February 22, 2024 | Thursday

“Wherever I go, my camera will be by my side”

Interview with Aleksandra Negojevic, the author of the exhibition Explore Europe opened in Europe House Mitrovica North in January.

What inspired your exhibition and how does it relate to your artistic journey?

My exhibition Explore Europe was largely inspired by two of my greatest passions – travelling and photography. The two complement each other very well and it is actually the combination of both that resulted in me having physical evidence of my European escapades, for example, photos, which will be on display at Europe House Mitrovica North until the end of February. Of course, there is a story behind each photograph, which I was happy to share with the audience during the presentation. 

How did you decide to take on to this journey across Europe? Was your initial idea to document or did you simply start because you loved travelling? 

Actually, I have been on multiple journeys across Europe – most trips included visits to more than one country. The reasoning behind this is that it is more affordable in the long run to also pay a visit to neighbouring countries/cities while I am exploring my main destination, rather than visit all those places separately, on different trips. 

As thoughtless as this may sound at first – and I promise it isn’t – sometimes a thought pops into my head and half a day later I find myself downloading airline tickets to my phone and having the entire trip organized. For example, I was listening to Alice in Chains, and I started thinking about how I really wanted to attend that band’s concert. Naturally, I inquired about their upcoming European tour, and upon confirming that my savings could cover the endeavour, I booked a ticket in the country of my choice, along with transportation and accommodation. I then googled what other city or country I could visit as well, and planned the rest of the trip, ending up visiting three countries in one go. 

Did you organise these travels on your own? How was that process? 

Given that I have visited five continents so far, I have to admit that almost all trips to other continents were booked through a travel agency (except India, where I backpacked for a month, along with four friends) as I tend to visit less popular and more exotic places, which are much safer and easier to visit when having the entire trip organised for you by someone experienced. 

When it comes to Europe, though, I usually travel on my own and organize the travels myself. Being an organised and meticulous person, the process is very enjoyable to me, to be honest.  Once I have decided what cities and/or countries I can and want to visit in accordance with my budget, I then spend hours finding the perfect accommodation, which is the combination of price, location and guest rating. Then I find as much information about each city as I can, along with some fun and less touristy spots and make a list of all places I would like to visit if time and my energy allow for it. I also make sure to jot down any entrance fees, info on how to get there, and of course, what local food to try in each city. I used to print out metro maps to help me find my way around but found them rather cumbersome; recently, I have made a habit of purchasing a local sim card so that I am always able to use Google Maps and browse the Web for any info I may need at any point. 

Can you tell us about your creative journey and experiences while taking the photographs? 

Sure! First of all, taking photographs is not an easy feat in any sense. Professional gear, such as camera bodies and lenses are weighty, which may take a toll on one’s shoulders and back, especially when carrying them around all day long, for days on end. Secondly, cameras and certain lenses are quite bulky and it’s impossible to remain incognito while taking a photo. Thirdly, it requires skill and experience to be able to set the correct settings on your camera for each photo. 

Nonetheless, it makes the whole experience even more satisfying and enjoyable. Sometimes I take photos “on the go”, or I’m lucky to be in the right spot at the right time, but other times I come across a perfect spot but find it somewhat empty without a subject in it. As I’m usually a solo traveller, in those cases I wait for a passer-by to walk into the frame and instil life into the scenery. On several occasions, I’ve asked strangers if I could take a photo of them in that spot and no one has refused so far. Of course, I happily shared the picture with them afterwards. 

How did you decide to document these journeys across Europe through photographs? 

It was not really a choice for me, or a conscious decision, for that matter. I have always been interested in photography and it was a given that my camera would be in my hand while strolling through the streets of Europe, with an extra lens or two in my camera bag. Furthermore, as much as I enjoy sightseeing and finding the perfect frame, lighting or scenery, I also love editing the pictures once I’m back home. 

What do you feel is the social impact of your documentation and your exhibition? 

I believe, or at least I want to believe that one of the main messages is that travelling is not unattainable or only available to the lucky ones. I myself was called lucky to have been able to travel more than the average person in the city I grew up in, which is anything but true and has nothing to do with luck. Travelling takes courage, hard work, persistence, and willingness to give up on certain aspects of your life. Obviously, one has to be able to afford it; however, if they do not come from money, they have to work hard, set their priorities straight and make sacrifices if necessary in order to make their dreams come true, which is exactly what I did. Hopefully, the exhibition will inspire people to follow their dreams and work hard on achieving their goals, not only when it comes to travelling.

Are there any specific artists, movements, or art historical references that influence your artworks?

Actually, yes. The more I look at photos my father has taken throughout his career as a journalist, the more similarities I find and realize we sometimes see the world through the viewfinder in the same way. We both love candid shots when it comes to portraits – the subject expressing raw emotions and the photographer capturing them in the split second before the subject becomes aware of the camera being pointed at them and is able to contain themselves again. 

Recently, I have also been into moody photography, which is described as giving an impression of melancholy and mystery. Although not necessarily true at all times, something that has become of utmost importance for me is for every photograph to be special. For some time, I couldn’t verbalize what special meant as it only made sense to me, but I came to realize it is necessary for me that each picture either carries or captures a certain emotion, or is able to elicit even a slight emotional reaction from the viewer. No photo can be ordinary for me, nor do I believe anything in the world is. The world and the people are full of magic, if you only know where to look.

Is there any piece within the exhibition artworks that holds a special place for you and if so, why?

It’s difficult to single out one, but if I really had to choose, it would be a photo taken in Tallinn, Estonia, featuring a seagull in the foreground and a part of Tallinn Old Town in the background. Aside from Tallinn being one of the loveliest and most picturesque cities in Europe, I personally had hilarious experiences with its many seagulls that were persistently stealing street food from my hands even when I hid and thought I was safe from the two-legged, flying, albeit adorable thieves. 

You engaged in a talk with the audience about your exhibition in Europe House Mitrovica North. What were the most interesting remarks from the audience? How did they receive your exhibition? 

The truth is less objective if I am the one to retell the audience’s experience; however they really seemed to have enjoyed the presentation, based on what they shared with me afterwards. They remarked the atmosphere was relaxed, and fun, the flow of the presentation itself was smooth, and we all laughed on several occasions while I was retelling some of the funny stories from my travels. 

Will the feedback you got from the audience inform your upcoming works?

Certainly. We also exchanged several pieces of useful advice when it comes to traveling, especially staying safe on the road. Even though I did not receive much technical feedback when it comes to photographs, I am always open to receiving comments or criticism (hopefully phrases as well, at times) as there will always be something new to learn related to photography in general. 

How do you think people who see your exhibition are going to utilize the knowledge you shared with them in the future?

The three main points of the exhibition were the photographs themselves and brief, fun facts about each place the photos were taken in, how to stay safe while travelling and how to spend as little money as possible. I hope what we discussed will help the audience not fall victim to scams or pickpockets and instead end up having wonderful adventures with a few extra coins in their pockets, going straight into their piggy banks for some future trips. 

Is your documentation an ongoing project, will you continue to document your travels? Do you intend to share your works in another exhibition in the future?

That goes without saying! Wherever I go, my camera will be by my side. If such an opportunity should arise, I would certainly love to share the photos and travelling experience in another exhibition in the future. Until then, I will share my work on my Instagram accounts @beyond.time.and.space and @aleks.n.camera. Still, there are a lot of memories I haven’t had time to post yet; instead, they keep me company at all times in my mind, thanks to which I never feel alone. 

What is your message to future travellers, as someone who has visited many countries across Europe? 

As someone who has visited many countries in Europe and four other continents as well, my message to future travellers would be to seize every opportunity they come across and do their best to create one as long as it is realistically feasible in light of each person’s circumstances. We never know what the future has in store for us, and as J.R.R. Tolkien wrote: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”