Ana Batricevic - The Research Photographer

Yvan Cohen

Thu Mar 23 2023

Ana Batricevic - The Research Photographer

By Yvan Cohen

As well-worn a cliché as it may be, the saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” is as true today as it ever was, says 37-year-old award-winning Serbian photographer Ana Batricevic.

A criminologist and full-time researcher at Belgrade’s Institute of Criminological and Sociological Research, and the author of numerous studies and reports, Ana certainly knows the value of words but believes, nevertheless, that powerful and eye-catching images can make important issues “more interesting and accessible.”

Red shoes as the symbol of femicide – Campaign against violence against women. Red shoes as the symbol of femicide – Campaign against violence against women. Photo by Ana Batricevic

Putting her faith in photography into practice, Ana merges academia with art and documentary photojournalism, creating a pigeon-hole-defying genre that one might call ‘research journalism’. “I’m the only one doing this in Serbia,” says Ana who has had five solo exhibitions. “I always include photography in my research.”

“I wanted to take a more creative approach to research,” explains Ana, as she shows me some of her publications on such subjects as the re-socialisation of prisoners, where dense academic texts are punctuated by arty black and white photographs. Recent titles include “Freedom within the Circle” (2019) and “Second Chance” (2018).

In addition to completing a doctorate in law, Ana studied web and graphic design and has a passion for the arts. “I’m very interested in art and often go to exhibitions,” she says. adding that her father was a judge but had “originally wanted to be a film director.”

“We still have some of the films he made in the 1970s. My mother is also a very creative person,” she says, proudly.

For Ana, photography is recent

For Ana, however, photography is a relatively recent pursuit. “My first serious project was in 2017 when I documented the “Vinca Landfill in Belgrade.”

“My first camera was analogue,” recalls Ana. “It was a French brand called Focasport that was passed on to me by my father.”

Today, Ana is already ‘digital’, and currently shoots with a full-frame Nikon D750. “I have a 24-70 zoom lens which is very practical but my favourite lens is a standard Nikon 50mm F1.8. Most of my black and white work is shot with that lens.”

Dark shadows from people Photo by Ana Batricevic

“I started off learning photography from courses online. Then I joined the Belgrade Photo Club, where I found people were helpful and generous with their knowledge,” says Ana. “I don’t really like singling out the names of iconic photographers who inspire me, but if I had to name one it would be Henri Cartier Bresson.” It’s an influence that can be seen most clearly in Ana’s ‘Black and White Street’ series on her LightRocket website.

“Even though I use it for my research projects, photography is also a part of my daily life,” explains Ana. “I really enjoy street photography and am currently working on a black and white project documenting beautiful window frames in Belgrade and another about how nature is trying to reclaim urban spaces.”

When quizzed about the predominance of black and white imagery on her portfolio site, Ana explains that for her “the black and white medium helps emphasise the emotion in an image.”

Even so, Ana has not limited her photography to a purely grayscale palette. She recently worked on a conceptual project aimed at highlighting the problem of violence towards women, which was predominantly shot in colour.

Using photography to highlight social issues

“I really wanted to use my photography to convey the horror of violence against women without falling into the cliché of showing typical scenes of violence,” say Ana. “I took a conceptual approach. For example, one shot was of a flower taped over a crack in a wall. There is a suggestion of violence and of healing but the image does not literally show violence.” All of the images from this project are free to use by the media.

Healing flower – Campaign against violence against women. Photo by Ana Batricevic Healing flower – Campaign against violence against women. Photo by Ana Batricevic

There is an understated, sincere and fearless approach to Ana’s work, which often involves photographing behind prison walls. “I always make sure people agree to be photographed,” says Ana. “The very fact that these prison inmates are willing to take part is a sign that they want to improve themselves. Plus, it’s important to be kind and nice in your approach to people.”

Prisioners working with dogs. Photo by Ana Batricevic Prisioners working with dogs. Photo by Ana Batricevic

For Ana, photography is a means to an end – a form of expression that combines her artistic talent with her documentary mission.

If you would like to see more of Ana’s work, you can visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

Written by Yvan Cohen | Yvan has been a photojournalist for over 30 years. He’s a co-founder of LightRocket and continues to shoot photo and video projects around South East Asia.

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