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Preliminary communication

https://doi.org/10.31664/zu.2021.109.07

The Hidden Artist: The Work of Vojin Voja Mitrović in the History of Photography

Dijana Metlić ; Univerzitet u Novom Sadu, Akademija umetnosti, Novi Sad, Srbija
Ivana Kronja ; Odsek za umetnost i dizajn, Beogradska Akademija poslovnih i umetničkih strukovnih studija – BAPUSS, Beograd, Srbija


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Abstract

The significance of Vojin Voja Mitrović (1937, Foča) for the history of photography has been discovered by the wider public mostly due to the documentary Umetnik iz senke [The Hidden Artist] by Milorad Djokić and Jakov Kronja, shot in Belgrade and Paris from 2010 to 2012. One of the greatest printers of black and white photography, Voja Mitrović has remained in the “footnotes” of the history of photography because he never created his opus, at least not in the sense that would be recognised by the official standards of the history of visual arts. Mitrović worked in one of the world’s most influential photo laboratories Picto, based in Paris and founded in 1950 by German emigrant Pierre Gassmann, one of the pioneers of photography. Between 1964 and 1997, Mitrović collaborated with world-renowned photographers and photojournalists, members of the prominent MAGNUM agency such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado, Josef Koudelka, René Burri, who developed, retouched and printed their works in the Picto laboratory. If photography can be defined as the framing of reality, then framing a particularly chosen segment of an event represents for Mitrović one of the key aspects of his creative act. By printing a great number of Henry Cartier-Bresson’s photographs, whose copies were personally signed by the artist, Voja indirectly participated in the creation and strengthening of the auction market of authorial photography in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s. Relying on the testimonies of Vojin Mitrović, and his friends, associates and colleagues who considered his advice invaluable, this paper examines Mitrović’s practice with regard to the relations between the craft and the technological reproduction of image, concerning the differences between analogue and digital photography. It also explores the complex connections evolving between Mitrović’s craftsmanship and his artistic sensibility that usually changed the meaning of the final photograph and affected the starting point of the work. This paper also illuminates the details of professional and personal ties that developed between Vojin Mitrović, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Josef Koudelka. They printed the photographs for their thematic and retrospective exhibitions, but also for numerous catalogues and monographs, as well as for publications that remained the only permanent trace of ephemeral displays, after which the artworks were stored in museum collections and became inaccessible to the public. In that sense, Henri Cartier-Bresson especially appreciated Mitrović’s artistic skill, stating that he made photographs with one finger, while Voja did it with all ten. Numerous film directors have recognized Mitrović’s photographic competence. Among them was American painter, photographer and author David Lynch, who worked closely with Voja during the production of his collage photo series Small Stories. In this interesting cycle, that explores the boundaries between different media (painting, photography, film) Mitrović was challenged for the first time to print the analogue photographs in which Lynch digitally intervened in the preparation phase. Believing that the most creative period for the development of photography was between 1960 and 2000, Mitrović stayed faithful to gelatine silver prints, remaining sceptical about the new digital era in which men would be replaced by machines. Even though a large number of his own photographs comment and critically examine the reality around us, Mitrović’s photographic opus has stayed unknown to the wider public. On the other hand, precisely because he emphasized that he would never be as good a photographer as he was a printer, Vojin Mitrović has undoubtedly left a deep mark on the history of photography, meaning not only the history of great authors and their oeuvres but also a history in which numerous “invisible” protagonists, who should now get the recognition they deserve, once played a significant role.

Keywords

Vojin Voja Mitrović; Henri Cartier-Bresson; Josef Koudelka; Pierre Gassmann, Picto; MAGNUM agency; printer; photography

Hrčak ID:

274305

URI

https://hrcak.srce.hr/274305

Publication date:

1.12.2021.

Article data in other languages: croatian

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