Ziyah Gafić uses his camera to capture the aftermath of war. He has traveled to Pakistan, Iraq and Chechnya to capture beautiful portraits of people carrying on with their lives in the face of destruction; he has photographed the everyday lives of children in Rwanda, a generation born from the widespread use of rape as a weapon during the Rwandan genocide. A moving question runs through his work: After war, how do people manage to keep the fabric of society together?
Gafić's interest in this subject comes from his own biography. Born in Sarajevo, he was a teenager during the Bosnian War of the 1990s. Through photography, he parses what happened in his homeland. For his book Quest for Identity, Gafić photographed the watches, keys, shoes, combs and glasses exhumed from mass graves 20 years after the Bosnian War. These objects are cleaned, catalogued and used to help identify the bodies found with them, but afterwards, they become what Gafić calls “orphans of the narrative,” either destroyed or stored away out of sight and out of mind. His quest is to keep them in view as a last testament to the fact that these people existed, preserving them as an easily accessible visual archive that tells the story of what happened—integrating an objective forensic perspective with human compassion.