long-term project

A project exploring the life of the Salihovic, of the family’s five children only Mila (real name Samila), she wants to educate and change her future.

As collectors of discarded goods for over 20 years, the members of the Salihovic family are often seen as outcasts in their hometown of Bijeljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina. But this family of seven approaches their daily routine like any other family: they wake up early, plan their day, and organize themselves in preparation to perform their usual tasks. Throughout their day they meet many acquaintances who give them products, unwanted gifts and things to sell. Ahmo collects copper, iron, aluminum, and plastic, while his wife Melvida collects kitchen supplies, clothing, and other household items. Twice a week, Melvida goes to the market to sell the items she’s collected. The winter, being the time of the year when selling goods at the open market is not an option, is the hardest. Thus, saving copper to sell during the winter period is a survival technique they have mastered. Over the course of a week, they might earn around 100 euros. In a month, together they can earn one average salary. The municipality of Bijeljina provides assistance to help the family cover their expenses and, sometimes, they receive food aid. The Salihović family is a modest family that is not ashamed of its job. They honestly provide for the existence of their family, which is very secure in the economic insecurity of the state. The main challenge for the Salihovic family is responsibility, standards and finances.

Of the family’s five children Habib’s eldest daughter (1997) was married. Son Shaban (2003), daughters Sanela (2002), Samila (2004) and Almedina (2005) attended primary school. Only Mila (real name Samila), how the project has a title. Just 11 years old when this when I met the family, Mila has proven to be a brilliant problem solver. During the period of primary school, where he showed interest in acting and sports – football. All this gradually shaped Mila into the idea of finishing school and finding a job. She is currently in the final grade of the Agricultural School. With her whole life ahead of her, it is uncertain how her story will unfold, but the project will continue to document her journey up until her 18th birthday. On July 13, this year, she will become an adult. Her plan to get an ID card and immediately start looking for a job. For Mila it is clear that she is aware that she will have to help her parents at some point because they are in years where they cannot work with the same intensity as before. Mila has wishes, plans. A school that enrolled in a three-year education. Mila wants to continue for another year to have a four-year education and a degree in Agricultural Technician. This allows her a higher coefficient in employment and for possible further education. She does not want to do the same job that her family does. Also her interests are now being shaped through social media. She became a girl who cares about her appearance, the opinions of others and social acceptance is important to her. She doesn’t like to be photographed. The reason is that she thinks that when she is photographed, she will not be beautiful in the photos. Her attitude towards photography is built through the social instruments of Instagram. I only have her permission to photograph her without her face visible. In that way, the project was channeled in the direction of respecting her decision, and thus the project gained even more weight.

So far, Roma have been mainly involved in waste collection and recycling. Salihovic family is a Muslim family originally from Bijeljina. Their case, without a doubt, goes to show a problem that the world is sliding into with too much inertia: While this great world thrives, making every idea that comes to mind possible, the needs of an ordinary man seems to be forgotten and while he is seen less and less, in the meantime, he still wakes up and continues to live the only way he knows how. This project follows Mila and her attitude and strength to persevere in the idea of having a much better life than she has now and a family that supports her, but also this project is a reminder that it is not enough to just have dreams and hopes, because changing a life requires constant work and willingness to give up certain things in order to create an enviroment just for yourself.