How to Develop a Project: Dragana Jurisic

© Dragana Jurisic, from YU: The Lost Country

In 2012 and 2013 fototazo published thirteen short essays from photographers to the basic question, "What advice do you have for starting a project?"

The series featured replies from Judith Joy RossIrina RozovskyAlejandro CartagenaPhil ToledanoSteven AhlgrenSusan LipperAmani WillettLisa KeresziEirik JohnsonRichard RenaldiBrian UlrichMark SteinmetzTim DavisNicholas Nixon, Jeff Whetstone and Erika Diettes.

We continue with a follow-up series of advice from photographers on how to develop a project, asking them how they approach the middle ground of their projects after giving basic definition and before taking steps to finish.

Responses in this new series have come from Elinor CarucciMichael ItkoffJackie NickersonAlessandra SanguinettiChris VereneLaura El-TantawyRory MulliganVanessa Winship and Chris Steele-Perkins.

Today we pick the series back up with a response from Dragana Jurisic.

Dragana Jurisic works predominantly through the mediums of photography, film and installation. Her practice explores the issues of gender, stereotyping and the effects of exile and displacement on memory and identity. Dragana Jurisic has won a significant number of awards including the Dorothea Lange and Paul Taylor Award's Special Recognition from Duke University, numerous Bursaries and Project Awards. In December 2013, Dragana completed her PhD and finalized an important three-year long project YU: The Lost Country that culminated in a critically acclaimed touring exhibition and a book. Her work is in many collections including the Irish State Art Collection and she has exhibited widely internationally.

© Dragana Jurisic, from YU: The Lost Country

In order for the project to develop in a meaningful way, it has to ask important questions. I think we are all meant to leave some kind of a legacy in the world, add something to the general pool of knowledge. Life is so short, and as Anthony Hopkins said, no one is getting out of this alive, so my message first of all is do something with the time you have that counts – not just in a way that could potentially bring you recognition and fame, but in the way it enriches the life of people who see your work. Be honest, expose yourself, you can't just be an observer, a voyeur, a taker. Give something back.

I find it helpful to work with constraints, to know the start and end date for my projects. With YU: The Lost Country, I ritualistically retraced a journey through the former Yugoslavia, done 75 years earlier by Rebecca West, a writer. I followed her itinerary to the hour. I allowed myself to take only 24 photographs a day, because I wanted to think hard about the meaning of each image before I pressed that shutter. This helped me focus and not get lost while working on a subject that was quite complex, [including issues of] nationalism, national identity and reliability of memory. With the 100 Muses project, I set out to photograph 100 female nudes within the period of five weeks. The reason for such a condensed way of working was conceptual. I wanted to find out about the nature of the female gaze and by compounding the shoot, the intensity of the experience made me answer some of this question more precisely. This is not an advice for everyone, but if you are chaotic lateral thinker, like myself, this might be a way to focus your attention on what's important.

And now for the boring part, unless you are independently rich, make sure you spend a significant amount of time during the development of the project by looking for funding that will allow you to do your project justice. This is not the part of the job I look forward to, but by pitching and presenting your work to various institutions, galleries and funding bodies, you are constantly reevaluating the validity of what you are trying to accomplish.

© Dragana Jurisic, from YU: The Lost Country

© Dragana Jurisic, from YU: The Lost Country