During the late 1940s, the population of Belgrade dramatically swelled, fed by a baby boom and post-war displacement. Up sprung spines of Brutalist towers and estates in an area south of the city, earning the municipality (officially called Novi Beograd) the nickname Blokovi, or “blocks”. Used as a backdrop for several gritty 1980s films, Serbian pop culture has not been overly kind to the Blokovi but, just as in the UK, a rekindled admiration for Brutalism has upped their appeal, with a growing community of artists living, working and exhibiting in the blocks.
“A lot of people refer to Belgrade as the ‘new Berlin’ but the locals insist it’s not. I prefer it actually,” says photographer Lola Paprocka, whose book Blokovi: Novi Beograd, is published by Palm* later this month. “You see people from all walks of life interacting and sharing such an intimate space.” Lola, herself born and raised in communist-built estates in Poland, spent a sweltering August documenting the blocks and their residents with curator and Belgrade native Mima Bulj. The result is an ode to these architectural behemoths alongside endearing spontaneous interactions with strangers she approached – something Lola attributes to shooting on a medium format Mamiya RZ67. “It’s not as fast as shooting 35mm, so it gives you a few minutes to chat with the subjects making for much stronger portraits.” From a gent on the post-work watermelon run (a tonic for the blistering temperatures) to a bromance between bare-chested lads, Paprocka’s shots capture the joy of urban summers everywhere.