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Michał Korta — "Balkan Playground" journey of defining the Balkans


Michał Korta is an award-winning portrait and documentary photographer from Poland. 

In 2014, he went on a road trip along Balkan countries which resulted in photography project and two book publications. Balkan Playground is one of them — a work done together with the writer Miljenko Jergović.





The trip was very much inspired by the book of prof. Todorova “Imagining the Balkans”, and writings by polish author Andrzej Stasiuk who also travelled across ex-Yugoslavia. Karta was curious about the changes which occurred in the region:


If I could only explore coherent geographical region like Balkans on my own, without any presumption and prejudices. Just by visiting some places and meeting people.

By looking and photographing around. 


Michal Korta © 2014


Miljenko Jergović, as an author, came to this later. Back home, Karta was working on a selection of photographs with Magdalena Patryna (at that time, an editor in International Cultural Centre in Krakow, the publisher of the book)



Michal Korta © 2014



We were considering if I should write a text or maybe we should look for some writer. She suggested Miljenko Jergović, as he is also published by ICC. I knew only short stories by him, but it sounded interesting. So I sent him a selection of pictures without any further explanation, even without captions, asking if he feels inspired to write short text. He liked the pictures and sent me the text few weeks later. I met him personally in Krakow during Conrad Festival in 2018.


The book was nominated among the best photography books at the Grand Press Photo 2018 in Poland.



Michal Korta © 2014



The Balkans are a cultural-historical and temporal palimpsest. Everyday life in the Balkans is played out on the pages of that palimpsest and according to its principles. The people of the Balkans live in many civilizations and timelines simultaneously – though of course they are not aware of this. The layers of Balkan history, its different identities, timelines, and civilizational models, have for centuries have fascinated those who have travelled through the Balkans but are not from the Balkans, because they can see a dual, quadruple, heptuple image that is not visible to people from the Balkans, who understand it instinctively, but know no other image of the world.

— Miljenko Jergović from the Essay to Balkan Playground Book [excerpt]