Bombing of Dubrovnik / Stone Dust over the City ,1991
black and white photography, 5 x 340 x 390 mm
These five photographs are the last five photographs taken by the young Dubrovnik photographer Pavo Urban, before his tragic death on 6 December 1991. Urban took 12 photographs that morning, at the beginning of the artillery attack on Dubrovnik. The last five show the Church of St. Blaise, boarded up Orlando’s Column and dust caused by grenade shelling. The photo on the far right – later titled “Dust over the City” – was taken just moments before the photographer was killed by a mortar shell.
In the history of photography, there is no shortage of photos capturing war, anguish and death, but there are few that simultaneously show the suffering in front of and behind the camera.
One such photograph was Urban’s last. On the one hand, it depicts a hitherto unimaginable horror – the destruction of the city on the World Heritage List – and on the other, it points to the last moments of the photographer’s life. Urban was 23-years-old when he died in the Homeland War, which ensured Croatia’s independence in the aftermath of the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia. A few months before, he enrolled to study cinematography at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb, but he went back to defend his hometown. We later learned that he was particularly drawn to Robert Capa’s photography, so it should come as no surprise that he decided to get involved in the city’s defence, and he grabbed the camera as soon as the shelling started that morning, left the safety of the shelter and started shooting.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Image: From the exhibition of the NMMU Collection: Pavo Urban, Shelling Dubrovnik / Stone dust over the City, 1991. Photo: from the archives of the National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb