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5-26 May 2022. All of these photos – chance encounters and random incidents – were taken in Croatia, but this is not a post about Croatia so much as it is about people; most of them could be anywhere western really. They are photos that didn’t fit neatly into any previous post, and I didn’t want them forever buried in the archives simply because they’re not specifically about Croatia, though they are about travel; they capture the life-blood of almost all travel. Travel can be about nature and the landscape and wildlife, and about iconic places and buildings, but in the end it’s mostly about the people.

These photos reveal what catches my eye – it may be bright colours, or strong shadows, or something quirky, or a tableau of people who are unaware of their part in it, sometimes it’s the way the light falls, or exuberant activity, or a sudden piercing look that I’m lucky enough to capture. All of them are about who we are, the way we inhabit the world as we go about our lives, whether as travellers or locals. All of them are about my fascination with humanity – how alike we all are, and at the same time how unique we are.

Hopefully they tell the story of the people that intrigued me. I find people infinitely interesting and entertaining. If a situation grabs my attention I’ll watch for a long time – like looking down on the continuous stream of humanity below Dubrovnik’s fortress walls, or the boys throwing themselves into the water over and over on the island of Vis.

None of these photos have been published before, though in some cases similar ones have been; it’s the blessing, and the curse, of digital photography – many good photos of almost the same thing. I’ve played with a lot of them, in Lightroom and Photoshop, often blurring the background so that the thing that caught my eye also catches yours. And sometimes I played just for the creative fun of it.

This first photo is of the energy of Gatwick Airport at six in the morning. From my notes: Gatwick, even at six in the morning is happening! Busy everywhere. Wetherspoon is packed. And loud! A big place, it’s essentially a pub, and is full on open, as a pub, at six in the morning, as well as serving a very indifferent breakfast. Almost every table is full. There are about five tables pushed together surrounded by ten or twelve lads on holiday all drinking beer for breakfast. Loud. Very loud. Most people at the other tables are eating, but quite a few are not. Almost everyone is drinking; a couple of women together drinking pink champagne; another two drinking cocktails. People alone on their phones, people travelling, having an early meal at the airport, but above all this place is an English pub; the only things missing are a pool table and a dart board.

We go searching for the truly unique Buza Bar in Dubrovnik, turning this way and that down the Medieval alleyways, asking the way more than once, and eventually finding it – through a gated opening in the ancient walls.

Just below us on the rocks a group of girlfriends on vacation have beer and pizza; and launch themselves with wild abandon into the water squealing and screaming, making memories that will last a lifetime.

We walk Dubrovnik’s ancient city walls on a bright sunny day. At one point I look down and watch as people come and go, some locals, some tourists, all casting stark shadows behind them.

A day trip by ferry to Cavtat down the coast from Dubrovnik. A couple of Brits on holiday, probably a Weekend Break; a quick inexpensive flight from Gatwick to Dubrovnik; Let’s go to Croatia for the weekend! I could be kind and say she’s a little drunk. But no. She’s very drunk, almost falling-down drunk, hitching-her-skirt-up-way-too-high drunk. Her girlfriend, who really is only a little drunk, does her best to take care of her. More memories to last a lifetime. Or not.

On the breakwater that helps create Dubrovnik’s sheltered harbour there is always an ever-changing pageant silhouetted against the bright sky,

and in the Old Town, a mother and child rest on the curb, the Medieval pillars standing as ancient sentinels behind them – the contemporary and the very old – a juxtaposition that we almost take for granted.

A scant fifteen-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik is the island of Lokrum. At a salty pool there, known appropriately enough as the Dead Sea, my sister swims, floats, swims, and floats again in a blissful trance,

then emerges with a smile.

In Split we go to Bačvice Beach. It’s the local beach, so can be a bit crowded, and a bit grubby, but it does have sand. It is what it is, and people-watching there is as good as anywhere: a tableau in black and white, and a colourful couple.

In the Old Town of Split, by day and by night.

Close by the Old Town a tribe of young people hang out in Strossmayera Park, one of Split’s most popular meeting places.

Split’s beautiful waterfront, known as the Riva, is often called the city’s living room, especially towards the end of the day when everyone comes out to play.

A bar and street food joint at the edge of the Old Town where we sit at an outdoor table eating indifferent burgers while listening to the sweet chirping chattering whistling of hundreds of swallows as they prepare to nest for the night.

On the ferry to the island of Brač: Grievous Bodily Harm. This is one mama you don’t want to mess with. I love her matching hair and nails.

Brač’s Zlatni Rat Beach is a disappointment (someone should have warned us about the pebbles!), but the people are as diverting as ever.

The ferry from Split to the island of Vis takes over 2.5 hours. People get settled in. I wander all over the boat captured by, and capturing, groups of people.

Colour coordinated:

Travelling together: a towel spread out, five women, a boy, a spidey hat, phones, coffee cups, cigarette packs, shopping bags and shoulder bags, a coke can, discarded sandals, the dog; and that little boy just got a brand new toy truck! I hang over the railing and look down to see an entire world.

On the island of Vis. A morning walk around the peninsula at the north end of the bay. On the town side is sedate St. Jerome’s Church. On the other side I come across something wild and free: a group of 12-13 year-old boys fearlessly hurling themselves into the water. They egg each other on, indomitable and full of life.

Another lad cycles by,

and a couple of younger ones watch from the sidelines.

Meanwhile in another part of town this kid, all focus and dedication, chases after a ball (the love of soccer football starts young in this part of the world),

and a young girl makes some pocket money playing the flute, while her friend hopes to cash in selling necklaces and shells. I wonder if the kids made the necklaces themselves.

At age nine or ten this girl is already aware of style – the purse with the gold chain, the off-the-shoulder top, the sunglasses, the look! 

Maybe she’s taking lessons from this woman, who already appeared, dressed in blue, in the earlier post about Vis.

The grill chef at Konoba Kantun where we have the best meal in three weeks in Croatia,

and across a field of grasses and wildflowers kids at the local school play supervised games.

Finally, back in Split, once again down on the Riva at sunset, a woman sells sparkling balloons. In the background are Jadrolinija ferries, the Croatian government ferries that took us to so many places while we were there, making memories to last a lifetime.

Disclaimer: As a general rule, if a photographer is shooting in a public space, such as a street or a park, s/he will usually have the right to do so without the consent of the subjects. Generally speaking if it is in the public domain, you can take a picture of it. Photojournalism and street photography would not exist if permission to take the photo was required. If anyone objects of course I don’t take the photo, or if it’s already done I have them witness me deleting it. In some countries, eg India, people love to have their photo taken, and frequently request it. I always try to be discreet. Quite frequently it creates lovely interactions between myself and the subject. I have found it to be an overwhelmingly positive experience.

One last post about Croatia to come. It is about a seriously unique, and strange, airbnb where we stayed on our last night in Split. And then on to Greece!

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2022.