The Story Behind the Photo: A Portrait of an Artist as a Keeper of Serbian Heritage

Thursday November 14, 2019 Written by Kate Stanton

Does your neighbourhood have a local character, the kind of person known for random (but really quite droll) displays of eccentricity or artistic whimsy? Like this guy, in Melbourne, who walks around with a giant stuffed carrot just to make people smile. Here, Belgrade photographer Branislav Krokodil tells us the story behind this snap of his hometown personality: an artist with a patriotic message.


Hello there, Branislav. Tell us a little about your work. I am a self-taught photographer and videographer from Belgrade, Serbia. I’m most interested in photographing people, especially unique-looking characters. As a freelancer, I love the freedom I have to organise my own time and travel as much as I can. I think some of my best work comes from travelling, and documenting candid moments I see on the street.

Who is the intriguing fellow in this portrait? His name is Novak Grbović. He is a local artist, sculptor and a father of my friend. Everybody around the city knows him as the eccentric man with an unusual car with horns and bells. He drives that car all the time, and anywhere he goes, heads turn. He wears traditional Serbian clothing, along with accessories he made himself.

Talk us through some of the curious objects in the photo. Novak is standing proudly next to his beloved vehicle, which is also his work of art. He told me the bullhorns on the car represent respect. All the objects and sculptures attached to it are symbols of the Serbian tradition, including cattle bells and the Orthodox cross. And there is also the Russian flag.

What happened on the day of the shoot? I photographed him in a forest near the city. He was very comfortable in front of the camera, as if the camera did not exist at all. It was interesting to hear him talking about his beliefs and the symbols of his work.

He likes to describe himself as a ‘cattleman’, in deference to his Serbian heritage (Serbia is a land of farmers). Novak aims to be a walking reminder and a keeper of rural Serbian culture, increasingly threatened by the fast-moving modern age. He is also a Russophile, and very much cherishes the cultural and religious connections between Russia and Serbia.

How do you see people using this portrait as a stock image? I wanted to introduce people to this unique person with one of his pieces of art, which is in this case, his car. I think it can be used in the context of authenticity of an artist or of people in general. Of course, there’s also the elements of Serbian or Russian culture – or people who love their cars.

What do you like about this photo? Everything is just so interesting. Every little detail, on his clothes or his car, it all has a story and it describes everything that he is.

This interview was created in collaboration with Stocksy as part of our four-part series on the stories behind incredible photos. You’ll find even more of Branislav’s work at Stocksy’s highly curated library of stock photography and video footage.