TED Talk: Photographer Documents Everyday Objects Exhumed from Mass Graves in Bosnia

Watches, glasses and combs… these are the kinds of everyday objects that photographer Ziyah Gafić has spent a great deal of time photographing over the past few years. They’re objects that are seemingly mundane and unimportant, but in fact tell a tragic story that Gafić’s work seeks to reveal and preserve.

As he explains in the powerful TED talk above, these items were exhumed from a number of the mass graves — some of the largest to ever have been discovered — decades after the Bosnian War took place.

And in the four and a half minute video above, the Sarajevo native takes us through a winding journey of history and tragedy as he explains why he’s made an effort to photograph and catalogue every item found in these mass graves. For Gafić, it’s about creating a ‘living archive’ of the personalities and identities of those who perished during the three year armed conflict, and were never afforded a proper burial.


It’s certainly not a happy TED talk, or even perhaps an inspirational one in the traditional sense, but it’s a poignant reminder of the story contained within even the simplest of objects, and how a photographer might tell that story through his work.

Check out the talk at the top to hear these stories for yourself, and if you’d like keep up with or learn more about Gafić, head over to his website by clicking here.

  • Elleb

    Thank you for sharing this story. I am an [American] photographer – my fiancé is from Sarajevo, Bosnia and came moved to St. Louis in 1997 after the war. There are 70,000+ Bosnians currently living in the city of St. Louis and surrounding areas. I am so glad that someone felt this was important enough to post on PP. I follow PP daily and was pleasantly surprised to see the article/video. I feel it’s important to continue to educate the world on the atrocities that took place there so that we can learn from them. Thank you again. Below is a favorite photo I took in Sarajevo in 2013.