Post-War Sufferance: An Interview with Andy Spyra

Andy Spyra is a young photographer who has made documenting the impacts of the war and genocide in Bosnia his project. This year, the 26-year old was awarded the Oskar Barnack Nachwuchspreis for up-and-coming photographers. During his latest reports, Andy Spyra used the Leica M9 – a camera he appreciates especially “in the context of sensitive topics.” We first spoke with Andy in an interview about his work back in May of this year.

Q: Andy, you are not only a photographer, but also a teller of stories documenting events in their contexts. What is your main interest – to photograph or to tell stories?

A: That is not quite easy to answer. As a photographer I am sitting on the fence between both. I do not want to only show the events of the day. The stories I devote myself to come from private interest and in this way I may very well be called a story teller.

Q: How did you happen to become a photographer?

A: It started as a hobby. I took photos of my surroundings and of the people in my home town of Hagen. After that, I entered the ranks of Westfalenpost, the local paper, simply by applying for an internship. But after a year I discovered that I would like to travel more, to see more, to engage in more topics as a photographer than it was possible while working for a local paper. So I decided to study photography at the University of Applied Sciences in Hanover. But just now I have taken a break.

Q: …because you like to devote your time to fascinating reports?

A: And also because I feel like I have learnt all that is relevant to me, in much the same way as during my  work for the local newspaper. I have always realized that I get along much better and quicker when I concentrate on just the things that are important to me.

Q: Certainly, one reason for that is your great interest in the people you portray.

A: That is indeed the most important aspect in all my projects: I must be interested in the stories as a person, not just as a journalist. Of course there may be stories more interesting, maybe more important than, post-war Bosnia which I try to document, but after having spoken to the people out there on the ground their stories have grown on me. I would really like to engage in such projects that are dear and important to me in the future.

Q: How did you get around to portraying the post-war sufferance of people in Bosnia?

A: On a journey during which I acquainted myself with the problem of the war in Bosnia. For me, as a 26-years old, it is still a matter of shame that such a horrible war could occur not farther than 2,500 kilometres from my hometown. So, I have decided to photographically show the impacts of this war.

Q: To what extent is the war present in the everyday life of the people today?

A: The impacts are sometimes subtle, but still present: in the former war zones, bombed houses, mine fields, and war cripples still testify to the war’s brutality. In other instances, it is just the atmosphere that reminds one of the horrors of war, especially in places like Srebrenica or Visegrad where massacres had been committed.

Q: Do you feel like you’ve become a part of the people of Bosnia?

A: No. it would be presumptuous to say so. After my journeys, I can always return to the peaceful world I am living in. My intention is to show the people what the abstract concept of genocide really means, and which consequences the war and the massacres have on people’s lives till this day.

Q: Do you have concrete ideas for further projects?

A: Yes. I should like to make a book of the collected photographs and I should like to show them in exhibitions in as many European cities as possible so that people can see and understand what war and its impacts really mean.

Andy Spyra, thank you very much!

-Leica Internet Team

You can see more of Andy’s work on his website: www.andyspyra.com.