Ivan Hrkaš: Beach no.3

During the sweltering summer of 2015, Ivan Hrkaš was staying in Rijeka, as a participant in the Kamov Residency Programme. Nearly every day he visited the city beach in the residential quarter Pećine, which the locals had named Number Three. Spending his late afternoons as one of the bathers, he was doing what everybody else was doing, relaxing and keeping out of the sun, swimming, lying and rolling on his towel, looking around. From time to time, he would select a frame and stealthily take a shot. Without hesitation, he followed an inner voice that said “now!” Wishing to preserve the peace and quiet of his surroundings and remain anonymous, he kept his dedication to himself and he used up six rolls of film with a foolproof camera. Therefore, we may expect to see a reporter’s chronicle, a series of snapshots, but this exhibition reveals a different selection that may be classified as landscape photography or, more precisely, as a sequence of explicitly recognizable landscapes and non-landscapes.

Hrkaš’s interest in a city beach was awakened by his idea that spaces of collective rituals are deprived of privacy; we divest these spaces of intimate appropriations. Of course, we work on the general assumption that public is public and private is private. The author was driven by a desire to demonstrate that metaphysical appropriation can be made physically visible and can thereby be represented. In spite of uncertainty as to how to achieve this, he decided to try.


The artist arranged around sixty photographs (the exhibition includes forty-eight) in a conglomerate of recognizable seaside scenes and fragments from private treasuries of the occupants of this particular beach, emphasizing the reciprocity of two contradictory aspects; private and public. Frontal, symmetrical, and somewhat monumental panoramas are enriched with close-ups and seemingly irrelevant details. Diagonal shots, asymmetrical and non-hierarchically organized compositions reveal that the author is interested in a situation, not individuals. Similarly, we may note an absence of the iconic – Hrkaš never uses portraiture, he never aims at a particular person in relation to whom he has to take a frontal and symmetrical stance, nor does he define himself in hierarchical terms. He moves beyond these individuals, who are always there, but they elude the eye. Among the faces every single one is equally important. Hrkaš searches for something that flows between them; he studies their body language, he captures their gestures and states. He is interested in the place.


The extent to which these photographs represent lies in their capacity to embody that which is usually not represented. They convey the invisible substance which can be felt, but which cannot be observed nor can it be named (in contrast to the logic of language, where the unportrayable can be expressed by words). The author’s focus often captures an empty spot, or it is unclear where the focus actually lies… When we observe these photos, our attention is not satisfied immediately, nor do our eyes sweep the photos’ content instantly. On the contrary, our gaze remains somewhere in between, hovering, passing through the exhibition, extending the world of Beach Number Three into the space from which we observe it. Ultimately ­– or at the limits – in order to see a photograph well, it is best to look away or close your eyes.1

And to complete the story, it is necessary to observe all these photographs, one by one. Hence the need for this exhibition, for a re-run of events; hence the need for a second glance – a glance into the medium, into photography, not the version of reality offered by the camera’s lens. Because a photograph never completely resembles the world it represents.2 With this in mind, we can understand the artist’s vision of the space as subject, instead of merely observing its characteristics.

We may note that the author avoids eye contact – there is not a single eyewitness! To step into people’s intimate spaces always means to tread on slippery ground, that is why it may be easier to take snapshots, but Hrkaš decides not to do so. His shooting begins long before the act of taking a shot. Although the act of taking a photograph is momentary and it happens in the wink of an eye, these photographs show that the framing of each is the result of close observation. These premeditated compositions show that the author never crosses the boundaries of intimate spaces. Difficult as it may be to standardize the measure of intimacy on a city beach, we feel that this author captures itsfragments; he is partly constrained by the limitations of the surrounding space, and he partly restrains from direct disclosure of details, in order to free our imagination. He achieves this by a process of deframing, a peculiar shifting of view, which may offer the unexpected punctum, the point of effect that, according to Barthes, makes a photograph exciting. 

As an urban and social reflection on city life, the community of Beach Number Three is an example of spontaneous placemaking, in which public space is typically personalized by the frenzy of life, rashly and hastily, and as such, it represents a microgeographic rarity. And for this reason, Hrkaš’s exhibition signifies both recurrence and recapitulation, though its intention is not to archive itself as collective memory, because all memory is individual, unreproducible – it dies with each person3. Any questions that may arise from viewing this exhibition refer to the fundamental question: what does photography express and what it can do?


Sabina Salamon


1    Barthes, Roland: Camera Lucida, Reflexions on Photography, Hill and Wang, New York, 1981, p. 53.

2    Ibidem, p.133.

3             Sontag, Susan: Regarding the Pain of Others, Picador, New York, 2003, p. 86

Ivan Hrkaš was born in Sarajevo in 1978. After finishing primary school, he moved to Israel, where he lived from 1992. to 1998. and graduated from Seligsberg High school in Jerusalem and was awarded the honour of student of his generation. Though he enrolled in the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts Becalel in Jerusalem – photography department, in 1998 he decided to move back to Sarajevo and continue his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts – graphic design department. He received his BA Graphic Design diploma in 2004 and in 2011 MA Diploma in Photography. In January 2005 he started to work at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo as an assistant to professor Mehmed A. Aksamija for Photography, in 2011 become associate professor and in 2016 professor.   From 2012 to 2013 he worked as a guest professor at the Design Academy in Ljubljana, Slovenia, for photography. The last five years he has been mostly involved with social documentary photography. Ivan exhibited in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria, Croatia, China, Israel, Montenegro, Mexico, Slovenia, Serbia, Tunisia, UK and USA  and received numerous awards at different festivals. He participated in the organisation of the Sarajevo Winter Festival and took part in different local and international projects in the field of arts and culture. His photographs where published in local and international magazines. In May 2017. his first photo book “Bamitbah” was published.