”I want to give people a wake-up call”

Photographer Joakim Roos’ thoughts of his work with Loza Foundation:

He has been a professional photographer for 30 years and has visited the Balkans many times. Through his work with Loza Foundation, Joakim Roos is hoping to give his audience an insight into these countries and to document, as candidly as possible, what the situation is really like for some of the most vulnerable women, children and disabled people in Bosnia and Macedonia.

“I hope that my images will touch people, make them engage and give them something to think about.”

How come you started working with Loza Foundation?

“Sabina Grubbeson contacted me regarding the project for disabled people in Demir Kapija, Macedonia. She knew I had spent lots of time photographing in the Balkans and she liked my photos.”

What made you interested in this particular charity organisation?

“Loza is extremely dedicated to their projects and a commitment is there with strong roots in the Balkan region. The projects are relevant and credible. I like that.”

How did this collaboration start?

“We made an outline of how Loza Foundation wants to communicate. I am largely a ‘black and white’ photographer and I shoot mostly documentary images. To my mind, this suits the foundation’s desire to depict a most honest view of what the situation is like on the Balkan Peninsula.”

How many times have you been to the Balkans?

“My first visit to Bosnia was back in 1995 and then I have returned several times in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2004, 2005 and 2013. Apart from those Bosnia visits, I have possibly done 20 trips or so to the other Balkan countries; Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, Albania, Romania and Bulgaria. The Balkans is a truly amazing, exciting region. There is constant progression, which is interesting to follow, actively participate in and contribute to through Loza Foundation.”

What was it like to visit the Special Institution at Demir Kapija for the first time?

“It was a real eye-opener and tragic to witness the poor living conditions the disabled people had to cope with. Hidden away from the rest of society. Deficiencies and shortcomings on all levels. I remember thinking this is neither humane nor dignified. The people living here have disabilities that differ vastly and yet they are shoved together in no particular order. It must be very difficult to get to grips with individual needs and to also understand which abilities could benefit the rest of society. Many of the residents should be able to have a meaningful existence in the real world, outside the walls of the institution.”

What message do you want your images from Demir Kapija to convey?

“A sense of vulnerability, but at the same time describe that everyone living there is a part of the human race and ought to have his/her needs taken care of. These people should be seen, accepted, respected and be allowed to participate in society based on each individual’s unique ability.”

What are you working on right now?

“The Bosnia projects are being launched this autumn, 2018. They are primarily linked to people with disabilities, but also include women that were victims of rape during the war (1992-1995). To rebuild your life after a war is a long and difficult process. There are still IDPs (internally displaced people) in Bosnia, people that have ended up in a refugee camp and remained there for more than 20 years. Time is literally standing still and I can see people finding it tough that they cannot return to where they came from or to not be given the opportunity of building a new life for themselves. Many have developed chronic stress symptoms, but with the right form of aid, they can be helped.”

How do you think these meetings with people going through tremendous hardships affect you?

“As I am taking photos, I generally come up close and personal, which makes it harder for me to remain neutral and unaffected. It is tough to meet so many individuals that suffer, but I also feel touched in a positive sense when I see each person’s ability and warmth.”

What happens next?

“Right now I am studying social anthropology and global development at Gothenburg University. To briefly summarize, these courses are aimed at raising cultural awareness and understanding, as well as analysing where the world is heading and what would be a desirable development. Combining photography with the knowledge of what great aid work should look like is exciting.

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