I first met Chris in 1997 as a 12 year old in Sarajevo orphanage ”Bjelave” where he came to as a volunteer to teach the kids B/W photography in a specially constructed darkroom within the orphanage flooded basement.  It was only supposed to be a 3 month summer project that grew into a 4 year project for him, and with meeting him, turned into a 20 year brotherhood.

Camera Kids

According to Chris, I was one of the first kids back then who expressed an interest in the ”Camera Kids” project and to learn photography.  Apparently I ”spoke English and had a look of honesty that I wouldn’t steal any cameras”. From day one, I became Chris’ right hand man and with the other students we all ran around documenting Sarajevo as it was slowly rebuilt after the war.

Chris and I have both worked together on a few short film projects and we always discussed, dreamed of the idea of making a feature length together which we made in the end, Finding Family.

The Book

His latest book ”A Balkan Journey” takes us on a photographic journey through the towns and cities of post-conflict Former Yugoslavia in this extensive and the previously unseen 24-year archive from the region. This collection showcases his earliest photographs from a war-ravaged Croatian town in 1996, through to the present-day Sarajevo of refugees and migrants trapped in limbo.

2020 marked a quarter of a century since the end of the conflict, but the region and Europe continues to struggle with conflicting ideologies. A Balkan Journey provides a crucial moment of reflection at this time and includes an essay by John McDougall.

Donated Equipment

A quarter of a century after the end of the Bosnian War, Chris Leslie has reunited with the children he taught in the war-ravaged city of Sarajevo. His classes saw him use donated photography equipment shipped over from Scotland to teach the youngsters basic techniques, such as shooting with 35mm SLR film, and developing images.

Images from that initiative are included in the book, as well as interviews with several of the former Camera Kids. One, Dženita Hodžić, now a 32-year-old physics teacher and professor, vividly recalls the smell of the darkroom. “These are happy memories, because I am only choosing to remember good things from my childhood,” she said.

Chris’ book, ‘A Balkan Journey’ also features a host of previously unseen images from that period. It is, he says, a “personal and photographic” journal of that tentative peacetime period following a conflict that claimed 100,000 lives and caused more than two million people to flee their homes.

An accompanying exhibition is being shown this month at SOGO Gallery in Glasgow.

Use oggitomic at checkout and receive £5 discount for limited edition of ‘A Balkan Journey’ with Chris Leslie’s photographs and essays by the writer John McDougall is available here. (All photographs ©Chris Leslie)