Close enough

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Belgrade, Serbia It’s all in the wheels. Trains, buses, cars, bikes, skates… and trams. I can’t get enough of trams in Belgrade. The clank and sway of the half-century old tram cars on the No.2 line and the smooth contemporariness of the others, with their air-conditioning, free WiFi, and padded quiet. I often wonder why I’m so drawn to making pictures on transport. I can tell you about how it started (something to do on the way to work), and I can show you all manner of pictures made over the years when this became a little more than just that. But I think that there is also an element of recognition in all of this: the limbo between leaving and arriving. The point at which the past is left and possibilities abound, …

Belgrade to Bar, and Back Again

Charlene journal, vagabonding 8 Comments

May 2016, Serbia to Montenegro “Are you looking for something specific?” the big, craggy man sitting next to me wanted to know, having listened to my camera schnicking away since he got in from one of the small towns near the border. “No,” I responded. “Just the scenery. It’s beautiful outside.” “It’s beautiful to you because you’ve never seen it before,” he said, waving a hand at the vista rushing by. “But I see it all the time!” Two weekends ago, Flemming and I took a very long train ride from Belgrade (Serbia) to the port town of Bar in Montenegro, and back again. The Belgrade to Bar railway makes it to The Guardian’s list of 10 spectacular rail journeys … that you’ve probably never heard of, Business Insider’s 10 spectacular rail journeys to take in your lifetime, among many others. There was …

The ticketing interlude

Charlene vagabonding 11 Comments

The first thing that hits as you when you enter the ticketing area of Belgrade’s main station is the smell of piss, then the sudden muting of the urban bustle just outside its walls. We walked in, didn’t see any signs we knew how to read, and decided to start at the information desk. “Hello,” I said to the lady behind the counter. “We want to buy tickets from -” “Ah!” She leapt to her feet, barked a string of instructions in Serbian, and gestured violently at one of the counters in the row behind us. “Tickets there?” we hazarded tentatively. Vigorous nodding. Her other hand joined in the gesturing for emphasis. Off we trotted to counter 18. Watched the pair of customers before us haggling about tickets they’d just bought, cutting off a crafty old fella who tried to …


Charlene journal 2 Comments

It pissed down all day, the skies soggy like my feet. St. Sava Church, monumental in the true scale of the word, a veined marble behemoth calmly dwarfing the surrounding urban motley. The church of St. Sava has been under some stage of construction since the society was that was created for this purpose, was founded in 1895. Wars, I hear, get in the way of such things. Its exterior was completed around 2009, but its interior is bare hulking bone, a cavernous jangle of protective sheeting, studio lights and an infestation of TV cabling – the high-speed IV for that night’s service broadcast. On its rough-hewn stone floor, oblivious to the production in progress, devout and day trippers alike busied, lighting candles, taking snapshots, selfies, and shelter from the rain. We slipped back out into wet, chased by reverberations from the rehearsing choir, …

Belgrade in Transit

Charlene journal 6 Comments

I’ve been shooting from transport – mostly the public variety – for a long time. Travelling by bus or train has been something I’ve done my whole life, and the ebbs and flows of commuting are familiar, no matter where in the world I am. I’ve shot from buses, trains, planes, ferries, tug boats, and tuk tuks. In Belgrade, I get to add the trams to that list. The No 2 tram does a ring around old Belgrade. A ticket costs 89 Serbian dinars (just under USD $1), and is valid for 90 minutes within the zone. My ticket to ride.

On Writing Everyday

Charlene journal 2 Comments

So much for my experiment of posting everyday; managed to fail at that one right out of the gate. Truth is, I simply don’t do enough that is interesting to write about everyday. Take today, for instance. Utterly typical day. I got lost in a book for 3 hours without meaning to. I’m re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire, and it is still utterly riveting. Which means I’ve lost large chunks of my life in the past few weeks. Oh well. Valar morghulis. Then I sat at my computer for another couple of hours and worked. In keeping with my attempt to learn Danish in the least school-like manner possible, I wrote several bits of correspondence på Dansk, helped grammatically by an under-the-weather Flemming, so the person at the other end of the email has a fair …

Shadow and texture, Belgrade

Charlene journal Leave a Comment

Belgrade is all shadow and texture to me right now, a riot of geometry and hue with a thousand ever-changing facets. The old buildings with their patina of post-conflict grit are incredibly photogenic, if only to the guileless tourist. We’ve been doing little other than walking around in the past week and a half that we’ve been here (aside from that one glorious wet plate day). Getting lost in half a hundred different ways is the best way of orienting oneself in a new city, which also allows for enjoyment of the unexpected around every corner; light, folk, color, rhythm.  

Wet Collodion (Belgrade Day 5)

Charlene journal, vagabonding 21 Comments

I got into photography from sheer stubbornness. When I first picked up a camera, people told me, among other things, that I was wasting my time, that I was ridiculous to think I could do it, that photography wasn’t for someone like me. So of course, it became the one thing I had to do. But my entire photographic life has been digital: equipment, education, process, community, and dissemination. I read about how much I’m missing out on by skipping the film process all the time, but only had the opportunity to enter a darkroom once. Until now. Darko Ilic: On day 3 in Belgrade, Flemming and I met photographer and art historian Marija Konjikušić, a friend of my old friend and fellow transient, Carmen. Two days later we found ourselves on a bus to …

Belgrade Day 4: No rest for the wicked

Charlene journal 1 Comment

Some days I succumb to fatigue and leave it to do with me, what it will. Thoughts are dark, dreams of even less light. Just walking out the damn door is a challenge. I see-saw at that inside-outside threshold like a wary animal. Outside there is noise and bright light and people who will look at me and might even talk to me. Every brush with another human being is a collision (to plagarize May Sarton). The ones I long for contact with are out of reach; we mutually understand that evidence of the things we most need to speak of, must be destroyed. Sometimes the truth of why I keep move is self evident. Sludge under a footfall. Unable to wake, gripped in a long scream.