Dragana Jurišić is a photographer from the former Yugoslavia now based in Dublin. She took up photography after her home and all the family photos were burned during the Croatian War of Independence. Photography was a means to order a world in chaos. She studied psychology before moving to Ireland and gaining her PhD in photography.
Dragana’s first book YU: The Lost Country (2011-13) is a search for a homeland and an identity that no longer exists. Following the steps of author Rebecca West, Dragana combines images and text to explore what it means to be an exile with no possibility of return. Using hybrid techniques of documentary, personal reflection, and quotes from West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941), she recreates the disappearance, and burial, of national identity.
Her work often looks to stories as a way of talking about larger issues. In My Own Unknown (2014-), Dragana considers what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. It is a complex work split into chapters, each considering stories told about women. Chapter One investigates a family story about a mysterious cousin who escaped Yugoslavia for Paris. Chapter Two ponders the other unknown women of Paris, particularly l’Inconnue de la Seine whose face became an artists’ muse. Chapter Three takes the woman’s role as muse further with a collaborative project, 100 Muses. Dragana put out an open call for women to pose nude. The sessions reversed the historical roles of artist and muse, giving agency and control to the women. As well as directing themselves, the muses chose the final image and were given a year to decide whether to allow their image to be part of the work.
This collaborative work is also seen in Dragana’s most recent exhibition Something from There (2020). Working with a diverse group of asylum seekers, poet Paula Meehan and the National Gallery of Ireland, the group considered objects they had brought with them on their journey. These stories allow us to see the connections between all humans, no matter their nationality.
By Emma Godfrey Pigott