soundly. Perhaps its ancestors roamed this same ground when Socrates was executed near here in 399 BC, or when the Roman Emperor Nero toured Athens in 66 AD? If only this wall could speak or the dog could tell us about its dreams. I wanted this image to encourage us to listen with our own imaginations.