Fundstücke (Found Objects), Kosovo 2000, 2000, printed 2001
portfolio, in grey linen-covered slip-case, containing 14 gelatin silver prints, title page, texts and list of contents
folio: 54.7 x 53.9 x 7 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 40985.1-14)
© photograph by frauke eigen
Frauke Eigen has worked as a photojournalist in Bosnia, Serbia, and Macedonia since 1997. In 2000 Eigen made her first trip to Kosovo. It has been her practice to continue to do personal work while on assignment, and her trip to Kosovo was no exception. While there, she was alerted to the uncovering of a mass grave containing victims of genocide, near to the village where she was stationed. Although she witnessed the recovery operation, she did not feel compelled to photograph the corpses, but rather the garments that these people had once worn, as well as such ordinary objects as keys, watches, and identification papers that they had once carried with them. Eigen described the experience in these words:
"I watched them searching for the dead bodies and didn't feel like taking photographs of it. In the mortuary I watched them dissecting the bodies and felt absorbed by watching them without being able to take any pictures. The sight of these dead bodies and the strong stench of formaldehyde made me leave the place. On my way out I saw these clothes lying there in the sun for drying after they had been washed. For some reason, maybe because these clothes were much more human-like and recognizable than the bodies, I felt far more touched and disturbed and started to take pictures. Nobody really paid attention to what I was doing there."
Almost a year after her initial visit, Eigen returned to Kosovo with the specific intention of continuing this project as more mass graves were unearthed. Though she obtained the necessary permission from the Hague for her purpose, the amount of work she was able to do finally proved to be limited by the unwillingness of certain authorities on the site who did not understand how such a brutal event could be the subject of art.