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Sanja Jovanović – Uprooted Community Romska zajednica na fotografijama Sanje Jovanović (Knežević)

Roma community in Serbian capital Belgrade has been living in poverty for decades. However, despite the fact that their chances to climb the social ladder have always been slim, they managed to survive in high spirit, primarily thanks to their adaptive way of living.Romska zajednica u Beogradu, živi u siromaštvu decenijama. Međutim, uprkos činjenici da su njihove šanse da se penju na društvenoj lestvici uvek bile male, uspeli su da prežive u optimističkom raspoloženju, pre svega zahvaljujući svom prilagodljivom, nomadskom, načinu života.

I was always intrigued by the improvisation laden everyday life of Roma people. This curiosity led me to visit several Roma settlements in Belgrade, and document their modest, but colorful daily routine. Some of these settlements were located in plain downtown, while the others at the outskirts of the capital. The most attractive, and controversial at the same time, was the settlement under the Gazela (Gazelle) bridge, connecting historic and new part of the city ­ one of the main Belgrade transportation arteries. This settlement, which many considered disgrace for the largest city in the Western Balkans, could not escape curious looks of passengers, many of them foreigners heading from/to the airport, or tourists staying in one of the luxurious nearby hotels. From above, they could see a shanty town, with dense scrappy buildings, badly built cardboard shacks. Their roofs were mainly covered by nylon, pressed by the used car tires, to prevent these covers from fleeing away.

When I entered the word of this fascinating shanty town, I faced distrust. However, it disappeared fast when its inhabitants realized that I turned my lenses to the bright, positive side of their little word. I was primarily attracted to their strong, optimistic spirit ­ their eternal belief in a better future, despite poor living conditions. Their settlement lacked basic comfort: no running water, no toilets, no high voltage electricity. Fires were common in winters. Faced with such hardship, some of the 900 Roma people living there have turned to illegal activities ­ primarily stealing and prostitution. Nevertheless, most of the inhabitants took good care of their households, regardless of the fact that they often could not afford to provide their children even with basic education.

In the end, Roma people from under the bridge have been resettled to the city outskirts. They resisted such displacement, since the main source of their income, recyclable scrap materials, were much harder to find outside downtown. They left the settlement in slow lines and shedding tears. However, many lucky families began new lives in still modest, but more comfortable settlements, comprised of small metal containers. This new environment brought some hope for a brighter future, especially due to the fact that many children have finally started attending school.

Sanja Jovanovic is a Serbian photographer, currently based in Belgrade. In her work she is mainly focused on long­term social projects. Born in Belgrade in 1984, where she spent most of the time, however from March 2012 till May 2014 Sanja lived in Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and during that period she was traveling in the region, visiting 9 countries and documenting everyday life of the people. Her work has been published in various newspapers and magazines, including National Geographic Serbia, she is a regular contributor to.

Awards:
2013 Belgrade, The portfolio winner of the 100 Best, ReFoto Magazine contest, on the occasion of its 100th issue.
2013 Kiev, Second prize for Kamar story ­ Golden Camera International Award
2012 Washington D.C. FotoDC First prize for portrait from Kamar series.
2012 Belgrade, Beta photo of the year, Grand Prix in Serbia for the photography Mother and daughter
2011 Press Photo Serbia ­ Winner for the Everyday Life story Family Matters
2010 Press Photo Serbia – Grand Prix for the photography Couple from the project Uprooted community
2009 New York, En Foco – Honorable mention
2008 Press Photo Serbia ­ Winner for the Environmental story and Everyday Life story

Exhibitions and festivals:
2013 Jakarta ­ ‘’Hidden Jakarta in Kamar’’ ­ Koi Kemang Gallery
2013 Brazil, Belo Horizonte, FIF Festival ­ Kamar
2013 Italy, Bari ­ Kamar
2012 Taiwan, Taipei ­ Witnessed of silence ­ National 228 Memorial Museum.
2011 Belgrade and Bratislava ­ New Pictures of Belgrade
2010 France, Sarcelles, Photosoc Festival
2009 Stockholm, Project Applied Nostalgia
2009 Belgrade, Project Applied Nostalgia
2009 Amsterdam, Balkan Snapshot Film Festival

Education:
2008 BA in Photography at the Faculty of Applied Arts, University of Belgrade
2010 SEE New Perspectives, Masterclass by World Press Photo in partnership with Robert Bosch Stiftung, Berlin
2011 Noor – Nikon Masterclass, Bucharest
Ovu fotografsku priču o njima donosi nam Sanja Jovanović (Knežević) rođena 1984. u Beogradu.

U svom radu ona je fokusirana, uglavnom, na dugoročne društvene projekte. Njene fotografije su objavljivane u raznim novinama i časopisima, uključujući i Nacionalnu geografiju Srbija gde je i redovni saradnik.

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