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Quest For Identity | A Photographic Archive Of The Bosnian War

By Teagan Alex on September 28th 2014

Genocide is something we don’t often talk about, but is very much a real thing in our society. In past years, we have been witnesses to massive attacks on people and lands, killing thousands of individuals. The Bosnian War was one such attack where many individuals perished and lost their identities to mass graves. Who were these people and where did they belong?


ZiyahGafic1 Ziyah Gafic photographs the remaining articles of the individuals lost in the Bosnian War. He calls this project ‘Quest for Identity’. Ziyah is a TED fellow and a native to Sarajevo, so this project is more than just a project, it’s his heritage.  The project started when they began to uncover mass graves with hundreds of remains and articles left behind. The items were documented and sealed in bags for storage or destroyed. But what happens if that person’s remains were simply a toothbrush found in that grave? ZiyahGafic2 Ziyah has spent numerous hours photographing the items found in these mass graves on top of a forensic table. Ordinary objects like toothbrushes, combs and keys, all with the hopes of creating a living archive of the identities of those who are lost. When remains are not found, these objects stand as clues to help identify those who were lost in the war. These items are also being used as evidence in the war crime trials, and often presented to survivors with hopes of connecting them to an individual. ZiyahGafic3 Ziyah considers this type of photography as empathy photography: a way to communicate with those who need his help and to allow them to understand that someone cares about who they were or where they came from. His TED talk discussing his project, Quest for Identity, is worth a watch. Check it out below.

To all those with lost identities to tragedy, we are sure glad that there are people like Ziyah who are willing to help find those people who need help finding their home. To see more of Ziyah’s Quest for Identity work, click here.


[via Photography News]

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Teagan Alex is an Event and Fine Art Photographer based in Salt Lake City Utah. She believes that all people are inherently beautiful, and loves to capture the details of the world around her.

She received her BFA degree from UVU in photography and since has been published in books and magazines, multiple gallery shows, and won best in show for her work. Visit her website at and connect with her via Facebookor Instagram.

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