University of Basel

Visual Archive Southeastern Europe

VASE: Visual Archive Southeastern Europe

The main objective of the Visual Archive Southeastern Europe (VASE) is to assemble historical and contemporary visual materials from this region of Europe. VASE seeks to draw attention to the image as a primary source, to promote visual studies as a technique and method and thereby to enrich predominantly text-based historical-anthropological research. By providing access to different types of images – e.g. photographs and postcards – VASE aims to enhance reflection on (self-)images of Southeastern Europe, both within the academic community as well as in society in general. The database may not be used for commercial purposes.

The initial idea for the database, as well as a first version of VASE, were developed by Barbara Derler and Georg Piwonka of the University of Graz as part of the project ‘Family Structures and Ethnicity – case studies from Macedonia’ (funded by the Austrian Science Fund, project number P 15533, 2002–2005). VASE was launched online in 2012 in the framework of the VIF project ‘Visualizing Family, Gender Relations and the Body. The Balkans approx. 1860-1950’, directed by Prof. Karl Kaser, again at the University of Graz, Institute of History, Research Area Southeast European History and Anthropology, and funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF, project number P 22104-G18, 2010–2014). The opportunity to develop the database even further with international collaboration opened up in connection with Prof. Nataša Mišković's research project ‘SIBA – A Visual Approach to Explore Everyday Life in Turkish and Yugoslav Cities, 1920s and 1930s’ at the University of Basel, Middle Eastern Studies, financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF, project number PP0P1_144751, 2013–2017).

Currently, the database contains approximately 3,500 images. The images were provided by partner institutions and individual collectors in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Serbia and Turkey. Private donors, namely Prof. Mehmed A. Akšamija (Sarajevo), Miloš Jurišić (Belgrade) and Cengiz Kahraman (Istanbul), have essentially contributed to this site not only by providing photographs from their collections, but by sharing their extensive knowledge of the local contexts. The database will be expanded in the framework of further research and joint projects, notably on Balkan Cinema (BACI) and in cooperation with the Museum of Yugoslav History (VAYU).

VIF: Visualizing Family, Gender Relations and the Body. The Balkans approx. 1860–1950.

Approximately 2,500 historical images, including photographs and postcards, were collected in the framework of the project ‘Visualizing Family, Gender Relations and the Body. The Balkans approx. 1860-1950’ funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF, 2010–2014, project number P 22104-G18) and conducted by Prof. Karl Kaser, Barbara Derler, Ana Đorđević and Prof. Anelia Kassabova. The originals remain with the partner institutions and collectors in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Serbia.

The collection addresses (self-)representations of families and reflects on gender and generational hierarchies and the body in private and public photography and on postcards. It offers information on the origins and context of the production of these images, their utilization as well as the historical and socio-cultural conditions of their reception, enabling the diachronic exploration of genres and motifs over longer periods of time.

Due to time and budget constraints, carefully selected photographers were chosen to represent Serbian and Bulgarian studio photography, while others were deliberately omitted. In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was more difficult to identify representative names, so that here the selection features photographs and postcards by various photographers.

Enter VIF

SIBA: A Visual Approach to Explore Everyday Life in Turkish and Yugoslav Cities, 1920s and 1930s.

Sarajevo Istanbul Belgrade Ankara – all four cities shared a common past under the Ottoman Empire, and all underwent a period of accelerated modernization and urbanization in the decades before and after World War I when they were incorporated into the new Republic of Turkey and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia respectively. This project conducted by Prof. Nataša Mišković, Joël László, Milanka Matić and Yorick Tanner, and in collaboration with Prof. Mehmed Akšamija, Cengiz Kahraman, Dr. Ranka Gašić, Miloš Jurišić, Goran Knežević and Kristina Ilić, explores the social, cultural, political and urban development of these cities in the interwar period, focusing on the work of local press photographers.

The photo editors of the leading daily newspapers ‘Cumhuriyet’ in Turkey and ‘Politika’ and ‘Vreme’ in Yugoslavia, drew special attention. Photographers Namık Görgüç, Selahattin Giz, Aleksandar-Aca Simić, Rahamin-Raka Ruben and Svetozar Grdijan actively documented the manifold events and changes in their home cities with their cameras. Working in close teams and in the same offices for decades, it is often impossible to distinguish between the work of Görgüç and Giz, or Simić and Ruben. They left behind extensive photo archives that have so far been closed to research. As for Sarajevo, although no permanent press photographer could be detected, the team discovered a jewel: Alija M. Akšamija shot his first series of photographs as a twenty-year-old, documenting passers-by in the city between 1938 and 1939.

Enter SIBA

BACI: Balkan Cinema

The Balkan Cinema collection is the result of research undertaken by Prof. Karl Kaser in autumn 2015. His original aim was to collect visual material to illustrate his monograph ‘Hollywood in the Balkans’, which was in the final phase of writing. The accommodating staff at the various archives he visited allowed him to collect much more material than needed for the book. Thus, the idea emerged to establish the BACI collection for VASE.

The visual materials incorporated into BACI are stored at the Arhiva Naţională de Filme in Bucharest, the Arkivi Qëndror Shtetëror i filmit and the Arkivi Qëndror i Shtetit in Tirana, the Bălgarskata nacionalna filmoteka in Sofia, the Jugoslovenska kinoteka in Belgrade and the TÜRVAK – Türker İnanoğlu Foundation in Istanbul. The Jugoslovenska kinoteka constitutes the most comprehensive film archive in the Balkans. This is why approximately 140 of the 350 collected items stem from there. BACI comprises posters, commercial material, portraits of film directors, shots of cinemas and studios as well as film stills, and covers the period from approximately 1900 to 1970.