With his camera, he has recorded both the ugliest and the most beautiful sides of Belgrade. With his many photographs, he has illustrated the natural splendor of Serbia and his images have won a myriad of awards and have decorated the front pages of the magazines “Life” and “Time”. For his interview with 011info, our renown photographer Dragoljub Zamurovic remembers his roots, his childhood near Tasmajdan and tells us about his adventures in the air which could’ve cost him his life on multiple occasions. 

You have a very interesting origin and family history.

I have always been interested in my family roots and origins. That's why I did a DNA test, which showed that the first Zamurovic was a man named Georgije Zamur, who came from Greece in 1692 and settled in today's Idjos, near Kikinda. Over time, the surname Zamur received the suffix -ovic and became Zamurovic.

In the 19th century, Svetozar Zamurovic, my great-grandfather, a wheelwright by trade, came to Belgrade and got a job as the court wheelwright. He got an apartment at 7 Dvorska street, which is today's Dragoslav Jovanovica street, right across the street from the former court.

My father told me an interesting anecdote about Svetozar's great-grandfather. Namely, one day he was given the task of "driving" the Austrian adjutant around Belgrade. While they were passing by his house, an unknown object flew out of nowhere and, to the general astonishment of everyone present, cut off the adjutant's earlobe. When Svetozar took a closer look at the object, he realized that it was a part used for shoeing and that it flew off the hooves of harnessed horses. It was immediately clear to him that it was his son Aksentije who had hit the adjutant in the ear with the slingshot, but he kept his mouth shut.

After returning from work, he wanted to "beat the living daylight out of him". The mother, originally from Banat, hid Aksentije so well that his father could not find him for three days. When the anger subsided, Svetozar just wanted to see his son alive and well. His wife led him to the chest, where young Aksentije was hiding under the sheets. (laughter)

So Aksentije barely made it out of that with his life. What happened to him after? 

He became a famous confectioner. He had his own confectionery store in Terazije where many other confectioners learned their trade. For example, his apprentice's apprentices later opened the pastry shops "Petkovic" in Ilije Garasanina, "Zlata" in Kralja Milans and "DJ" in Svetozara Markovica streets.

Later, he traveled to America to earn some money. As soon as WWI broke out, he returned as a volunteer. He was among those who crossed Albania and ended up on the Thessaloniki front. After the end of the war, because he was a volunteer, the state gave him a piece of land, so he got three hectares near Skopje and that's how the family moved to Macedonia.

Dragoljub Zamurović


Still, he couldn’t stay in one place?

True, Aksentije returned to America, leaving his wife alone with three sons. Not long after, WWII broke out. One day, the Bulgarians broke into the Zamurovic house and started looting as the family watched helpless. In all that chaos, the enemy commander came across a picture of his mother's father. When he saw that Branko Bulgarski was written on the back, he exclaimed: "This is a Bulgarian house! Out, soldiers!"

The next day my ancestors left Macedonia and settled in Nis. I was born there and spent 8 wonderful years there. While we lived there, I loved collecting insects. During the day, I would do it in a meadow near the city, and at night at a nearby transformer, where various different kinds of insects lived.

And then you came to Belgrade.

Since we didn't have the money to buy an apartment, we exchanged a comfortable two-bedroom apartment in Nis for an 18-square-meter studio apartment in Belgrade. At first we all lived in Dalmatinska street. Later, with an additional payment, we moved to a larger apartment, of 33m2, in Vladetina street. In the end, we settled in Resavska, where we still live today, in an apartment that the neighbors call "Tudjman's apartment". Because, you know, Tudjman supposedly lived there. (laughter)

How did you spend your days back in school?

I loved nothing more than playing with my friends. If I went out in the morning, I wouldn't come back until the evening. They couldn't get me to stay at home. I was often scolded by my 13 years older brother, who was like a second father to me. He would ground me and I was not allowed to leave the yard for a week. However, as early as the next day, I would disobey the ban and escape. Then a "punishment" of being grounded for one month would follow and so on indefinitely. (laughter)

Dragoljub Zamurović fotograf


Where did you play back then? 

Since we didn't move far, I continued to hang out with my friends from Dalmatinska street. We loved going to Stanoja Glavasa street, because it was the only building in the area with an elevator. We kept going up and down. That was our main occupation then.

In addition, the small Tasmajdan was our go-to playground. Even when I went to the "Starine Novaka" elementary school, which was then located in building V of the Belgrade high school, I always crossed through Tas. The same was the case when I started training gymnastics at DIF.

Admittedly, I also liked to wander. I enjoyed visiting Postarevo, which was located on the site of today's Pionir Hall. That meadow was full of lizards. We played football in the yard of the "Starina Novak" school, on the corner of Dalmatinska and Starine Novaka streets, but first we had to jump over the fence. Afterwards, the guard would chase us and we would run away.

When we wanted adventure, we would go down the very steep and long street next to the Youth Stadium. It was an unforgettable experience. We also "broke into" the mentioned stadium to play football. Of course, we would jump the fence first. They also chased us, but with guard dogs.

Did you ever get caught?

Once we were found by some people. In a panic, we started to run away. They stopped us, telling us to continue playing as much as we liked. It turned out that they were coaches, who were "scouting" us in order to put together the pioneering team of OFK. They chose a few of us for the team too. One of them was Jovan Kule Acimovic. They assigned me the position of goalkeeper.

However, football as a sport was not for me. Team sports were simply not my thing. At the same time, I was too short to remain the goalkeeper and I couldn't touch the crossbar at all. (laughter)

But you found your place in gymnastics instead.

It's an interesting story. Namely, we played cops and robbers in the passage between two buildings. The role of the bandit was always reserved for me, because I never liked to chase others. So once they caught me and tied me to a tree with a wire. But somehow I managed to get out and run away.

As I ran towards the street, I saw my friend Kule and three ‘cops’ coming towards me. Not wanting to get caught again, I ran towards the steps, which were above street level, and jumped. I jumped over them and did a flying reel on the concrete.

One of my friends’ dads happened to spot me - Mr. Ljubisa Nikolic, who later became a professor at the Faculty of Medicine. He told me to visit DIF and apply for gymnastics. I listened to him and went to DIF. Later, I moved to Lazarac, where gymnastics was trained much more seriously. Moreover, Miroslav Cerar, the Olympic champion, also trained there while he was serving his military service in Belgrade. All in all, I trained in that sport for 17 years.

Dragoljub Zamurović slikar


When and how was your love for photography born? 

Ever since I can remember I have loved to draw and paint. I got to know photography for the first time when I was 12-13 years old, through the magazine "Life", in which I found a reproduction of a painting by Rubens. Finding a quality reproduction at that time was a real rarity. They were either black and white or they were in color, but poor quality. After recovering from my amazement, I bought a few more editions at a nearby antique store to redraw other reproductions. There weren't any, but there were some great photos and I was amazed by them.

Until then, I thought that painting was the only real art. To me, the white canvas was for expressing oneself, and in my mind photography served only to show what was already there. However, "Life" changed my mind and got me interested in photography. That interest was further enhanced when a neighbor gave me editions of the "National Geographic" magazine.

When I would look through those magazines, I would choose photos that I liked, and think about why they were the way they were and what I would change about them to make them better. Therefore, I was never guided by the thought of making a similar photo, but I always thought about how it could be done better and differently. I started to build my own photographic view of the world.

Did your parents support you in that? 

They did not interfere. They were extremely liberal with me. In fact, they spent all their strict parenting on my older brother. He wanted to study law and political science, and they pushed him to study engineering. When they saw that they had "failed" with him, they gave me a "free pass". They completely set me loose! (laughter)

The only thing they thought was that you can't make a living from art, that it's a hobby that you do in your free time. They told me to do as Laza Kostic and Jovan Zmaj, who graduated from "serious" universities and then did all the art they wanted. On top of that, when I was painting, I would often be in a trance, so I wouldn't even notice if I ran into something and hit myself somewhere. All of this made me think that the Academy might not be for me.

So you never enrolled in the Academy?

None other than our famous painter and critic, Pavle Vasic, "helped" me with my choice of studies. He was a professor at the Academy and lived across the street from us. In search of advice, I visited him at my father's behest. On that occasion, I also brought my drawings for him to evaluate.

When he looked at them, Pavle Vasic told me that I certainly had talent, but not to make the same "mistake" as he did. He said that he graduated from the Academy, but he doesn't paint, because you can't make a living from art, and to feed his family he has to write reviews and teach.

I was completely defeated. Finally, I was struck by the knowledge that my classmate who was his son, Ceda Vasic, had enrolled in the Academy. It made me think I wasn't good enough. That's why I enrolled in architecture.

When I graduated from the Faculty of Architecture, I brought the diploma home and handed it to my father. On that occasion, he "opened his soul" to me. He said that he had asked Pavle Vasic to answer me that way about enrolling at the Academy. (laughter)

Dragoljub Zamurović Gamma


Were you understanding of Mr. Vasic’s choice?

Much later, I met the art historian Stanislav Stasa Zivkovic, who was first the director of the Cultural Center Gallery and then the SANU Gallery. He gave me his book "Life of Paintings", which was about his encounters with painters. Among other things it featured a story about Pavlo Vasic.

Namely, in 1929 he won a great award for his artwork and in the following years he painted every day, preparing to exhibit his paintings in the Cvijeta Zuzoric pavilion. In 1935, the time finally came. He rented the space for what was then a crazy price of 500 dinars. Before the exhibition itself, he went to Professor Radojica - Noa Zivanovic to show him his paintings. He told him that he is a great painter, but that his works are "garbage" and that only socialist art succeeds.

That message killed his enthusiasm and forced him to stop painting impressionist paintings. So he suffered the same fate as me.

What was your first camera? 

It was Shift 8, which I had bought from the fees I earned as an assistant gymnastics coach. When I started doing photography, I never snapped any photos of my friends and relatives but rather I loved to experiment. That's why I still see myself as a painter with a camera. I use a camera instead of a brush. 

When did photography become your main preoccupation?

It was sometime during my studies, when I stopped painting completely, even though I was declared the best painter at the university and despite winning the October Award. That's when I started traveling. From the moment I read the first book in my life, "In Desert and Wilderness" by Henryk Sienkiewicz, which I had gotten for my eighth birthday, I have had an incredible desire to travel.

Anyway, one summer I traveled to Africa in my father's "Ami 8". I had a borrowed "Flexaret" camera and brought two rolls of film with me. I traveled through Italy. I reached Tunisia by ferry, and visited Algeria and Morocco. In Morocco, I headed to the Atlas Mountains, whose peak was covered in snow in the middle of August.

On the way there, I took a picture of an old and distinguished member of the Berber ethnic group. I sent his picture to the contest "ORWO" in East Germany. And won an award. It was the first award I received for photography. It dawned on me that there might be something to that photo.

Basically, afterwards I borrowed money from my godfather for a Nikon camera and a macro lens. I used it to record details, showing them in an abstract way.

Dragoljub Zamurović Ilustrovana politika


In the end, you did end up going to school for photography, didn’t you?

That's right. Not long after, an invitation for postgraduate studies at the Faculty of Applied Arts, photography studies, appeared in Politika. The requirement was to have completed the Faculty of Fine Arts, the Faculty of Applied Arts or the Faculty of Architecture with a high average. I applied and was accepted by Professor Dragoljub Kazic.

Otherwise, I didn't learn much there. I "picked up" a handful of knowledge about photography from great photo magazines that I was subscribed to. The only thing I gained from my postgraduate studies was the self-confidence that the professor instilled in me. It meant so much to me then that I went from being an insecure and timid young man to being confident and convinced that I was on the right path.

Have you ever dreamed of winning any awards as a photographer?

I had two dreams. When I was 5 years old, the "Strip zabavnik" began to be published, which contained the comics "Buffalo Bill", "Tarzan" and "Mickey Mouse". In addition, there was a column called "Great artists", which dealt with painters and sculptors. I was so obsessed with the "Strip zabavnik" that I started dreaming about what the cover of the next issue would be like.

That dream changed when I read Life magazine for the first time. From then on, I dreamed of opening that magazine and finding a reproduction of my pictures and bragging about it to my parents. I had that dream at least once a month until 1991, when my friend Aki's father brought me a copy of "Life" magazine from America.

I didn't read it right away, but waited until the evening to relax and enjoy it. When I opened it, I saw my own photo from Macedonia. I lost my mind. I invited my wife Dobrila and children to share the joy with them.

I think that was my greatest professional success. To tell the truth, later my photo graced the cover of "Life" magazine, but that was not it. My dream was already largely fulfilled.

Is it important to dream big in your line of work?

It is very important. Whenever I get a photography assignment, I usually dream before dawn about what I intend to photograph and then I draw it. And when I go out on the field, I look for the scene I drew. Once I find it, there is no happier man than I.

Dragoljub Zamurović demonstracije


What sets your style apart from other photographers’?

If I'm on assignment and I find myself in the presence of other photographers, I try to "get away" from them. My goal is not to "snap" the exact same image, but to look for my own angle. I held onto that from my childhood. As a child, I loved to play on the apple tree next to the house in Nis or on the huge acacia tree, among whose branches I used to draw. When I got involved with the camera, it turned into taking pictures on the roofs.

Is it difficult to take good pictures of the city you grew up in?

And how. The most difficult thing in the world is to photograph the city you live in and love. For example, when we took photos for the monograph "Gypsies of the World" in India, I had an interesting shot wherever I pointed the camera. Because everything was new to me.

However, when it comes to Belgrade, the city where I have lived since I was 8 years old, it is not easy to find interesting places. That's why I started to work on myself mentally, to start looking at the capital through the eyes of a foreigner. It allowed me to see some seemingly hidden places in the city.

One of them was a building in Terazije, which I discovered while looking around the rooftops. Since the buildings are roughly the same height and connected, I started from Kolarceva street and reached Nikola Pasic Square, Decanska street and the tunnel.

That's how I found Terazije 13 and the adjoining yard. From the top of the building, I saw that someone had thrown various colors on it for reasons unknown to me. This is where employees gathered during breaks. And I just had to photograph it. That colorful place studded with people was a real revelation for me. Simply, photographing from rooftops "opens your eyes". For example, when you go up to the Yugoslavian Drama Theater, you have a clear view of the surrounding streets. You can see a lot from such places.

You’ve won many awards throughout your career. One of them is the Nikon award. 

And that happened completely by accident. I was doing a photo-report about the Koversada nudist camp. I have always liked to work a little differently than others. It was the same this time. I took a plastic laundry basket and drilled a rectangular hole in it. I put the glass in and sealed it with silicone to keep water out. I placed a camera with a wide lens inside and lowered it halfway into the water. In this way, the camera took pictures half above and half under the water.

Seven Dutch ladies and one German lady assisted me for the filming. Their task was to jump into the water. I put a flash on the seabed for illumination. The photos turned out great. At the request of Slobodan Vukadinovic, Nikon's representative at the time, I sent him several shots and thus, through no fault of my own, won the Nikon award. (laughter)

Dragoljub Zamurović ratni fotograf


Then why did you align with Canon cameras? 

There is a very interesting story behind it. Namely, I was on assignment during the conflict in Bosnia. On one occasion, a soldier approached me and offered me a camera for sale. After I turned him down, he returned with the latest Canon EOS 1, with a 20-35mm f/2.8 lens. As Nikon did not have such a camera at the time, I asked him how much he priced it. He asked for 200 marks, but I only had 100. However, a colleague from "Time" magazine stepped in and lent me 100 dollars. And so I switched to Canon, and I sold the Nikon in Vienna. (laughter)

You’ve worked for many years with the French agency Gamma. What was that like?

More precisely, for 25 years. I cooperated with them because they had better conditions than the Associated Press or Reuters. For example, I didn't sell my photos, I lent them. And whenever they sold a photo, I got half. Other agencies paid only once.

I was on various assignments: from going to war sites to monitoring demonstrations. We had a great cooperation until Gamma was taken over by another company. From then on, I stopped getting paid. At first I thought my photos were no longer for sale. However, thanks to the internet and Google, I found that my photos were being published.

When I contacted them about it, they feigned ignorance. Therefore, I terminated my cooperation with them and demanded back all my slides and negatives. They sent me back two crates, which contained almost all my material. Actually, more than that. Namely, while I discarded the excess material, they kept it, noting the date, place and topic.

Then it dawned on me to share those photos, via Facebook, with the world, with the appropriate story behind them. I used to think that a picture says a thousand words, but I've come to see that certain things need to be given a certain context. And that's how my Facebook posts called "I remember" came to be.

Is there a story from a shoot you especially remember? 

I shared one such story with my followers just recently. It was the exchange of prisoners between Serbia and Croatia in August 1991. On the Serbian side, there were about 20 buses full of Croatian prisoners, guarded by Russian forces.

My idea was to get into one of the buses and take pictures of the prisoners with a super wide lens so that I could capture the outside scene as well. When I entered, a Serbian soldier stood in my way and held out his fist, so I only managed to shoot through them once.

I continued to try, but in vain. Then I came across a Russian soldier, who was originally from Kazanje, the place I wrote the book about. Thanks to that, I became close to him, and he "smuggled" me inside.

Because I was in a creative rapture, I didn't notice that the bus was leaving for Croatia. I was immediately in a panic, so I decided to pretend to be a foreign journalist. When we stopped, I got out and shouted to everyone, "Hi! Hello!" (laughter)

And how did you make it back home?

That was quite the predicament. I noticed that everyone was going to the big Red Cross tent, so I put on a big yellow Nikon jacket from the Sarajevo Olympics, hiding my cameras under it. I got in line and eventually got to the tent and then onto a bus.

Dragoljub Zamurović Time


You're known for your photos of protests and demonstrations. Did you ever get in any bad situations while shooting?

Not as of late. Now I just have problems when I post photos. There is always someone who claims that these are not pictures of Belgrade, but of, say, Prague, although the telltale signs of our capital are clearly visible. I really don't know where they got that from.

It was a completely different story in the 90s, when protests and demonstrations against Slobodan Milosevic were held. In those years, photojournalists were persecuted, because they showed the truth. Those who did evil did not want the truth to come out, so journalists and photo-reporters were a thorn in their side.

You weren’t able to do your job in peace.

By no means. To this day, I remember the year 2000 and the Victory Day celebration in Pozarevac, where the above-mentioned president and his entourage had organized a rally. As a photojournalist, I took a pass from their headquarters and headed there to report. When I arrived in Pozarevac, my first impression was that there had been a weak response. There were a lot of police, some in uniform, some in civilian clothes, whose cordon divided the protest from the other side.

The photojournalist's grandmother decided to photograph the protest against the government, while I was more interested in the "handful" of people. As soon as I started taking photos, the police approached me, took me away and put me in the police station. So, they took me and my colleague Imre Saba, who at the time worked for Stern, and Zoran Jovanovic Macko from Novosti.

Luckily, I had my cell phone with me. I immediately informed Dobrila's wife, and she quickly informed the opposition media at the time, Studio B and B92, which immediately announced our arrest. Even before we arrived at the police station, a little outside the city, everyone was up to date with what was happening. They took away our films under the pretext of technical control. When I said they didn't have the equipment to develop them, they said not to worry.

Were you detained? 

No, they let me go. With 20 rolls of film left, I caught a cab and headed back to the venue. I didn't even get to snap one picture, and I was already ‘busted’ for the second time. The same procedure followed, with the exception that they now took away my mobile phone. Upon arrival at the station, all my films were taken from me. I waved the pass issued by the ruling party, but they again referred to the technical control.

Not knowing what else to do, I took a taxi again and returned to the scene, and I borrowed a roll of film from a colleague in order to have some kind of photo from the assignment. Can you guess what happened next? If you thought that I was taken into custody, you are not mistaken. (laughs) However, now they confiscated literally everything: both film and cameras. They gave me a receipt saying that I could pick up the equipment that evening after 10pm.

Since I had nothing else left to do, I scurried around the city, killing time. In the evening, I met with colleagues and journalists in a tavern, where the chief of police also happened to be. I asked him why I suffered the ordeal, he replied that it was because I did not have permission to film. When I showed it to him in black and white, he talked about how life is not a utopia and that I should continue to Belgrade so that I would not be arrested for the fourth time.

However, it was nothing compared to the demonstrations against the extradition of Slobodan Milosevic. It was then, through absolutely no fault of my own, that I suffered the worst and most seriously.

Dragoljub Zamurović Slobodan Milošević


What happened?

I was on my way back from shooting in Kalemegdan. In the Republic Square, I happened to pass by two protesters who intercepted me and asked who I worked for. When I told them that I was working for myself, angry people tackled me and knocked me to the ground.

At that moment, the only thing on my mind was to save the cameras. Thanks to the flexibility gained from gymnastics, I somehow managed to wriggle out and run. Alas, the angry mob noticed me and knocked me down again. And so it happened three times. On those occasions, I broke my flash and fractured my elbow.

How did you get away from that situation?

Actually, I'm not sure. A few years later, I was approached by an unknown person, who turned out to be a fellow JUL photographer, who claimed to have saved me from that mob that wanted to lynch me. Honestly, the only thing that crossed my mind at the time was the news about a man beaten to death in Romania. In addition, I had my share of blows with a baton a couple of times.

Is it even possible to have positive experiences under those circumstances?

It can happen, certainly. For example, during the famous demonstrations on March 9th, 1991. Several of us photo-reporters stood on the planter in front of the Cultural Center for a better view. The situation was extremely calm until the tear gas was fired and the vehicles were hit with water cannons. They had basically attacked the cheering crowd out of nowhere.

Well, they started driving people away with their water cannon. The jet started to reach us, so my colleagues jumped. I was wearing a waterproof jacket and continued to take pictures. When the jet reached me, it suddenly stopped, jumped over me, and continued on. Whether the person inside the vehicle had any sympathy for me, we will never know. Anyway, I am very grateful to them. (laughter)

You are also famous for your aerial photographs. How did you get into that? 

During my internship at “Ilustrovana Politika” magazine. Namely, in 1979-80. there were some floods and it was necessary to do a photo-reportage from a helicopter. And that's how I got "hooked" on aerial photography, either from a helicopter or an agricultural plane.

After “Ilustrovana Politika", I did the above-mentioned photo-reportage about the Koversada nudist camp near Vrsar. There I met a certain Rajko, a pilot who flew an Antonov AN-2 biplane. In agreement with him, I stuck the cameras sideways and asked again those Dutch and German women to pose naked for me at the door from the plane. Rajko flew low and to the side, so that the camera also covered the nudist camp, and I took pictures remotely from the cabin. It was a very interesting experience.

When did you graduate to motor kites? 

I heard about the motor kite after I shot from a helicopter for the purposes of the photo-monograph "Serbia, life and customs". They did not need any permits and could take off from any field or meadow. It sounded to me like it was made for me, so I established contact with Banet Miljkovic, the first Belgrade kiter. I started flying around Vojvodina with them and was delighted. A motor kite was far more practical and cheaper than a helicopter.

When I was preparing the photo-monograph "Vojvodina", I met Goran Mandic, a former MIG military pilot. I spent over 300 hours with him in the air over Vojvodina. We were both on the same wavelength. He knew exactly what I was interested in and what I wasn't. His only flaw was chasing rabbits. Whenever he saw them, he would suddenly drop to a meter high and chase them as they jumped out of the meadow. I was afraid that one would get stuck in the propeller, because that would mean that we would "suffocate". (laughs) My last flight was canceled because I was over-the-top and really beat myself up.

Dragoljub Zamurović motorni zmaj


Did you continue to fly motor kites?

No, I soon switched to balloons, which I saw on the commercial. It was far more convenient to shoot and operate. It's like a vacuum inside, there is no movement. I asked around and they recommended the so-called Sky Hopper or "cloud jumper", which was smaller and had a seat instead of a basket.

And I bought that balloon, made in Spain. However, in order to operate it, I had to have a license, so I took 6 months of training. After half a year, I passed. On the very same day I wanted to try my luck in a balloon in the area above Borca. I invited instructor Sasa Dobrosavljevic, several journalists and my colleague Imre to accompany me in a larger balloon.

But before take off, my spark thrower, like the ones you have on gas stoves, failed. I complained to the instructor, and he assured me that I didn't even need it. Therefore, for the sake of safety, I only intended to fly up to 100 m. I felt that even if the flames were extinguished, I would almost certainly go down.

We were in radio communication the whole time, with the fact that I could only receive messages. At his suggestion, we raised it to an incredible 1000 m.

And then everything went wrong. I noticed that the segments from the poplar were going up, which in translation means that you are falling. I looked up and had something to see. The flame had gone out. The first thing I thought was that I would end up in the same place as my friend and paratrooper, Dragan Jakovljevic, 15 years earlier.

How did you handle it?

Like a drowning man grasping onto straws. I waved my arms and legs, trying to signal to the people in the other balloon that I was falling. My wife Dobrila, who was on the ground, noticed it, but our friend Bogdan Ibrajter from Politika assured her she was just imagining it. When nothing else worked, all I could do was look down for a soft place to land and maybe not end up dead. 

But then it occurred to me that I had a cellphone. I called my instructor right away, but couldn’t reach him. Then I dialed Imre and he picked up. He put the instructor on the line and he advised me to push a button. I did it, and the flame came back on! 

You were saved.

Exactly. To tell you the truth, I have never felt such fear before, and I had spent time on the battlefield. I had almost resigned myself to the fact that I was going to die. But, yes, I was saved. Almost. Because it didn't end there.

Thinking I had landed, the instructor told me to open the "chute" to let the remaining warm air escape. However, since I was 10 m from the ground, when I pulled the lever, I suddenly tumbled into the ground. But, all things considered, I did well. (laughter)

Finally, when he examined the balloon, the instructor informed me that it was a factory error that caused my balloon to "go off".

Dragoljub Zamurović slike iz vazduha


Did you have that kind of trouble again? 

Yes, the downside with such balloons is that they depend on the wind. Literally, as the wind blows, so they move. Elem, above Morava, a rare phenomenon happened to me, and that is that the wind stopped. I tried to get up and down, but there was no breath of wind. On the other hand, I also ran out of gas. And so I was in a bind.

Fortunately, a boatman came by, to whom I lowered a rope to drag me to the shore. It made me put my finger on my forehead and think about how to prevent this from happening in the future.

Did you figure something out? 

I did. It dawned on me to put a paraglider motor in the back. I searched all over the internet to see if anyone had thought of this, but I didn’t find anything. I ordered the motor anyway and strapped it to the bottle. And then it was time for rehearsal.

I contacted my instructor Sasa Dobrosavljevic and asked him to, as a former MIG test pilot, now be the test pilot of my "contraption". The goal was to get up and down in the same place. This was impossible with an ordinary balloon.

Basically, he soared into the sky, stayed up for half an hour, and during that time the wind blew him well away from the starting point. When it was time to descend, he returned to the same place from which he had taken off. I quickly informed everyone about it.

When aviation celebrated an anniversary, I was invited as an inventor, while the aircraft itself was on display. (laughter)

So in addition to being a photographer, you’re also an innovator? 

Yes, but that invention was not without flaws. Its main drawback is that it could not function in strong winds. I experienced this firsthand, when I was above the Danube. On that occasion, my colleagues followed me with a motor kite and a paraglider and took pictures so that we could have photos with the new aircraft.

A strong wind just came out of nowhere. I hit the gas, but it was a mistake as the balloon burned as a result. I ran out of four squares of balloons. That was a sign that the devil had played a joke and I slowly descended to the right side of the Danube, which was forbidden at that moment due to a military exercise. But, in the end, everything ended well.

Did you have any more mishaps in the air?

Oh yes, plenty. One year, an Italian television came to record a feature about me. As if to spite us, that very day Dmitry Medvedev was on an official visit to Belgrade and the flight ban was in effect. I informed them about it, but they were persistent and insisted that I fly, at least a few meters above the ground.

For the sake of taking pictures, they tied my balloon with a rope to a tree in Usce, and I rose ten meters into the air. Not long after, the rope came untied due to strong gusts of wind, which carried me towards the Sava and Belgrade.

Considering that I was not allowed to land anywhere in the city, my plan was to fly over the capital. I was moving towards the Crvena Zvezda stadium, but again the exceptional wind thwarted my intention to land there.

When I flew over Belgrade, I saw a meadow. But, alas, just then someone was burning grass on it. I didn't have the guts to land there, because one inch further and everything would go to hell.

I hit the gas and ran into the Danube. Since it was very wide in that section, I wasn't sure if I would have enough gas to get over it. Therefore, I had to go down to the narrow sandy beach. At about 10 meters I opened the parachute. The engine was damaged, and I was really roughed up. (laughter)

Dragoljub Zamurović Moj Beograd


Did you try any less dangerous ways of photographing from the air?

I did. Holding it on a string, I used a helium balloon to hang the camera on. It turned out to be impractical when there is a strong wind because it knocks the balloon down. For the purposes of photographing Novi Sad, I released it from the catamaran, but again the wind did its thing. He knocked it down so hard that the antennas on the roofs almost pierced it.

The so-called proved to be the best solution. "balloon-kite". It is a helium balloon in the shape of a kite. Thanks to its shape, the wind couldn't do anything to it. The stronger he is, the higher he soars among the clouds.

Did you ever try using drones?

I did, I photographed with a drone, but they also suffer from the usual problems. You can fly a drone a kilometer in diameter. On the other hand, a kite can travel over 150 kilometers, and with it you can discover some hidden places, which is always my goal. A drone is great for promotional purposes. If you want to shoot something from the air for your company, it is ideal for you.

I've had a lot of accidents with drones. I dropped a few of them. One winter, my drone ended up in the Danube. Luckily close to the shore, but I still had to take off my clothes and get in the water. It often happened that I messed up the commands, so instead of returning it, I sent it even further.

All in all, I don't enjoy flying and taking pictures with a drone. I'd rather use a kite.

What is your view of photography today?

I think photographers have lost a lot with the advent of digital photography. Because now everyone has a camera or a smartphone, so the competition is huge. This resulted in a decrease in the price of photography. Today, duplicates and covers are paid for a measly 5 euros, in contrast to the former several thousand marks. On the other hand, photography has gained a lot. Now, a large number of people are engaged in photography, who previously did not have the opportunity to do so.

In my opinion, what is wrong with digital photography is the ability to change it. When you click with an analog camera, that's it. No turning back. Here, however, you can do anything. For example, I was looking through a book about Serbia, where the author edited griffon vultures from Uvac into a picture of Fruska Gora. That bird is not there. So, it's not a photograph, but a photo-montage.

Dragoljub Zamurović National Geographic


Do some photographers edit their images too much?

Yes. One rather famous photographer got into trouble because of it. It was Steve McCurry, who spent a year in former Yugoslavia and was a guest in our house. Namely, when digital photography appeared, he was attracted by the possibility of "repairing" a photograph. For example, he was removing unwanted objects from an otherwise very beautiful image.

When his colleagues noticed this, they began to attack him that it was no longer a documentary photo. He defended himself by saying that it was an illustration, but as such I do not believe that it is worthy of National Geographic, for which he worked.

What are your plans going forward? 

For years I have been preparing texts related to the photographs I received back from Gamma. At the urging of my followers on social networks, I plan to create a collection called "I remember". The texts are almost finished, and the photos have been extensively scanned. It was a huge job. The photo has almost 1000, which should be reduced to 300. The texts, which contain over a million letters, have been sent for proofreading.

An exhibition of works of that material is currently being prepared in Kovino. Milan Zivkovic, who renovated the gallery in that neighborhood, will make five digital copies of that book. I sincerely hope that I will find a printing house that will want to print a paper edition.