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Last Updated: Monday, 5 December 2005, 18:59 GMT
Croats build e-museum of daily life
By Nick Hawton
BBC News, Zagreb

Toni Petrovic rummaging through photos at the flea market
The online picture museum is a tribute to anonymous people's lives
"The world is overflowing with information about rich and famous people," Toni tells me as we walk around Zagreb's largest flea market.

"We wanted to do something to remember the anonymous people in this world. The people who really make the world go round.

This website is in honour of those people."

Toni is on the hunt for something specific at the flea market.

'Ordinary beauty'

He is looking for old black-and-white family photographs of anonymous people he has never met, whose images, for some reason, have been dumped in attics, markets, rubbish tips.

Their names and stories may be lost, but their memory can still be honoured by protecting the photos from further decay.

Two black-and-white pictures of soldiers
These two pictures of soldiers were found at a market
"It is so sad that these photos end up here. They are moments frozen in time. Pictures of people at work, at school, sat round the table, weddings, on holiday. Just everyday scenes that we all experience," Toni tells me.

Toni Petrovic, 31, a qualified occupational therapist and his wife, Tamara Raza, 33, are the husband and wife team who have set up skarabej.com, which is thought to be the world's first online photo museum of its kind.

They work together retrieving pictures from flea markets, people's attics or, more recently, from their own website, where people have submitted their own photographs.

At their flat in central Zagreb, the pictures are uploaded on to their site for all to see.

"We're trying to show a different interpretation of beauty. That means ordinary beauty, the everyday type of beauty," says Tamara, who is a qualified art historian.

Toni and Tamara in their flat in Zagreb holding some of their photos
Toni and Tamara receive photos from around the world
"The photographs show the beauty of those things that are passing through and not the plastic surgery type of beauty that lasts for ever."

"The beauty is in the subjects of the pictures but also in the pictures themselves. We prefer pictures that are not quite composed right, or have the wrong exposure or are scratched."

"My favourite photographs are from our gallery called 'At the table' because I like some of the faces and the moods expressed by the people in the pictures. I prefer spontaneous scenes," says Tamara.

Sharing memories

They now receive picture submissions from around the world, from as far apart as the United States and Kazakhstan.

"We think this is a really interesting project. It shows in today's world how many people are just simply unknown but they are the basis of society and they are the most important people," says Didier Moniotte, director of the French Institute in Zagreb.

Toni holding one photo at the flea market
Discarded photos are saved for posterity
The institute plans to sponsor an exhibition in the Croatian capital and also a nationwide tour.

"I am not surprised that such an imaginative idea has come out of Croatia," he adds.

"Artistic life here is so beautiful. People here are very imaginative. And soon the country may be in the European Union and this will be one of Croatia's contributions to the Union."

Back at the flea market, Toni has found some photographs that fit his criteria for the website.

There are pictures of a soldier smiling and saluting before the camera, a man walking a large dog down a suburban street and two young men sat in a children's playground. Most of the pictures are not more than 40 years old.

"We are not collectors in the ordinary sense of the word. We are inspired by things that people throw away. We want to create an archive of memories and share them with other people who are interested in the same. We want to recycle the past," says Toni.

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