Welcome to My World!

by Jelena Spaic

"Welcome to my world!”, says this little woman, her arms folded, to Dragan Petrovic. They are both smiling. She continues: “I guess it’s a bit of a mess around here, don’t hold it against us...” Petrovic interrupts her: “Indeed, just the way I like it.” he said and snapped.

Look how a master uses naïveté to display the soul! This photo weighs only 21 grams. The soul pulses through the spots on the blouse so powerfully that the little woman had to clench her fists to prevent it from coming out, leaking out from an almost surreal reality. Yellow becomes dazzling, so Petrovic had to snap; thus enframing the little woman within an idyllic landscape as if repeating the words from Brave new World: “Happiness is an absence of need for happiness”. And in the middle of all this an unrestrained, unimpaired hospitality, strong inner dynamism and an existential creativeness. “Nature is a dictionary” (Baudelaire) – and in Petrovic’s case people are the alphabet, they are the definite value and the bearers of undeniable naturalness of life. What is a man (in Petrovic’s view)? People on the photos are happy, undisturbed by all the things that can be discerned in the background as a string of problems; they measure blood pressure to a neighbour, they cuddle their loving girlfriends, they peek from behind their sisters to have their curiosity stilled by the camera. A middle-aged married couple returns from a visit to their neighbours or relatives, smiles on their faces (their content is emphasized by the light of a street lamp which, resembling the Moon, brings in a sense of romance, and by a broad smile of the man with the moustache - "A kiss without a moustache is like an egg without salt."). Other couples sit proudly and happily in their living rooms, at their dining tables; a whole family lies idle in front of TV as if there were no photographer around, while the camera assaults, invades privacy and instead of the heaviness of historically conditioned human state comes across the charm of penchant for bare spaces, filled at places with embroideries, paintings and reproductions in bulky frames (wallpapers, carpets, white and unmortared walls of new, unfinished houses...), various trinkets, kitsch, all the things rejected by the big city - "a new planetary folklore". Petrovic’s virtue lies in an unpretentious generalisation of human condition into joy and nonchalance. All these smiles are hidden behind a simple realism; this is the very essence of the “minimalistic” presence of camera. There is no intervention, this is reality the way it is, and we are happy (the way we are) – old (a grandmother in the bed as if posing as a model for “memento mori” with a juvenile portrait above on the wall) but not worried, or threatening, not solemn either, surely!; a large-moustached man with a hook instead of hand is gaping, as if he is about to say something to someone from this local committee office; he turned his back carelessly to the “red phone”, crossed his legs and extinguished his cigarette. This is what the foresight of a photographer is about, not to see, but to be there, in the midst of this benevolence. A masterful mimicry is also seen on the photograph of a pair meeting by the rose bush. The woman is looking at the camera, but with the same look she had for her partner, quiet, unchanged, as if continuing the dialogue with the young man, undisturbed by the presence of another person. A church steeple in the background enhances the impression of an amorous rendezvous, roses and the girl’s half-pensive gaze towards the camera seem to emphasise a hidden closeness, opposed by the inquisitive look of her partner who is waiting for her answer with his hands in his pockets. And for an instant, she is consulting with the camera!
The camera is now inside the dreams of a kid and a girl, it approached them silently so as not to disturb their nap. “Silence! Dreams at work!” Can you hear how Petrovic held his breath? He snapped and enframed spontaneous self-oblivion. The camera is recording another world inside this world.
What does Petrovic seek on the outskirts of the town? A mild smile of a woman wearing a flowery dress against the rules and restrictions chalked out on the tin door of the factory, their solemnity and the wish to juxtapose this woman to all the problems the photographer concealed behind the tin door, as if promising that he would prove beauty, the apotheosis of everyday life, of the world. And he is running after beauty! He is running after the young men on an MZ motorbike adorned with flowers, he has to be quick and he has to be young like them in order to enjoy their temporary importance; they are the most attractive sight at that moment, on the street lined with carefully trimmed flowers; Petrovic is not the only one watching them – there are also people (or girls rather) in the houses and outside. MZ is noisy, and so is the youth which yearns to justify its values; the photographer allows them that, it is his mission as well – to see this intense period intensely. “Why do you have such big eyes?” – “So that I can see you better.”
Three young men are smiling, their hands in the pockets of their trousers; two of them are wearing denim jackets, one of them has a packet of cigarettes sticking out of his pocket; they are a little cold, it is too early in the morning, they look a little broader and tougher with this nonchalant attitude towards the world (hands in pockets, jeans and checked shirts); three guys inside an unfinished house are smiling too, they are stripped to the waist, there are cigarettes around and an occasional beer for the workers – again the carelessness of youth in the middle of all these unfinished jobs, as if stimulated by the photographer who is smiling himself – with his exhibition called “1000 smiles” (D. Petrovic, 1993, Beograd, SKC).
What does Petrovic find? A longing for life entangled with the concept of provincialism borrowed from a folk song… Universal need for simple, yet astonishing beauty which provokes the benevolence of camera. Neatly arranged glassware in cabinets, for show and not to be used, dolls on the beds of guest rooms, embroidered table-cloths, sofa coverings, plastic table-cloths, chests of drawers filled with new bedclothes bearing the sweet smell of long years of dreams dreamt on large pillows made of feathers and pillowcases with embroidered details... Without any cynicism or pathos, he records aesthetic ideals combined, dislocated, dismounted and put together again in a peculiar fashion, characteristic of the protagonists, a wish for a more comfortable life (light sounds of a mandolin), a break, charm, complacency = folksiness. “I often slept in such rooms and I melted” - says Petrovic; this is what he sought, photographed and found.

more: http://www.geocities.com/fotografpetrovic/welcome.html