Max Juhasz – Jarun


 Another long hot summer begun in a country which, like a drowning man, struggles in hopelessness and depression of a moral, economic and social crisis. A beautiful country with a rich history, but seriously eroded by bad leadership and human greed. The last year before joining the European Union, I guess.

A morning at the Jarun lake near Zagreb. I’m sitting in an inanely named bar, close to the Great lake, sipping my morning coffee at the “Happy Hour” price, leafing through the daily newspapers, in which just the headlines are enough to ruin your day. I’m idly watching the young man at the nearby beach, just a few yards from the bar terrace, setting up the plastic beach chairs. A new thing this season on the Jarun beaches. He must be hoping to make some money today by renting those chairs, despite the slightly overcast weather. I also see an older gentleman, who looks like one of those old-timers who spent many summers on these pebbly beaches, sitting pensively at the beach, taking up room for another beach chair and by his presence there preventing the young man to fill the row full of chairs. Perhaps it’s some kind of inner protest against the total privatization and profiteering off everything. I guess.

Two films in my pocket and a small 35-millimeter rangefinder camera, which has become an extension of me, are something that I rarely leave home without. I open the box of black and white film and load it in the camera. I love this analog ritual, a reset of thought process and a chance for new photos. I’m winding to the first shot and estimating my viewpoint for the first photo, the place where I could stand and take the first shot without being noticed, so as not to disrupt the aura of photographic fluid of the scene at the beach. The lens is 28 mm, my favorite, and actually the only one I have. I rise from the table and, feigning indifference, I cross those few yards to the beach, holding my camera discreetly by my side. I’m standing behind the back of the seated older gentleman, at the position from which I intend to take the shot as I saw it sitting at the table. I wait a while. The young man takes another beach chair from the neat pile and starts to carry it. I raise the camera to my eye and frame the shot instantly: it is cloudy, the light is bad. Somehow it seems that all three of us feel bad. I press the shutter. A single shot. Enough. Did I get the horizon straight? Probably not. Screw the horizon.

I continue to watch the scene for a while and then return to my unfinished morning coffee and the depressing newspapers. At that moment the thin clouds start to disperse, and the sun appears.

I wish to take another shot in the better light, but the scene from the few moments ago is gone. The older gentleman decided to leave. He takes his small backpack and leaves, and the young man can now place the missing beach chair at his spot, thus filling the row completely.

The sun finally decided to show itself fully, turning the previously gloomy scene into the exotic beach of astounding beauty, with turquoise waters, just like those tourist posters of exotic places which all of us have seen somewhere, but have never visited. The young man with the beach chairs begins to smile and continues his work in the rhythm of some chill-out music form the bar. The day begins to warm up, and the city people slowly begin to fill up the beaches of the “Zagreb sea”. The summer has begun… despite the fact that it’s still cloudy, bad for photography and for all of us.

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The documentary photography project “Jarun” was done in the summer of 2012 at the Jarun lake, near the author’s residence. The year of the great economic depression and unemployment, in which many of the Zagreb residents substituted their customary seaside summer holidays on the Adriatic coast with the regular visits to the nearby lake.