Living on the Edge. Europe, Northern Ireland, Belfast. Ronnie G. Loyalist and football tattoos. On the leg, the representation of the Skeleton of Bobby Sands praying for food. Protestant quarter between Divis Street and Peter's Hill.
Living on the Edge. Europe, Northern Ireland, Belfast. The biggest bonfire in Belfast. Lanark Way on Shankill Road.
Living on the Edge. Europe, Northern Ireland, Belfast. Ardoyne quarter. Riots between catholics, protestants and the poilce after the Orange Parade of the 12th July.
Living on the Edge. Cyprus, Nicosia, Military barricade by the Buffer Zone. On the background, the minarets of Selimye mosque.
Living on the Edge. Cyprus, UN area, Nicosia Civil Airport, abandoned after the riots of 18.08.1974. It is located within the UN area.
Living on the Edge. Cyprus, UN area, Forensic Laboratory of CMP.
Living on the Edge. Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Living on the Edge. Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Living on the Edge. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mostar. Old destroyed building belonging to the former Yugo Bank. The building is still abandoned.
Living on the Edge. Kosovo, City of Mitrovica (Kosovska Mitrovica in Serbian, Mitrovica in Albanian). Serbian wedding at the orthodox church of Saint Dimitrios in north Mitrovica. The church was built in 2004.
Living on the Edge. Kosovo, City of Mitrovica (Kosovska Mitrovica in Serbian, Mitrovica in Albanian). Destroyed Serbian cemetery in south Mitrovica (Albanian majority). After the riots of 2004, Albanians destroyed the graves and burnt down the chapel of the cemetery.
Living on the Edge. Kosovo, City of Mitrovica (Kosovska Mitrovica in Serbian, Mitrovica in Albanian). Artistic protest in Mitrovica against the separation of the city. Art is a way toward reconciliation.
Four cities on the borders of Europe to describe what borders are when they cut through people’s stories and split their lives.
Nicosia (Cyprus), Belfast (Northern Ireland), Mitrovica (Kosovo) and Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina). Four cities that have undergone brutal ethnic and religious conflicts. Four cities that are still experimenting with cohabitation despite the deep wounds and territorial separation.
Barcelona-based photographer Marco Ansaloni created the project “Living on the Edge” together with journalist Angelo Attanasio. They produced a photographic and video reportage on the dwelling conditions of each city’s population.
“Living on the Edge” was conceived for Circuit 2013 / Fotografia Documental Barcelona - an initiative by the Fundación Photographic Social Vision for the diffusion and social recognition of documentary photography and photojournalism in Barcelona.
We met Marco Ansaloni, who told us about the genesis and development of this project - which is gaining greater and greater attention from the papers and international institutions.
How does this project on the divided cities in Europe originate?
The project originates from the concern about depicting the current condition of four European urban territories that are now divided for different reasons. Nicosia, Belfast, Mitrovica and Mostar are part of a European Union which still bears open wounds. Together with journalist Angelo Attanasio we wanted to conduct a research on lands where recent history meets collective memory, highlighting the aspects that new generations are to face for the sake of durable reconciliation.
Our starting points were direct evidence and urban spaces, our goal being the recount - under one single project - of realities that are often documented in an isolated and superficial manner. However geographically distant, each of these realities has undergone various kinds of violence (ethnic, religious, etc…) before diplomacy resorted to tracing a physical or psychological border amongst the conflicting communities.
Could you tell us how you prepared this project and how you practically managed it?
For several months we carried out a research activity in order to achieve a better understanding of which aspects would be closest to our initial idea. Through NGOs, institutions and contacts on location we tried to create a network with common parametres. Afterwards, we searched for positive aspects through local stories that could be used as a common denominator - we worked side by side with the people who are variously involved in bringing communities closer. Then we set off on a year of travelling on location. On a few occasions we searched for historical recurrences that could spark our visual part - such as the 12th July in Belfast, in celebration of the Orange Parade. Thanks to both research and reports we gained positive results and unexpected connections on location.
What was the initial feedback (and what is the current response) from the media you presented it to?
The project was well-received in Spain, that is where we live. Considering the bulk of content and visual material, some newspapers (see El Periodico) opted for dividing the project into four big, individual reportages - one for each city. In 2013 the International Photojournalism Festival of Barcelona, Circuit, displayed ‘Living on the Edge’ during the event, hence providing exposure on the Spanish web portals and media.
In Italy we recently worked very closely with Le Inchieste by Repubblica. An intense divulgative reportage of journalistic in-depth analysis originated from the accuracy they are used to applying to journalistic inquiries and the produced material. The reportage had an echo in South America, too, in the form of a publication and divulgation of the project as a work of documentation. As for 2015, we have reached an agreement with the Barcelona International Peace Resource Centre to produce a travelling exhibition on a large scale.
You have been working with three different approaches: photography, video-making and writing. Do you think it is a circumstantial approach or is it one of the methods that characterises the reporters’ job nowadays?
I am used to working solo on the majority of projects, although when it comes to jobs with a considerable part of research and a vaste bulk of contents I seek the collaboration or confrontation with other professionals in the field - in order to gain a wider perspective and concentrate on the visual part.
In the specific case of Living on the Edge it was the correct approach, especially considering the involvement and respect of the people contributing to it. Nowadays the blending of photography and video-making is certainly a positive element. Videos can help images and viceversa, even though it’s just to provide a better framing of the shot material or for the presentation of the reportage itself.
When published on Repubblica Inchiesta you sold the whole “package”. Is it your standard praxis or do you also happen to sell each element (photography, video-making and writing) separately?
When I’m collaborating with other professionals I usually try and analyse that the project is feasible on a logistic level first. In this case, the proposal was conceived as a “package”, because it originates from the intersection between photography, video and texts - which is the most logical and solid formula to understand a project that would have gone on for a year. Obviously this does not prevent selling images or contents individually. If we are requested single photos, trailers or notes for the media, each of us operates on a personal level, but by common consent.
Are you going to extend your research to other non-European cities or do you deem this project to be finished?
The former idea was a global-scale project. Yet, as we were looking around, we realised that we had demanding subjects in Europe to develop on the long run, and we focused on them. Since the beginning we had to exclude certain European realities like the Basque Country and Belgium, thus concentrating on territories where separation is more evident through artificial elements such as walls and barricades, or natural elements like rivers (see Mitrovica).
There are areas where community tensions are extremely active, but in many cases they are not linked to the physical aspects we were searching for “Living on the Edge”. That is why I would say that the project is substantially finished in its European leg.
However, according to resources and the good validation the project has received, we are considering to widen it to extra-European cities and urban landscapes, so long as they are characterised by the same problems we have pointed out thus far. We have already established contacts in the Middle East and Mexico to follow the same documentary, visual and journalistic directive.
How did you approach the people you interviewed and photographed? How did they react when asked to talk about their personal affairs?
We maintained a very clear approach with the people who were directly involved in tragical facts that marked their lives forever. We operated with respect and seriousness, and many of them understood what we wanted to recount - thus opening up and letting us in their personal and family memories. In certain cases, for security reasons or for fear of the community, we had to omit names and shootings. Thanks to the people who exposed themselves, we found the common denominator connecting the four cities. Suffering, memory and illusions - all flavoured with a great desire to look beyond those dividing walls.
Education and the awareness of the tragedy endured by both communities, together with the writing of a common story for the new generations, are planting new seeds for future hopes.
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