War and Travel: the Dubrovnik Gallery You Can’t Afford to Miss

War and Travel: the Dubrovnik Gallery You Can't Afford to MissA Muslim man, on his knees, his hands up, his face creased with fear, kneels on the street, as firearm-brandishing Serb militiamen approach from behind. He has no idea what’s in store for him. And for the viewer of this arresting photograph, we never know the outcome of the event, though we might be able to guess.

Most people don’t go to Dubrovnik for reminders of the conflict that took place in the Balkans in the 1990s, or to remember the 1991 shelling of this walled gem of a southern Dalmatian town (the town has been so spruced up since then, only a keen eye might be able to spot scars of the conflict). In fact, the last time I was in this seaside Croatian town, the streets were filled with happy tourists, many of whom had just stumbled off cruise ships (much to the annoyance of the business-owning locals who claim cruisers never spend any money there).

But Wade Goddard, former war correspondent, has been on a mission to get tourists to think about the nature of war and what makes, as he put it, a guy pick up a gun and go shoot his neighbor. Goddard is the director and co-founder of the riveting War Photo Limited, a photo gallery in the center of Dubrovnik dedicated to war photography. It was in this space where I saw the photo described above and it (along with the entire permanent exhibition) changed the way I thought of travel a little. This is war and travel, the gallery you can’t afford to miss.
The gallery, the only such of its kind, features revolving exhibitions focusing on world conflicts, and a permanent display of photos is dedicated to the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s (which the New Zealand-born Goddard covered). And while many people don’t want to be “disturbed” on their vacations, visiting War Photo Limited is enlightening; in fact, it revealed to me the core of why we travel: to challenge and refresh our beliefs and perceptions about other cultures, our own culture, and ourselves. For travelers in Dubrovnik, a visit to the gallery seems especially important now, a time when the United States is fighting two wars, and revolutions are springing up (and, in some cases, being violently put down) throughout the Middle East.

“Too often nowadays, we’re presented with only a 15-second clip of the worst part of the day’s conflict,” Goddard said who sat down with me for a coffee in the alley across from the gallery during my last visit to Dubrovnik. “Here you have a better chance to see the reality of war. Governments tell the public about ‘limited collateral damage’ and ‘surgical airstrikes,’ made up words so we don’t understand the reality of war.”

Goddard said he wants spread the truth about war and conflict, to bring these relatively taboo topics to the breakfast table; to get people talking and thinking about them. And to do that, he puts much of the curating in the hands of the photographers themselves.

“In magazines and newspapers, there may be only one or two photos per story and sometimes the photos get mixed up in other stories or are used in ways that the photographer thinks is inappropriate. At the gallery, we don’t edit anything. The idea is for the photographers to bring their work directly to the public.”

Goddard’s done his time in the field and now wants to spread the word via the gallery.

“I had a choice,” he said. “I could retire from war zones and spend time with my family or ship myself off to Afghanistan and Iraq.”

If you’re in Dubrovnik soon, stop in and say hi to Wade. You may never look at war photography the same way again.