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Interview 09 Jun 16

Photographer Captures City’s Architecture in New Light

Mirko Nahmijas makes art out of New Belgrade’s Soviet brutaliststyle buildings.

J.D. Hildebrand
BIRN
Belgrade
 

The scene is familiar to anyone who has visited New Belgrade: blocks of gloomy towers of grey concrete - weathered, dingy, unadorned, unlovely - rise above orderly, broad thoroughfares, stretching out endlessly.

Built in the Soviet brutalist architectural style, which blossomed from the 1950s to the 1970s, these utilitarian structures of poured concrete are pure examples of function dictating form. No beauty, no whimsy, no decoration, just practicality. Few viewers call these buildings beautiful.

But photographer Mirko Nahmijas is no ordinary viewer. The Belgrade native has taken on New Belgrade’s brutalist architecture as an artistic challenge, capturing the buildings in images that are striking and even, somehow, beautiful.

“There are infinite ways of seeing the same thing,” Nahmijas says.

It’s a philosophy he practices as he works: he observes changing lighting conditions as the sun moves across the sky; he changes his angle slightly; he snaps the shutter button. And finally, each photo reveals something new.

Nahmijas has collected images of New Belgrade’s architecture in a series of photographs he calls Minimal Belgrade. The series has drawn attention from art lovers around the world.

Nahmijas sells his photos of New Belgrade brutalist buildings as art, each carefully etched into a thin metal plate that emphasises the industrial aspect of the subject matter while guaranteeing that the image will not fade or tear.

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The goal of Minimal Belgrade, he says, was to renew the city’s buildings, to liberate them from their socialist past. The photos are almost abstract, with geometric gray forms silhouetted against a blue sky. The faded futuristic aesthetic of the photos has led Nahmijas to refer to New Belgrade as “the city of Star Wars”.

Star Wars was an artistic breakthrough for the way it depicted future technology as used, damaged and bearing visible signs of being knocked around instead of always gleaming and fresh from the factory floor. Belgrade’s futuristic buildings show signs of wear and weather, echoing the Star Wars aesthetic.

Minimal Belgrade is not Nahmijas’s only project.

Visitors to his website will find examples of his portrait and fashion photography as well as a whimsical series of black-and-white photographs of moustachioed men called “Moustaches From Belgrade”.

A perfectionist, Nahmijas began taking pictures in 1998 when he received a camera as a gift. He says his current work draws upon a desire to constantly improve his skills and evoke art from the commonplace.

Ready-to-mount photos from the Minimal Belgrade series, all printed on lightweight aluminium panels, sell for €30 to €130 depending on size. View the entire gallery at minimalbelgrade.com or visit Nahmijas’s website, nahmijas.com.

This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.

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