We asked Marija Erdelji, a photo reporter from Novi Sad, to share her favorite places in Vojvodina with you. She also describes how COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the work of a photographer. Marija’s photographs have been exhibited in more than 50 group and 9 solo exhibitions in Serbia and abroad.
1. Your photographs are characterized by portraits of very pronounced sensitivity. By looking at people’s faces through the lens, does it seem to you that since the beginning of the pandemic, one feeling has become more dominant than the others? What would that feeling be?
My work and photographs are characterized by emotion, that is the foundation of all my projects. Honestly, at the very beginning of the pandemic, there was one dominant emotion – distrust. Then the emotion changed from happiness at applauding to the sacrifice of medical workers, through grief at the loss of people affected by Covid-19. In the end, from day to day, on several occasions, fear and anger arose. It is the photo reporters, who are light painters of times, who have the task, the moral and ethical obligation to document a reality objectively.
2. One of your photos that especially attracted the attention of the public last year is “Krug” (Circle), where you showed Strand, one of the biggest attractions in Novi Sad, showing what tourism looks like within the rules of physical distancing. Have you discovered any new, different places under the changed conditions of movement and physical distance?
Yes, that photo really attracted the attention of the public when it was created and published on the portal of “Omladinske novine”, for which I work as a photo reporter. The beach is one of the city symbols of Novi Sad. Since the people of Novi Sad love to spend time on it while enjoying the sun and the Pannonian “Sea” (the Danube), due to the pandemic, circles have been drawn to respect the distance for epidemiological reasons. As it is already known that last year I studiously and objectively documented the state of emergency and everything related to COVID-19 pandemic, that is how the photograph “Circles” was created as a document of one time and measure. Photographing from the bridge allowed me to show them from a different angle, which gave me the opportunity to play with the artistic elements. The photograph won an award in the photo illustration category at Press Photo Serbia 2020, the 22nd national media photography competition Honestly, somehow everything looks completely different in these new living conditions, at least as I see and feel it, nothing is the same anymore, not even the street we walk through every day. Being in the media business is an endless discovery of new places, new interesting people. That is the magic of this profession.
3. The pandemic has once again placed focus on outdoor tourism. Is there a specific destination in Vojvodina that you would recommend to the readers to visit during the upcoming season?
The pandemic has somehow turned us more towards nature again, which makes me especially happy, because we have forgotten what nature and its resources mean to us. I would recommend Fruška Gora as a national park, with a tour of the monasteries. A visit to the Museum of Vojvodina in Novi Sad, as well as the Sava Šumanović Gallery in Šid. Among my favorites of Vojvodina’s destinations are Sremski Karlovci as a heritage of historical and artistic value, adorned with sights, architecture and wine. I would also recommend the Fantast Castle. This destination allows all romantic souls to spend time in one of the most beautiful Serbian castles. The castle offers the enjoyment of beautiful parks around it as well as a stud farm.
4. In the race with a modern way of capturing memories, from new audio and video formats, mobile phones with high-resolution cameras, even virtual reality, do you think that traditional photography can survive? What are the advantages of traditional photography?
It was analog photography that was my photographic beginning. The charm of the development of the photographic medium is that the technology has evolved from film to digital recording, in which there are, of course, advantages and disadvantages. I sometimes miss that scent of photo lab and chemistry, the whole process where magic is created when an image is turned into a photo. And then when it was film only, you had to know the craft of photography. One gets the impression that the profession was more respected than today when it is digital and where everyone can make a digital record (photograph) without any knowledge. However, on the other hand, new technology facilitates and accelerates the process of creating photography.
5. Last year, you worked on several projects that we could say are characterized by the feeling of solidarity, both with people and with nature. What are your plans in the coming period?
Last year was difficult for all of us, but again it was conducive to creativity. In addition to the current topic of the Corona virus pandemic, I had realized the conceptual project “Fur” in a solo exhibition. A concept that deals with issues that draw attention to the importance of preserving ecosystems and protecting dying or endangered animal species, which are used for fur ornaments. I am currently developing two new long-term projects. For now, I will only reveal to the readers that the light will be directed towards serious social issues.