GRADUATION DRESSES - Series of photographs


nevena tea jelena

To view a selection of photographs from the Graduation dresses series please click on the image or the title links below:

Biljana (Penelope Cruz, Oscar de la Renta dress) 2005

Nevena (John Galiano dress) 2005

Tea (Cosmopolitan dress) 2005

Jelena (Karleusa dress) 2005

Vesna (Kylie dress) 2005

Ana (Jennifer Lopez dress) 2006

Natasa (Catherine Zeta-Jones dress) 2006

Tamara (Severina dress) 2006

Ivana (Megi Gilenhal, Prada dress / Christos Costarellos dress) 2006

Sara (Versace dress) 2006

Sonja (Victoria Beckham dress) 2007

Zorica (Kira Najtli dress) 2007

vesna x natasa tamara
ivana sara sonja zorica


"Clothing is not seen as simply reflecting given aspects of the self but, through its particular material propensities, is co-constutive of facets such as identity, sexuality and social role."
Sophie Woodward, Clothing as Material Culture, 2005.

‘Graduation Dresses’ is a series of photographs taken by Margareta Kern of young women who have graduated from secondary schools in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina in the period between 2005 and 2008. Their dresses, made by the artist’s mother who runs a tailoring business from her home, are based on images found on Internet, in fashion magazines and on television, of celebrities and models wearing haute couture dresses. Kern photographs the graduates in their homes and through this engagement with their personal spaces captures a significant moment in that transitional journey from adolescence to womanhood, revealing both their incipient maturity as well as their vulnerability. The photographs, accompanied by images on which the dresses were based, not only raise geopolitical issues specific to post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina, but they also speak of the effect that globalised circulation of celebrity images has on the young women everywhere.

Graduation Dresses, installation view, Photomonth Krakow, 2013



And even though the graduation ceremony itself is an established ritual, there is something distinctly new about the glamour and the glitz of this post war version of the ceremony, which has come to resemble Hollywood-style film premiers and Oscar ceremonies.
This shift in the focus of the ritual was one of the reasons that prompted Kern to ask the young graduates she photographed to ‘donate’ a photograph of them taken on the graduation evening. These collected artefacts, taken by passers-by or friends, show the young graduates surrounded by family, friends, and a large audience that gathers to watch the procession in the town square.

graduation evening


"Not to be missed is a series of large-scale portraits taken by London-based Margareta Kern. Reminiscent of the environmental portraits by the Mexican photographer Daniela Rossell, Kern's work captures a series of young Bosnian women projecting themselves headlong into maturity." St Louis Art Capsule, River Front Times, 2008

"The exhibition “Clothes for Living & Dying” is a work of a young woman, from Banja Luka, who in 1992, without having her own graduation, fleeing the war, immigrated to the United Kingdom. She stayed there, finished her education and formed views on the world, and her own identity.
But, as a person can’t become something else, without ceasing to be what they already are; in other words, it’s impossible to erase identities, instead one can layer them one on top of the other, in the way the women layer their clothes for death. In that same way, Margareta Kern, by being in her mother’s tailoring salon, and photographing in the Banjaluka homes, has done a very important self-reflective act. The imitation of life, which she captured through the graduation dresses, is in fact, in the broadest possible way, an imitation of an identity. One cannot get rid of an identity, no matter how much one wanted, no matter how much one didn’t need it anymore and no matter how much it seemed like an imitation."

By Miljenko Jergovic for Jutarnji List, Croatia, 29.05.2008 to continue reading in English click here, in Croatian click here.

"One artist looking ahead is Margareta Kern, who has produced a series of photographs of girls graduating from high school. They all wear copies of fashion worn by celebrities, made by her mother, a seamstress in Banja Luka, a town devastated during the war.The pictures encapsulate the exhibition title. The girls are "from here" — Banja Luka. The fashion is "from there" — not the place of the ominous "other," but the world of style and sophistication. Equally important is that a milestone in personal life is being passed. Young girls are turning into women. It happens everywhere — it happens to boys, too — and its acknowledgment is a sign that life goes on, even in lands where genocide occurred not so long ago." David Bonetti, St Louis Today, Feb 2008


Photographs available in a limited edition of 5 C-type prints plus 2 AP. Each print is accompanied by A4 C-type print of the scann of the artist's mother's book, showing an image on which the dress is based.

The Graduation Dresses series will be exhibited at the forthcoming exhibition Clothes for Living & Dying, at the Margaret Harvey Gallery, from 12.9. - 18.10.2008. Clothes for Living & Dying is a touring exhibition by the University of Hertfordshire Galleries. A fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Pennina Barnett, Dr Alex Rotas, Matthew Shaul and Margareta Kern will be available at respective touring venues. Size: 21 x 26 cm, 48 pages, colour. Edition of 1000, £7.95.

The Graduation Dresses series of photograps have been made as part of an internationaI travel bursary Necessary Journeys from the Arts Council England and the British Film Institute. This formed a part of the 'Necessary Journeys' programme, which culminated in a two day symposia at the Tate Modern, on the 11th and 12th November 2005. To see Necessary Journeys showcase please visit

To read an excerpt from an interview by Rohini Malik Okon and Margareta Kern please click here.
To read more about Margareta's project for the Necessary Journeys please click here
Necessary Journeys Artists' Blog (Dinu Li, Trevor Woolery, Fernando Arias, Oreet Ashery, Ralph Hoyte, Jiva Parthipan & Margareta Kern)