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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 08:00 GMT
Kosovo portraits in focus
Lutfije Pllana and Luarda Pllana feature on the cover of the new book, No Place Like Home: Echoes From Kosovo
Lutfije Pllana and her four-year-old niece pose for their picture at the Neprosteno camp, Macedonia
Long before Kosovo began to make the headlines, British photojournalist Melanie Friend was gripped by the region.

Now, through 75 colour photographs and 50 accompanying personal testimonies, her book, No Place Like Home: Echoes From Kosovo, offers an insight into the human costs of war.

Speaking to BBC World Service's Everywoman programme, Friend explained how she challenges the conventions of photojournalism.

Unconventional

She has not followed the usual traditions of war photography.

"They are all quite formal, studio style portraits," she said.

Melanie Friend
Vlora and Fatjon both aged three - friends at the Nesprosteno camp, Macedonia
"I really felt that I wanted to give people the chance to be dignified, have some sort of autonomy, some sort of self possession rather than photograph people streaming across the border when they are crying at the real peak of their trauma."

Witness

In 1999, Nato sent warplanes to Yugoslavia to try to force Belgrade and its then leader, Slobodan Milosevic, to end the brutality that many of the Albanian population in the Serbian region of Kosovo had experienced.

During the conflict an estimated 640,000 people fled their homes to the relative safety of refugee camps in neighbouring Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.

Friend decided to go back to the region and chart the stories of some of the people caught up in the war.

Tensions were high and many spoke of the atrocities which will forever shape their view of the future.


I was shocked by the experience of sitting in sunny, immaculate living rooms listening to tales of extreme violence and terror

Melanie Friend
One Kosovar told her: "It's never too late to do good," but added that "death is closer than the shirt that you are wearing."

Homeland

The images in the book put people in context. They are often of homes, complete with personal belongings and photographs on the wall.

Such domestic settings provide stark contrasts with the tales of terror that are told in them.

Melanie Friend
The home of an Albanian woman abused by police
Friend explained: "I was very compelled by listening to people talking about their fear, sitting in ordinary living rooms where you couldn't see a trace of anything... By the time that I got there often there was nothing to see.

"I would hear the story sometimes by the family who were left and I was very shocked by the difference between what I would see and what I would hear."

She added: "I felt particularly moved by the fact that the home was not a place of security, it could be raided at any time by the state police."

Own words

Each image is accompanied by a personal testimony, with most of the interviewees from the "minorities" choosing to remain anonymous.

The accounts are transcribed verbatim as Friend was at pains to retain "the sense of whole... what is important is what the interviewees believe".

Later this year Friend plans to return to the region.

"Once the snows have melted" she explained, "I am going back with a suitcase of books and will take them to the people who are in the book.

"It should be interesting for them to see themselves."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Melanie Friend speaks to Everywoman
"In the summer of 1999 Nato sent warplanes to Yugoslavia"
See also:

28 Dec 01 | Europe
UN's Kosovo chief resigns
18 Dec 01 | Media reports
In pictures: Kosovo's devastated churches
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