Immediately after the earthquake in Zagreb, a few moments taken to regain one’s composure, Cropix photojournalists went out in the streets to capture the images of the injured city. With an unmistakable instinct for news photography, they captured Zagreb with a human face, the fear on the faces of citizens from everything that happened to them, the disbelief, concern as to what was to follow. They recorded the scenes on the streets which were littered with thousands of bricks in just a few seconds. They froze the moment which all of us who had experienced the earthquake will remember. The coming generations, however, will remember the earthquake thanks to, among other things, the photographs before you.

Besides the first reaction, our authors proceeded to capture the following days on camera as well, images of a city slowly recovering, trying to move forward. And even the first signs of optimism.

We have divided the exhibition into six chapters. The chapter entitled “Shock” recorded the first, direct, spontaneous reactions, citizens on park benches, many of them covered by blankets on that chilly spring day, their small children, pets, just as frightened as they were. The chapter “Thank You” is dedicated to those who helped, without self-concern. We remember Croatian Army staff cleaning the city streets. We remember the Bad Blue Boys, who organized themselves and helped new mothers at the Petrova Street hospital. We remember the alpinists, climbers, high-rise workers, climbing the roofs to remove chimneys, tiles, gutter pipes and other roof parts dislodged by the earthquake, threatening to fall. It is no exaggeration to say that they saved lives in doing so. In the chapter called “Shards” we deal with the shards in the city, surreal scenes of the parts of many brick buildings that ended up on the road. Those photos are virtually apocalyptic, usually without a human figure. The car chassis could barely be seen under bricks or large facade pieces. Those photos quietly ask what would have happened if the earthquake, which took away one young human life, hadn’t shaken Zagreb in such early morning hours, when there was practically no one in the streets, but later.

The chapter “Heritage” presents Cropix photos that have captured damaged museums, galleries, churches, cultural monuments. Many museums and galleries were affected, but, luckily, none of the pieces important for Croatian art history were lost forever. Our authors captured, among other things, the marble statue of a young man that collapsed on the floor at the Antiquity Collection department of the Archaeological Museum, mannequins in folk costumes fallen out of their display cases in the Ethnographic Museum, the Mirogoj Cemetery Arcades, architect Herman Bollé’s masterpiece… “The Cathedral”, on the other hand, is a separate chapter. A chapter which was the most difficult to choose for, as there were so many great photographs. This especially goes for the moment when the north tower was taken down. We would have loved to show all the photos, but we believe this selection, too, provides a wide enough span that speaks of the interests of Cropix photographers and their capacity to see the subject differently, from a new angle.

The final chapter is “Chin Up.”, named after a graffiti piece by a street artist, located above Zagreb’s main square, telling the story of optimism through photography. One of the frequently shared symbols on social networks in those days, and at the same time the symbol of the exhibition, is a woolen heart, knitted by designer Ivona Martinčić on the cracked yellow facade of a school in Zagreb. She made it before the earthquake, and after it happened, this red heart gained a completely new context.

We would also like to thank our photographers. They are Ronald Goršić, Bruno Konjević, Boris Kovačev, Damir Krajač, Tomislav Krišto, Neja Markičević, Goran Mehkek, Ivana Nobilo, Davor Pongračić, Željko Puhovski, Ranko Šuvar, Damjan Tadić, Marko Todorov, Darko Tomaš and Srđan Vrančić. In addition, thank you to our sponsors, designers and all those participating in the exhibition.

Patricia Kiš

© Ranko Šuvar