Adagio for Sarajevo by Rhoufi

Currently unavailable for purchase


September 2011 Juried
Invitational Exhibition

A Photographic Art Translation of Robin King’s
Adagio for Strings by Robin King


The instant I saw Robin’s digital artwork, four things instantly came together to evoke the affirmation of the human spirit exemplified by the artistic actions of cellist Vedran Smailović : the cello, the sheet music, the word “Adagio” and the glorious golden light swirling across Robin’s image.

Smajlović is known for playing his cello, notably Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor, during the siege of Sarajevo. Along with the lucky ones, he survived cold, food and water shortages, constant bombings and vicious sniper fire into the streets from the surrounding hills. He became famous for playing his cello to honour each of the 22 people who had been killed by a bomb while they were queuing for bread. He played all around Sarajevo during the siege, in streets, bombed out buildings and tram cars. He was also known for playing for free at funerals during the siege, even though they would often be targeted by enemy fire. Smailović caught the imagination of people around the world and this alone was a tremendous blow to the terrorists attacking the city. (After Wiki)

These acts of passive resistance, these staements of peaceful art were a defense against the brutality and senselessness of war. I don’t want my translation to be a political statement at all, it is not about that in anyway. Robin’s artwork is a glorious expression of her feelings of joy when hearing or playing Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings . I wanted my photographic translation to evoke the same feelings about how music and visual art can honour the human spirit and sustain it. I want to somehow capture the glorious human spirit and resilience of the people of Sarajevo, using a golden light similar to Robin’s image and with the same feeling of solemn cello adagio music.

Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor has become the symbolic anthem of Sarajevo because of Smailović’s heroic playing during the siege. The video below shows how music and image can work together to evoke very strong emotions. Art is the only way you can deal with traumatic events like this.

I don’t normally “design” my photographs; I am a street photographer, making opportunistic photos and publishing them if I think one out of 200 might have meaning. I doubted that I could do it beautifully like Robin did. I worried it would be trite or inconsequential in some way, and fail to honour the original inspiration. The video below also inspired this photographic work.

Sarajevo: Before, During, and After the Siege

The two links below detail my Work-In-Progress during the Workshop. They involved experimentation and trial and error to learn the capabilities and limitations of “In-Camera Multiple-Exposure”. It was a requirement of the photographic translations that they not be composite images layered and manipulated in Photoshop. The photograph had to be a single image file, exported from the camera and only subjected to minimal post capture processing.

WIP #1 – Experimentation
WIP #2 – More Experimentation

And so “Adagio for Sarajevo” is my Final Translation of Robin’s original, digital artwork.

The final photograph comprises four separate exposures merged using In-Camera Multiple-Exposure in a Pentax K-7, DSLR, exported as one single photographic file and processed in Adobe Lightroom 3.4. The four exposures making up this image were as follows:

  • The first 3 pages of the sheet music of Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor for two cellos, photographed on an oblique angle, in tungsten light and underexposed to fill any dark corners in the final image. This piece of music has become the symbolic anthem of Sarajevo because of Vedran Smailović’s heroic playing during the siege. As a single rallying act, his use of his personal, peaceful art proved that people and the human spirit, not weapons can triumph over brutality and aggression.
  • A concert cello photographed from above in tungsten light.
  • The burning pages of a book, photographed in total darkness. The burning book symbolizes the systematic destruction and gutting of the Sarajevo Library. It was perhaps the single most powerful symbol of an aggressor trying to wipe out another people, both physically and culturally.
  • Yellow light refracted through a lead glass crystal bowl to “polish and blur” its impact on the overall image.

I apologize for some of the words visible on the particular page being burnt, it just happens to feature some rather colourful Australian phrases. However, this was by far the most difficult aspect of all the exposures and I was unable to duplicate it with a page of more polite words.

The final result is a long way from what I had in mind at the very start, but does contain all the basic elements in a less grand form. I hope everyone can “see” some of the meanings behind the symbols, and that it has at least a small amount of the glorious grace bursting from Robin King’s “Adagio for Strings”.

I would like to thank Robin, Frannie, Elizabeth, Maxy, Qnita and everyone in the SoJie 13 Workshop for helping me step a very long way out of my comfort zone. I learnt a great deal – in more ways than one ;-)


solo exhibition, sojie 13, workshop, sarajevo, robin king, siege and translation

To reveal art and conceal the artist,
is art’s aim.

Oscar Wilde – “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

View Full Profile


  • Robin King
    Robin Kingalmost 3 years ago

    Rhoufi! I just fav’d this and would fav it over and over and over again if I could!! Will be back later with a few words and also to put the link into my post in the forum.

    Can’t stay right now. So I’ll just leave two words:

    YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Oh Robin, I’m so glad you were the first to see this and comment. I found it difficult but rewarding in the end, and having you as the originating artist made it much easier and less stressful. Thank you for your enthusiastic comment and for entering your glorious work in the Workshop, and for all your help along the way – even in a hurricane!!!

    – Rhoufi

  • Jan Clarke
    Jan Clarkealmost 3 years ago

    Robin’s work is fantastic and this is a beautiful interpretation.

  • Thank you Jan :-) Yes Robin’s work is wonderful and so is the way she works. This is the third collaboration I have done with her, she’s always throwing things my way that get my imagination going.

    – Rhoufi

  • John Holding
    John Holdingalmost 3 years ago

    Superb translation Rhoufi.

  • Thank you John, I only just made it didn’t I. And you were one of the first to finish. Watching you do those match set-ups made me realize what I’d have to do to pull it off and it was very complex indeed. Sorry I wasn’t about much during the Workshop – it all got too intense for my working day. See you at the Exhibition and many thanks.

    – Rhoufi

  • Christine  Wilson Photography
    Christine Wil...almost 3 years ago

    this is an outstanding translation Rhoufi wonderful work

  • Thanks Christine. From knowing nothing at all about In-Camera Multi-Exposure 3 weeks ago, I have learned so much. Next time I might have more control over the process.

    – Rhoufi

  • czanti
    czantialmost 3 years ago

    amazing work….

  • Thank you Cindy

    – Rhoufi

  • geof
    geofalmost 3 years ago

    quite a piece of work !

  • Thank you so much Geof. Compared to how I normally take photographs, thei was a marathon – never worked so hard with so many variables. So much to learn, but I made it.

    – Rhoufi

  • Charmiene Maxwell-batten
    Charmiene Maxw...almost 3 years ago

    fantastic picture!

  • Thank you Charmiene, something very new for me.

    – Rhoufi

  • Samantha Aplin
    Samantha Aplinalmost 3 years ago

    Amazing work Rhoufi

  • Thank you so much Samantha, you only just scraped in today as well, but then you did two amazing works in the Workshop, well done too. I haven’t had much time to spend in the Workshop, but I will be commenting during the Show. Thank youso much.

    – Rhoufi

  • Clo Sed
    Clo Sedalmost 3 years ago

    It’s a brilliant interpretation of Robin’s image
    and you show the emotion of this story
    this story I met thanks to you, great book, deep feelings, poignant
    thanks again for that

  • Ah, Madame Magali, I’m so glad you like it. And you have also read the “Cellist of Sarajevo”, so you know the huge emotions the words of this story produce. What I have learnt from your photos is that image can be every bit as powerful as words, and so with this translation I tried extra hard. So your wonderful praise in particular makes me feel very good about it indeed. Merci Magali, merci beaucoup :-))

    – Rhoufi

  • neon-gobi
    neon-gobialmost 3 years ago


  • Thank you Neon, I see you have many works with musical instruments in your gallery, so I can see why you spotted this one. They make such beautiful subjects don’t they. Thank you very much.

    – Rhoufi

desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait