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A Study in Escape with Photographer Ivana Miletic

Exchanging messages with Ivana Miletic, my impression of her refreshing artistic practice is reinforced by a Confucius quote she uses to address her relationship to photography: “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”

However, for Miletic, she has balanced two lives simultaneously over the span of twenty years: one as an award-winning photographer, and the second as a Fisheries expert with a Ph.D. in Fisheries while working in diplomacy in Bruxelles, Belgium. This unusual background is perhaps best explained by Miletic’s early years in Split, Croatia, born and raised by the ocean. “I have always been surrounded by beautiful nature and unique seascapes,” she explains. “Therefore, the moments of perfect morning silence, the fishermen returning from the sea and the game of seagulls would instantly capture my attention. I’m using photography to express my love for nature and to satisfy my natural curiosity.”

Miletic’s first award-winning photograph, Sun Salutation, which earned 1st prize in 2008 for a black and white photo on 9th International Festival of Undersea and Oversea Photography and Film Liburnia, Croatia.

“I took this photo in Croatia while I was working as a fisheries inspector. I was on Japanese processing vessel during tuna harvesting. The Captain and crew had lunch break and while I was waiting for them, I looked into the sea and I noticed this seagull approaching me. I was acting fast, since I always have my camera with me. This was a huge vessel therefore perspective is like I’m flying next to this seagull. Seagulls inspired me, I spent a lot of time observing their behaviours. I understand them, they are excellent experts of nature behaviour. They are able to unmistakably announce every change of weather condition, you just need to carefully listen to them.” (Miletic) Courtesy of the artist.

It is perhaps because of her dual-professions that Miletic’s impulses towards creation stay notably pure and unadulterated, if such a thing exists. Because photography takes the form of her passion, not her livelihood, Miletic is able to operate miles above the consumerist trappings of contemporary art and its fame-obsessed figureheads. Her photographic language demonstrates a profound appreciation for the natural beauty of life.

Ivana Miletic, Stairway to Heaven

“This was an artist installation placed in the port of Split, Croatia, my hometown. I noticed this installation and I was planning when and how to take this photo. I had imagined in my head and knew exactly what I wanted. I was waiting for a calm sunset; I used a tripod and large exposure to get the glass surface of the sea and the reflection of the stairs in the water. I think this photo and Modest Lunch are my most award-winning photos.” Courtesy of the artist.

Her rich and thoughtful landscape photography, some of her strongest work, invites introspection. Black-and-white seascapes––whether rolling with fog, erupting in sunlight, or speckled with coast and cloud––spurred an embodied experience in the viewer. A sensuous contemplation, sitting with the quiet majesty of landscape, invites the viewer to participate in the event of the photograph. Miletic’s photography is poignant for that reason: its sense of humble prompting, allowing viewers to consider photography from an alternative register. What are the sounds and sensations of Miletic’s photographs? To me, they point to quiet as a state of being, just as we become quiet as we encounter artworks in a gallery, to show an honorary reverence to natural forces.

Ivana Miletic, Walkers. Courtesy of the artist.

However, as time went on the artist turned her attention towards everyday life, during travels and walks along foreign city streets. Frequent globe-trekkers, Miletic and her husband have visited twenty-nine countries on four continents, with many trips fruitful for artistic practice. While traveling, Miletic developed a keen sense for capturing cityscapes and framing urban scenes in dynamic, full-bodied images. The viewer similarly marvels at the elegance of city life through Miletic’s street photography: the highly-orchestrated and architectured scenes of construction and human design. With the careful attention of her camera, Miletic gives the seemingly disparate environments of the natural and man-made equal artistic consideration. Her absolute favorite destination for photography is Petra, Jordan, followed by then New York, Jerusalem, Lisbon, Paris, and Cairo. Spending time in this diverse range of cities, inspiration always strikes the artist in different ways.

Ivana Miletic, I’ll Be There. Courtesy of the artist.

For Miletic, the final step of her artistic evolution in the world of photography was the study of human characters, thoughts and feelings. Her sensitive character portraits, many centered around themes of feminine strength, seem to intimately know their subjects. Beginning with friends and acquaintances who aptly carry out her photographic motive for a shoot, Miletic now works with a range of participants who reach out on social media asking to take part in her artistic story. Miletic will always happily oblige.

Ivana Miletic, Pro. Courtesy of the artist.

“Photography has been a part of my life since elementary school,” Miletic states. “My parents have old Leica camera, they taught me how to use it. I always had some kind of camera with me, I photographed friends and nature. It was only after college that I bought a ‘better’ camera––analogy––and that’s when my development in that direction began.” The beginnings of Miletic’s “expensive” photography habit began with an analogue Nikon F60, then moving to a digital Nikon D80, before finally arriving at her most-used Nikon D750. A deeply sentimental person, Miletic confesses developing emotional attachments with her cameras and equipment, so much so that they are all still in her possession albeit frequently loaned out to her budding photographer nephew.

Ivana Miletic, Between. Courtesy of the artist.

Having an involved career outside of her photography practice, she plans her photography sessions with intention. Usually on weekends or travels, Miletic spontaneously explores when the weather and time of day are just right, considering geographical position and the fall of light. However, Miletic will also often design projects around a carefully-choreographed studio, scenography and models. One example of this is her ongoing project She’s: an exploration of the adaptive and transformative power of the feminine.

On Tenderly:“This photo is part of my studio works. Scenography, clothing, make up, poses, lighting, equipment etc. is planned in advance only by me. This type of photography also carries challenges. It is much more complicated to do this type of work compared to those motifs you come across while walking around the city.” (Miletic) Courtesy of the artist.

Post-production involves Adobe Photoshop CC 2019, where Miletic will balance colors, highlights, shadow correction, horizontal alignment, executing small but necessary corrections.

On Modest Lunch: While I was cleaning squids for lunch, I found in the one squid belly this juvenile specimen Common two-banded Sea Bream (lat. Diplodus vulgaris). He was probably eaten just before squid was caught and he was very well preserved. This photo was taken spontaneously and unplanned. I love minimalism and this photo speaks for itself. Reactions to this photo are good, it went by quite noticeably, I won NFCA (Nuevo Foto Club Argentino) Gold Medal in Argentina, IAAP (International Association of Art Photographers) ribbons in Slovakia and FIAP Ribbon in Nepal. (Miletic)

To date, she has held ten solo exhibitions and her works have been included in forty-six photography salons in twenty-two countries around the world. She holds the AFIAP title “The Artist” from the International Federation of Photographic Art (Artiste FIAP). She has won several international awards, including two FIAP gold medals, one FIAP silver medal, nine Honourable Mentions, and several titles of distinction. Recently, she presented work at the New York Clio Art Fair in 2019, and Venice International Art Fair in Italy.

Ivana Miletic, Time Portal. Courtesy of the artist.

“Photography is a medium that I consider ideal for expressing my emotions and views of society and the world in general,” Miletic muses, in closing. “I play with motives and techniques, depending on my current mood. Photography is my oasis and distance from the commercial, estrange and chaotic society in which we are living.” For Miletic, photography is an act of escape literally and figuratively, both for herself and those who have the pleasure of viewing.

Ivana Miletic, United in Diversity: some of the artist’s most recent works. Courtesy of the artist.

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