The combination of luxury and decay is equally appealing and off-putting. Whether it's shabby-chic, faded Hollywood glamor, or the staunch-yet-penniless vibe of the heroines in Grey Gardens, it seems society has always had a complex, car-crash attitude towards people and places that have gone downhill. Mirna Pavlovic's photo series Dulcis Domus documents our uneasy relationship with the recent past through images of abandoned mansions, decaying villas, and disintegrating palaces of Europe, with the ghosts of former landlords silently echoing riches-to-rags tales we'll never know.
Dulcis Domus (Latin for “sweet home”) was included in Croatia's yearly festival of photography, Rovinj Photodays, and honored in Rovinj Photodays Finalists' Exhibition 2016, curated by Dunja Nekić and Iva Prosoli from the Zagreb City Museum. This week, it goes on display at the Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb along with the rest of the images featured in the finalists’ exhibition, which was first unveiled in May. (Pavlovic was awarded second place in the “architecture” category.)
All of the images in Dulcis Domus were shot with an aging digital Nikon through a wide-angle lens, with no special techniques or filters. "With such older equipment, it's mostly a game of figuring out the right settings, keeping it at a low ISO, and being patient," Pavlovic tells The Creators Project. "As for the lighting, it's just a case of always failing to get up early enough and arriving at the location in blazing noon sunlight. But that kind of light suits my style; it provides a more washed-out, less contrasty feel."
As an ongoing series, Dulcis Domus is a tasteful visual compendium of ramshackle ruin porn. The images feature large and luxurious residences that have fallen into disrepair, often with pastel shades set against the unexpected greenery of nature. The photos call attention to the tension between public and private space, and the untold narratives of wealth and domesticity lost to the degenerating rubble of history. Yet as long as she's been working with the subject, Pavlovic says she's never really considered the once-gorgeous buildings as sad or tragic. She concedes there's a certain kind of melancholy that surrounds the reasons why people may have abandoned them, but argues that "the architecture of these places changes and conforms to the passage of time, producing something that is not man-made nor natural."
As Pavlovic explains further, "The aesthetics shift, and we as viewers are equally as confused—should we be repulsed to see how a beautiful building has gone to disrepair, or should we be fascinated by the way the paint peels and the roots grow through the walls? It’s a fascinating, and very difficult thing for the mind to resolve."
Rovinj Photodays 2016 is on view through November 13 at the Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb.