Kosovo’s confined youth.
When I decided to work on the topic of young people in Kosovo, I was convinced that the subjects I would include in my photography would be cooperative and not hinder my work. Considering the fact that most Kosovars aged 15 to 25 own smartphones, have access to the Internet and spend most of their day publishing personal information, I thought it would be easy and doable.
Ten years ago, when Kosovo declared itself an independent state, I was part of the process of documenting the events that unfolded that day. At the time, Kosovo’s youth was full of positive energy, hoping for a bright future full of wellbeing — there was a sense of cooperation.
As I have not been in Kosovo to follow the past decade, I see that things have changed. I have learned that nothing is the same anymore. There is not the enthusiasm, nor the infrastructure.
“Don’t publish my picture in the newspaper, or I’ll break your skull!”
This threat followed almost every photograph. Reactions varied, but they were all aggressive.
As a result, the work I have done in the past two weeks was limited to pictures taken from a distance, and to only a few cities. I had never encountered these reactions even in more extreme circumstances, such as when I was faced with members of the Al-Nusra Front in Syria. Initially, they would tell me that they do not wish to be photographed, and then they’d invite me to drink tea.
Surely a big reason behind this frustration is the media not properly representing this generation. Today, more than ever, the youth of Kosovo see the lives of their peers around the world. They feel European, but many of them have not gone beyond the borders of the Balkans for the entirety of their lives. They speak foreign languages fluently, but they have no-one to communicate with in these languages. They have a taste in music, but they cannot attend concerts of their favorite bands.
During these weeks, I noticed that Kosovo’s youth has nothing else to do besides spend time in cafés and use their smartphones. As a result of this detachment from reality, even their socialization seems pale and uncreative.
Unfortunately, I found that their life has become a continuous agony from which they cannot escape.
However, within all this harshness, I also found beauty: young people thirsty for more, open-eyed dreamers, people that raise their voice and have their own opinions, despite feeling that there is no-one there to listen to them.
A blurred future, but with clear hopes.