“Photography is a timeless space where I can leave all my memories related to places and people and return to them whenever I want.”
Baranja Dreaming by Tomislav Marcijuš is a poetic visual ode to the rural community of his upbringing.
As a youth growing up in the pastoral provinces of northeastern Croatia, Marcijuš, like so many young people from similar regions, spent his days yearning for the excitement of urban life, and aged twenty, he left Baranja, to forge his photographic career elsewhere. However, with the benefit of distance and time, Marcijuš came to view his birthplace through different eyes, unclouded by the vagaries of youth.
“My own perception has changed even though everything remained the same in appearance. But the feelings are entirely different and more intense. I’m older and can see some things a lot better. Now I know that it was the most beautiful place for me, for my beginning of creation and for growing up. I had everything in that environment, but I didn’t know it then”.
Over the ensuing decade, he returned to the region frequently, capturing its unique essence with an artistry befitting of its distinct beauty. Landscapes, coated in frost, snow, or shrouded in ethereal fog, rendered dream-like and painterly; locals in traditional cultural or religious dress (emblematizing the complex blend of orthodox Christianity and long-standing folk traditions that underpin the culture here); subtle minutiae; intimate portraits, and staged imagery, at times performative, even verging on abstract: interspersed with photographs from his family archive.
Punctuated with symbolism and imbued with nostalgia, these allegorical fragments collectively serve as a heartfelt tribute to a place, not solely in a geographical sense, but in a metaphorical, animistic one, a place that, by his own assertion, shaped the person he is today.
“The project shows the days in the countryside and the desire to escape from it, which permeated me in not knowing that I grew up in the most beautiful environment. In a dreamy fog, with the most important people in my life. In searching for something better and more significant, we forget about the space and the people around us. Likewise, we don’t look at minor signs along the way that ultimately lead to big things we only dreamed about before.”
When reflecting on the past, one cannot help but be tinged with regret, and at times, these photographs are undoubtedly suffused with a sense of melancholy. One gets the sense that they were born from catharsis, a desire to reconcile feelings of pain, and loss. Yet, simultaneously, they are permeated with love, optimism, and hope, the inclusion of younger subjects, providing a sense that Marcijuš is looking to the future, as well as the past.
What Marcijuš has created is something profoundly absorbing, a deeply contemplative and emotive series that embodies his approach as an artist. It demonstrates how, often, the most powerful photographs are those that ‘move’ rather than ‘describe’, and that deriving meaning from them will always be subjective, for it is a deeply personal project that will provoke different thoughts and emotions, for each viewer.
All images © Tomislav Marcijuš
Baranja Dreaming was recently published as a photobook, available via Blurb.