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The Ghosts of Croatia’s Abandoned Thread Factory

Photographer Nada Maleš documents the empty spaces left behind when a leading Eastern European factory closed down.

In her photo project Dalmatinka, Nada Maleš documents the eerie empty spaces of an abandoned factory in former Yugoslavia.

Founded in 1951 in Dalmatia, a rural part of Croatia, Dalmatinka was once the leading manufacturer of sewing thread in East-Central Europe. “It was declared to be the most successful company in Yugoslavia at the time,” Maleš explains. “After an economic and political crisis, Yugoslavia broke up, bringing along privatization and bankruptcy and hence losing a large part of the market.” This lead to the bankruptcy of the factory, and it eventual closure in 2009.

While the backstory lends a heavy political significance to Maleš’s images, the photographer says that her focus with this work was to look beyond the historical perspective, to “unburden the factory from its complicated political connotation.”

In these remarkably quiet images, Maleš is searching for what the factory workers left behind. The small human traces she uncovers give personality to the huge, empty space of the former factory: a cluster of wooden chairs, a red thermos left behind on a desk, a cross hanging on a shadowy wall, a clock stopped just short of 10:30.

“Observing the photographs while imagining all those lives vibrating and thread being made, they convey a certain nostalgic mood,” she says. Thread appears briefly in Maleš’ photos with a haphazard pile of spools, piled like trash next to a rusted doorway. Unlike most of the furniture in the factory, much of the thread still looks pristine, shiny white, like it was only just recently spun.

See more of Nada Maleš’ work at her online portfolio.

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