Lost in the Transition to Democracy

by Katerina Gadjeva

This narrative, like any other tale of Bulgarian photography of the last two decades of the 20th century, cannot be objective. I belong to the generation that saw little of the glory of its zenith, but a lot of its decline, its noble remnants. There was beauty, and pain, and sorrow. In the midst of the 90’s, I – eighteen or nineteen years of age by then – considered the photographers to be only artists, nothing else. And that was not a consequence of my youth naivety, – in those days it was true. The peculiar breed of people who could live with no money, only for the sake of art, still existed. I remember how I was introduced to Taki, the chance encounters with Usha in the street – she was dressed in black and waving her long plait hanging from her otherwise cleanly shaven head, Yuri’s strange walk, the exhibitions and the conversations in Makta Gallery, the Photo Vacations, the Plovdiv Meetings… In the turbulence of the transition to democracy the layers shifted – some sank into the netherworld, others emerged on the surface… My tale is going to be told simultaneously from the position of that innocent girl, who swallowed all information with her eyes wide open, and the woman I am today who knows a lot more, but feels a lot less excitement. ***

It is difficult to construct whatever narrative of photography due to its many-faced character. It can be open to the visible, the form, the contour, the surface… But it can also be deep, philosophical, abstract. The genre subdivisions of photography, its dissolving into small niches and its being labeled by different definitions are the reasons for everyone, who does not know what to focus on, to be doomed to failure with this art. In order for me to avoid this trap, I shall preliminary state the subject of my scholarly interest. This text is dedicated to the photographers-artists.  

Focus on the Author

For many years, the socialist ideology overshadowed the stances “I claim” or “I present” with the impersonal “we do it”. Authorship was collective phenomenon, a result not of personal lived experiences, but of the achievements of the whole society. It was shared between those on power and the artist who never had the last word. After the political limitations were canceled, the photographers for the first time were given the opportunity to express their own individuality. Furthermore, they could at last try the potential of their medium in its fullness; up to that moment, the medium was too strictly framed. It was perfectly natural for their first “revolt” to be against the “traditional” photographic imagery that was unhesitantly replaced by unique author’s marks and they did not present reality, but interpreted it. Takor Kyurdiyan pours emulsion on naked female bodies[1] and then prints them in full size on photographic paper. He does not stay outside, he literally “sneaks in” the image, becomes simultaneously a creator and a participant to his own works.

Takor Kiurdian

Archetypes, 1991.

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Takor Kiurdian

Archetypes, 1990.

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Stanka Tsonkova - Usha[2] “fancies” her female portraits applying images from several negatives one upon the other; she scratches them, burns them or “peels” them by crumpling the photographic paper and painting the positives with developer. “I never carry a camera with me – says Usha. – I see something in the street, I say to myself “Wow, that’s terrific!”, and click, I make the photo. But without any camera. A photographer should train the power of his observation, not the dexterity of his hands. A moment seen is not a moment lost, albeit not a photographed one either. It forms a thin layer in the bulk of image impressions that is stored in the consciousness of the photographer. This process of storing and layering is, as a matter of fact, gradual maturing.” [3]    

USHA Tsonkova

, 1994.

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USHA Tsonkova

, 1994.

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USHA Tsonkova

, 1994.

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USHA Tsonkova

, 1994.

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USHA Tsonkova

, 1994.

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USHA Tsonkova

Qeen (Selfportrait), 1994.

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The second “revolt” of the “free” authors is against the socially important and didactic plots socialism has been imposing for years as the only ones worthy of photographing.

Nikolay Treyman

From the series "The Swamp", 1994.

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Nikolay Treyman

From the series "The Swamp", 1994.

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Nikolay Treyman

From the series "The Swamp", 1994.

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Nikolay Treyman

From the series "The Swamp", 1994.

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Nikolay Treyman

From the series "The Swamp", 1994.

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Nikolay Treyman

From the series "The Swamp", 1994.

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Nikolay Treyman

From the series "The Swamp", 1994.

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Nikolay Treyman shows to the public different objects that are long lost in the marsh of Sofia’s suburbs, he arranges the objects in beautiful compositions and insists exactly on the opposite – everything can be photographed; Rafaelo Kazakov proves that the photographer can saturate with narrative every theme and presents a sequence of black flowers that, regardless of their aesthetic and categorically photographic presence, can be “read” as self-portraits, portraits or even as a metaphor of the transitiveness and beauty of life.

Rafaelo Kazakov

From the series "Exiles", 1998.

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Rafaelo Kazakov

From the series "Exiles", 1998.

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Rafaelo Kazakov

From the series "Exiles", 1998.

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Rafaelo Kazakov

From the series "Exiles", 1998.

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Rafaelo Kazakov

From the series "Exiles", 1998.

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Rafaelo Kazakov

From the series "Exiles", 1998.

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Rafaelo Kazakov

From the series "Exiles", 1998.

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Yordan Yordanov – Yuri poetizes the sublimity of the insignificant by presenting deserted areas, small communities, marginal people[4] - a parallel world that socialism proclaimed as “nonexistent”. The men from “Construction Building Military Corps” by Garo Keshishyan, they turn their backs to the system in a nonchalant manner, turn their backs to society and its norms, to all of us. “In a time when the Western culture is obsessed with the death of the author – writes Georgi Lozanov, - the Bulgarian author is born.” [5]  

Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Mongolia", 1998.

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Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Mongolia", 1998.

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Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Mongolia", 1998.

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The Woman Searches for “the Woman”

The emancipation of women is one of the great achievements that socialism proclaims to be among its own most visible and important merits to Bulgarian society. The new circumstances change not only the inner world, but also the external appearance of the woman who leaves her physical constitution behind and bravely swims with the tide of some kind of sexual neutrality. The socialist woman is active, manly. She has mastered not only the male-dominated jobs, but to a great extent, the manly manners too. The extinguishing of differences between sexes - between the male and the female sensitivity, sexuality, needs and general worldview, - soon after the political changes to democracy, turns into one of the hidden problems of our society. And if in the West women “wage war” under the banner of feminism, in our state the situation is the opposite – they have to discover their femininity again. In the last decades of the 20th century, a myriad of talented female authors, among them Deyana Stamatova, Neli Gavrilova, Stanka Tsonkova – Usha, Sonya Stankova, Svetlana Bahchevanova, Neli Nedeva-Voeva and many others, turn to the inner world of the woman in search for her emotions, passions, desires and fantasies.

Nelly Gavrilova

From the series "The Lever", 1993.

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Nelly Gavrilova

From the series "The Lever", 1993.

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Nelly Gavrilova

From the series "The Lever", 1993.

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Nelly Gavrilova

From the series "The Lever", 1993.

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Nelly Gavrilova

From the series "The Lever", 1993.

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Nelly Gavrilova

From the series "The Background", 1993.

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Nelly Gavrilova

From the series "The Background", 1993.

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Nelly Gavrilova

From the series "The Background", 1997.

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Nelly Gavrilova

From the series "The Background", 1998.

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It is no accident that most of them choose to work acts and show “nudities” – a metaphor of liberation from prejudices, norms and taboos.  

Sonya Stankova

From the series "Studio Portraits" (1984-1988), 1986.

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Sonya Stankova

Mirage. From the series "Mirages", 2000.

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Sonya Stankova

Beginning. From the series "Mirages", 2000.

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Sonya Stankova

The Wave. From the series "Mirages", 2000.

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The Art Market

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the interest for the Eastern European photography increases. It is attractive not only for its still “pure”, “naive” and “unsullied” by art market authors, but also due to the fact it presents the socialist and post-socialist reality, which is unknown, “exotic” and to that day hidden from the Western view. Museums and collectors start buying Bulgarian photography finding ever more new opportunities for it – international competitions, scholarships, residence programs. The Swiss foundation for culture Pro Helvetia and the foundation Soros Center for the Arts support a number of visual projects. Many Bulgarian photographers decide they can at last start living like real artists – i.e. only “with the occupation of” and “for the sake of” their own art. But these channels of funding require innovative ideas, formulation of long-term and sensible tasks, knowledge of foreign languages. Our photographers appear to be unprepared for all that. Georgi Lozanov writes: “In order to be a good photographer in the real world, it is necessary to do a lot more than it is required in order to be a good photographer in a closed bloc. Once creative photography had been an alternative to an unfree society, later on it did not know what to become at all. Once it had received its meaning from outside factors, after the change it had to search for meaning in its own art.” [6] At the end of the 90’s, Bulgaria is no longer that interesting to the West as it is right after the fall of socialism. The survival of the photographers becomes more and more difficult and almost all of them are forced to start some kind of commercial activities to provide stable income. This is a great failure for the artists who are again compelled to fit within certain limitations that are as restrictive as the previous ones. And those, who choose freedom despite everything, have to pay a dear price for it.  

International Photographic Forums

As early as the 60’s, the lifting of the Iron Curtain separating Bulgarian photography from the international photographic scene begins. Participation in foreign competitions becomes a mandate for the more prominent photographers, especially for those who already have prizes of the International Federation of Photographic Art FIAP[7]. The good placing of Bulgarian authors and the winning of prices is not only a photographic, but also a political issue as far as their level is a testimony to the advantages of the socialist social order in technical, aesthetic and organizational aspect. “Photographic art is a part of our national culture – writes Bozhan Todorov on the pages of the magazine Bulgarian Photo – and it should be at the same level of achievements and activity as the other arts. Bulgarian photography has to fascinate the world culture to the same degree, to which that is done by our art of singing for example.”[8] Thus in the following decades, the international photographic salons become one of the main targets of the Bulgarian authors since they present them with an opportunity, albeit an indirect one, of contact with the Western world. The participations are many and so are the prizes and awards – it is also the case that the artistic biographies become ever richer, - but in a situation of cultural and informational isolation, the issue of the reputation and the seriousness of the competitions of most of the authors remains unaddressed.

Takor Kiurdian

Archetypes, 1990.

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Takor Kiurdian

Archetypes, 1990.

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Takor Kiurdian

Archetypes, 1990.

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Takor Kiurdian

Archetypes, 1990.

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The usual tempo of participation in standard competitions, that is from time to time broken by sporadic really significant achievements, is completely smashed when in 1990, five Bulgarian photographers receive invitations for the FotoFest Biennale in Huston, USA – and it is one of the largest and most important photographic events in the world. Stanka Tsonkova – Usha, Takor Kyurdiyan, Garo Keshishyan, Yordan Yordanov – Yuri and Georgi Neykov have the opportunity to present their works to the most illustrious public an artist could dream of – gallery owners, publishers, critics, theorists, museum curators.

Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Bulgarian Prisons", 1994.

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Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Mongolia", 1998.

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Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Mongolia", 1998.

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Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Mongolia", 1998.

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The debut of Bulgarian photography at the big scene is an unexpected success. In New York Times, there is an article which focuses on two exhibitions out of one hundred and fifty presented; these two are the Bulgarian and the Czechoslovak exhibitions. “After the publication of this material – writes the photographer Rafaelo Kazakov who accompanied the Bulgarian group of participants, - the director of the festival Fred Baldwin told me while waving the paper and with a lot of excitement: “Do you know how important that is? This article places you, the Bulgarians, on the world map of photography!”” [9]. The text in New York Times is illustrated with a photo from the series The Stain by Stanka Tsonkova - a black and white female portrait with a mouth effaced by a white stain (actually a fleck of sunlight), a peculiar metaphor of the censorship behind the Iron Curtain.

USHA Tsonkova

The Spot, 1984.

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USHA Tsonkova

The Spot, 1984.

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But the question is whether our authors are prepared to be the subject of such interest caused both by their merits as creators and by the fact they make their first steps as “free” artists, representatives of particular Balkan “exotics”. Several offers for exhibitions are made, several purchases also, and of course, most importantly, contacts and friendships are established. But everything stops there. “In order to be liked, you have to offer yourself – Usha writes later, - and to do it in a complex way: to be damn cool, to be fluent, to know the language perfectly, not to be depressed. But we felt somehow despondent. The air itself weighs upon you and crashes you… We couldn’t imagine such a “show” – to raise up from the bottom to the top. The feeling of vulnerability gets terribly strong. It’s just that you are nobody, that’s it.” [10]            

Europe, of course, also has its prestigious festivals. The most accessible to Bulgarian photographers (even today) remains the Month of Photography in Bratislava, Slovakia. Although it is not of the scope of Paris Photo, neither is it with the aura of the photographic meetings in Arles[11], the event is marked by a respectable history and a long list of world-class celebrities who showed their exhibitions and held theoretical or practical seminars and meetings with the public. From 1991 on, one author of ours has the opportunity to present an exposition at the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in the Slovak capital.  

National Photography Competitions, Reviews and Salons

In the midst of the last century, Pierre Bourdieu defines photography as “the art of the middle class” [12]. By its nature, it is an image that is created by means of mastering certain technique – its aesthetic reincarnations are not necessarily present, they are of interest only to those people who have the sensibility and the culture to find them. If anyone puts some effort in it (or if he is just lucky) and owns the necessary camera, he could make an image. And everybody can decide to take part in a competition with the hope of receiving an award. The number of the photography competitions in our country is increasing – in the 80’s there are already Biennale of Bulgarian Photography, a competition of the magazine Bulgarian Photo, salon for experimental photography STILB in Yambol, salon for act photography EOS in Burgas, competition Photo Fun in Gabrovo, competition Pirin Photo in Blagoevgrad, competition Student Moments, salon for scenic photography in Stara Zagora, competitions Man and Nature, Man and Labor, and many more. Participation in such competitions is an important occupation not only for amateurs, but also for professionals. It is largely considered to be an opportunity for comparison, a strive for perfection, assessment… But whether the competitions really help the Bulgarian authors, or they rather impede their efforts? The juries consist almost solely of the same group of people and everybody knows what is acceptable, and what cannot be approved and awarded. The compliance with the criteria of the assessors is inevitable, but it is realized to the detriment of the personal, author’s “taste”. The magazine Bulgarian Photo comments on the “greedy” point gathering for FIAP titles and it appears that the authors who “do not make photography for their own benefit, but comply with high technical and depiction-related requirements, make a gallery of lasting model-works” [13].  

Biennale of Bulgarian Photography

The Biennale of Bulgarian Photography[14] is the biggest and the most prestigious photography review (and a competition, again) in the country. Almost all Bulgarian photographers take part in it and, of course, they strive for awards. The results are always ardently debated, and Bulgarian Photo dedicates a whole issue to them where critiques, analyses and inquiries are published. Since the big prize is awarded by the Committee of Culture, it is clear that in order to win it, one would need something more than pure photographic abilities. Yet there are other “consolation” prizes like the Special Prize of the Union of Bulgarian Artists, the Special Prize of Bulgarian Journalists, or the Special Prize of the Young Artistic Intelligentsia. The Biennale is aimed to make a review of the stage of development and the achievements of Bulgarian photography, but is that at all possible, provided that the photographic types are present in the program altogether undivided – reporting, sports photography, experimental, act, portrait, etc., and the criteria of assessment are identical?    

International Photography Meetings in Plovdiv

In 1986, Francois Hebel is a guest in Plovdiv – he is the art director of the photographic meetings in Arles by then. He states that the Old City of Plovdiv looks a lot like Arles and has a great potential. Yes, Plovdiv is the city that first opens to international photography and thus attracts amateurs and professionals annually. As early as the 60’s, this is the place for the first international exhibition in the country to appear; it becomes a fact in 1964. The initiative continues after that with variable success. In 1979, one of the houses in the Old City of Plovdiv is given to Bulgarian Photography that turns it into the House of Photography. The group of the photo-artists from Plovdiv arranges their small museum there, one floor for exhibitions and a café-club. In practice, this is also the first photography gallery in the country with its own choice of exposition program. In this place, the International Photography Week is initiated and it turns into the first photography festival in Bulgaria to include in its program annual expositions, international plain-air and theoretical seminar. The Photography Week in Plovdiv gradually becomes famous as the most serious and meaningful event here. But what makes it different from the others happening in our capital or in other cities? The reasons for its importance are several and, as experience proves throughout the world, they are crucial for the rise, establishing and maintenance of a festival of good reputation. The first reason is the absence of the competitive element. The authors are not in a race, there are no placings, juries, assessments. Hence the second conclusion – the event presents whole exhibitions, i.e. cycles, series or finished projects, and not individual photographs (except for the cases of joint expositions). The history of our photography is full of separate, emblematic shots with which the authors win popularity (and competitions) – sporadic sparks of photographic intuition, technique or creative thought. And the third condition that is probably the most important one – festivals are not made by advertising, guests or participants, but by the personalities who organize them. Behind each and every big forum there is a big name who is ready to take risks, to impose tendencies, to discover talents, and to take responsibility. This person is expected not to make a photographer’s career of his own, but to know photography itself, to be aware of its history, to observe the local and worldwide “fashions” in photography, to possess the ability to communicate with people and to have the talent of fundraising. It is exactly such a person to take up the organization of the International Photography Week in Plovdiv in 1984 and he is its main curator till 1989. Nikola Lautliev has the self-confidence and the qualities necessary for the creating of no mere photography forum, but an intelligent friendly atmosphere that is remembered by each and every visitor who after that desires to visit the city again. In 1992 he initiated the founding of Plovdiv Photography Society Foundation and renewed such a tradition like the International Photography Meetings that are held to this day. Their whole conception is aimed at stimulating the discursive environment, at maintaining a dialogue between generations, at the discovery, presentation and training of new names in the art of photography. Together with the Bulgarian authors form the classical and contemporary photography like Nikolay Popov, Nikola Stoichkov, Petar Bozhkov, Lote Mihaylova, Rumen Georgiev, Neli Gavrilova, Zafer Galibov, Milan Hristev, Galya Usheva, Stanka Tsonkova – Usha, Garo Keshishyan, Yordan Yordanov – Yuri, in Plovdiv through the years some world artists are shown, among them Herbert List, Brassai, Dmitriy Baltermants, Alexandras Matsiauskas, Romuladas Pozerskis, Antanas Sutkus, Martin Parr, and many others.    

Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Albania Today", 1995.

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Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Albania Today", 1995.

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Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Albania Today", 1995.

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Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Albania Today", 1995.

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Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Bulgarian Prisons", 1994.

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Photo Vacation

Another photography week that also happen in the autumn, starts being held from 1982 on, but its location in by the sea. Photo Vacation appears in September in Oasis Camping Site. At the event there are competitions, lantern-slides are shown, demonstrations made, lectures delivered, exhibitions organized. Usually, the photographic results of these sea-cost photo-adventures are not anything that significant. The more important element is that Photo Vacation turns into a “free” zone for communication, for experiments, for conversations and fun. The atmosphere is elevated and friendly and exactly because of that it is necessary. After the changes of 1989, the organization of Photo Vacation is suspended, but in 1995 the event starts being organized again.  

The Photography Education in the Country

Most Bulgarian photographers who are active in the last three decades of the 20th century have graduated from the photographic department of the Julius Fucik Technical Shool in Sofia. Form the 60’s to the end of the century, some of the most renowned Bulgarian photographers teach there, among them are Nikolay Popov, Nikola Stoichkov, Boris Yuskeseliev, Yanka Kyurkchieva, etc. Despite the modest facilities of the school, the students receive good technical training, but the development of artistic thinking is not among the priorities (neither is it achievable at all) of the teaching staff. In the meanwhile, in the Higher Institute for Theatre Art (HITA) there is a qualification course Photocomposition that comes before the study of acting. In the Higher Institute for Fine Arts “N. Pavlovich” (the National Academy of Arts nowadays) photography is also featured only as a supplementary discipline to other disciplines. Similar is the situation at the Faculty of Journalism at the Sofia University, where photography is almost excluded from the education, although photo-journalism is a basic journalist discipline[15]. In other words, although a lot of exhibitions, competitions and awards are organized, the photographers are still being prepared not for being “authors”, but just the opposite, they are trained to “serve” cinema, commerce, industry, etc. In this situation, in the eighties, most of the teachers, photographers and analysts of the condition of photography in the country think that “founding higher education in photography in our country is not appropriate. The more sensible solution is, after an annual application exam, to send two or three of the excellent students form the photography high school abroad in order to study in higher educational institutions there. These specialists are the ones to be the future photography teachers in our country” [16]. As a result of this “strategy”, around the end of the last century, the photographers with higher education in our country can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Those who graduated successfully abroad (Moscow and Prague) are only a few, the rest of them graduate from other disciplines, mainly in the field of engineering. It is true, higher education does not create artists. On the contrary, it sometimes unifies them, puts them on well-trodden paths. Yet it is important for another reason – the university professors have a lot more opportunities to exert influence and to develop professionally in their own way. When in 1992 in the Higher Institute for Theatre Art “Krastyu Sarafov” (HITA) is a subject Photography is found and a little later – it is also found at the New Bulgarian University, the appointment of professors with higher photography education turns into an extremely difficult task. Many of the inspiring and much beloved by young people Bulgarian photographers never get the opportunity to teach due to the fact they have only secondary education. It turns out that in the formation of the teaching staff at the higher schools with photographic subjects in our country, the artistic biography and the qualities of the applicant remain in the background, in order to give way to some less important factors.   The

Magazine Bulgarian Photo

In the midst of 1966, the first issue of the magazine Bulgarian Photo is published. The guidelines for it are that the edition should be richly illustrated as more than fifty percent of its space should comprise of illustrations published in large size[17]. Each issue features a renowned Bulgarian photographer, the magazine covers almost all photography events in the country, young authors are presented, material is published not only on the history of photography, but also on cinema and painting. The editorial office receives different European photography magazines that are examined both as content and as design. Bulgarian Photo always maintains its reputation of a periodical serious and useful to readers, but it reaches its particular “peak” in the 80’s, when it is joined by Georgi Lozanov, Igor Chipev, Rafaelo Kazakov, Antoni Georgiev, Valeria Kalcheva, Iglena Ruseva, and many other intelligent and educated authors. The editor in chief of the magazine at that time is Ivan Slavkov – the son in law of Todor Zhivkov. This fact, as well as the circumstance that the edition is considered a marginal one and those in power do not subject it to much scrutiny, provide Bulgarian Photo with the opportunity of relatively free publishing policy. On the pages of the magazine, texts by Susan Sontag, Roland Barthes, Herbert Marshal McLuhan, Michel Tournier appear for the first time in Bulgarian. The same applies to interviews and material about world renowned authors like Ralph Gibson, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Bret Weston, Bill Brandt, and many others. Owing to the rich illustrative material reflecting different aspects of life, Bulgarian Photo turns into something more than a photography magazine – it is a tale of its time, of the changes, of Bulgaria, a narrative that is getting ever more necessary and valuable with each and every year. And the country is teaming with events – exhibitions, competitions, articles… Yet no gallery keeps memory of them, no history of Bulgarian art describes them. Almost everything we know today about Bulgarian photography is documented on the pages of the magazine. Hence, when in 1991 its last issue is printed, the loss concerns not only the photography circles. That is a loss to all of us. “As it was crushed by the element of market chaos – writes Stefan Landzhev, the last editor, in his address to the readers, - the magazine Bulgarian Photo was condemned to a long agony. Together with it, many other prestigious periodicals also die; they are mainly magazines, whose names have been standing for decades like bricks in the foundations of Bulgarian science and culture.”  

The End of the Millennium

At the end of the 90’s, commercial photography has almost completely devoured art photography. Only those, who find a way to comply with the market, can stay on the surface. Some still believe they could be artists, but they think it possible somewhere abroad. Georgi Neykov, Rafaelo Kazakov, Antoni Georgiev, Svetlana Bahchevanova are only a part of the photographers who left the country. Those who choose to stay here nevertheless, also “emigrate”, they move to the world of their own art. One of the few spaces where quality photography can still be seen is the Club for Aesthetic Education of Artists (CAEA) at the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts “Karastyo Sarafov” (NATFA) – a café-gallery curated by the successful creative tandem of Boris Misirkov and Georgi Bogdanov and the Bulgarian Society for Photography[18]. The young generation in photography has the opportunity of correcting the mistakes of the previous one – education, traveling, international contacts – in the new century, the most important thing appears to be one’s ability to use his freedom wisely.

Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Albania Today", 1995.

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Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Bulgarian Prisons", 1994.

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Yordan Yordanov-Yuri

From the series "Bulgarian Prisons", 1994.

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Sonya Stankova

Home. From the series "Mirages", 2000.

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Sonya Stankova

The Road. From the series "Mirages", 2000.

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Sonya Stankova

The Road. From the series "Mirages", 2000.

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Sonya Stankova

From the series "Studio Portraits" (1984-1988), 1986.

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  [1]Georgi Lozanov describes his impressions from the exhibition of Takor Kyurdiyan: “Large pieces of photographic paper are filled with images that just lead to nowhere. Even the consolation of decorativeness is missing: the works are rather ugly, they bring about certain sloppiness, tormentedness and incompleteness. One can see here and there the contours of a nude female body, but they imply only a bit of eroticism in the chaos of perceptions, or maybe it is the other way around – they cancel the possibility of such reading. Eroticism is melted in the sexlessness of something begotten, in the infinity of being. One can sense certain effort, something has happened, but it is difficult to say what it is. The camera has disappeared; the model and the image are merged; the result is a pure image-trace.” Lozanov, G., “The Cold Waters of Existence”. Bulgarian Photo. Lozanov, Georgi. Studenite vodi na sashtestvuvaneto. Balgarsko foto, 1989, №3, s. 17.

[2] “What photography means to me? – writes Usha – Maybe it is mostly related to relieving what is stored as tension within me, discharging the load. Photography is my liberation, my scream. (…) Sincerity is for me the blood flow of creative process. (…) I am not afraid of the reaction of those who are going to see the photos in the exhibition hall, because I have been completely sincere.”. See: Stanka Tsonkova – Usha, “Photographing with or without a Camera”, Bulgarian Photo. Stanka Tsonkova – Usha. Snimki sas i bez fotoaparat. Balgarsko foto, 1986, №11, 24-25.

[3] Ibid.  

[4] “I have been to a mental hospital, I have been to the law-court, I have been to jail, and I have always been to pubs quite a lot. I have worked in periodicals for a long time, and I have done it from time to time also, but in all that time I never drew a line, or built a wall, or drew a border between sanity and madness.” Yordanov, Yordan (Yuri) “Mongolia – an Alphabet of Living Close to Nature” Photo Eye. Yordanov, Yordan (Yuri). Mongoliya – azbuka na zhivota sred prirodata. Foto oko, 1999, №1, s.28.

[5] Lozanov, Georgi. The birth of the author in Bulgarian photography. Eight names from 1980s. IMAGO, 2001, № 11, р. 22.

[6] Lozanov, G., “Images outside Ideology”, Zero 32, 2017, Issue 9, 16:: https://issuu.com/nula32/docs/91 (09.07.2018).

[7] In 1962, Bulgaria is accepted in the International Federation of Photographic Art – FIAP. Every Bulgarian photographer can be awarded one of the four titles of the federation for achievements in the field of art photography: “The Honorary Excellence of FIAP” – the highest title. For it, all contributions to the development of the art of photography and the progress of FIAP are taken into account. “Excellence of FIAP - EFIAP” is awarded to authors who have exquisite technical and artistic merits in the field of photography and have taken part in a number of international exhibitions. The received diplomas, medals and the photos published in different editions are taken into account. The title “Artist of FIAP - AFIAP” is awarded to authors who are already established as big names in art photography and have been active for at least 5 years by participating in exhibitions in their own country and abroad. – Code of the Awards of the International Federation of Photographic Art FIAP. Pravilnik za otlichiyata na mezhdunarodnata federatsiya za fotografsko izkustvo FIAP. TSDA, fond 720, op. 1, a.e. 62, 1.

[8] Todorov, B. Trevozhni misli, porodeni ot edna izlozhba. Balgarsko foto, 1967, №8, s.24.

[9] Kazakov, Rafaelo. Do Hyustan i nazad. Priyateli na SASHT, 1991, №1, s. 23.

[10] Usha. Tam vsichko mozhe da stane izkustvo. Kultura, 5 yuli, 1990, s. 10.

[11] In 1987, Bulgarian photography is shown for the first time at the festival Arles Meetings. This is the series telling about post-revolutionary Cuba by architect Nikolay Popov. It was presented by his colleague and friend Peter Bozhkov. Nine years later, in 1995, another Bulgarian, Nikolay Treiman, wan an award at Arles for his series The Marsh.

[12] Bourdieu, Pierre. Photography – A Middle-Brow Art. Сambridge, 1998.

[13] Ruseva, Iglena; Lozanov, Georgi; CHipev, Igor. Konkursat – patuvane ot „lichnata fotografiya” kam lichnostta vav fotografiyata. Balgarsko foto, 1987, №11-12, s. 15.

[14] The Biennale of Bulgarian Photography is organized by the Culture Committee, Bulgarian Photography, the Club of Photography Fellows and the magazine Bulgarian Photo.

[15] Todorov, Bozhan. Misli za fotografskoto obrazovanie u nas. Balgarsko foto, 1981, №8, 26.

[16]  Todorov, Bozhan. Za fotografskoto obrazovanie i kvalifikatsiya. Balgarsko foto, 1981, №5, s.13.

[17] Informatsiya za sastoyanieto, rabotata i zadachite na sp. „Balgarsko foto”. TSDA, fond 720, op. 2, a.e. 37, 100-101. [18] Bulgarian Society for Photography is run by the following staff: Ivo Hadzhimishev, Emil Hristov, Georgi Lozanov, Igor Chipev, Nadezhda Chipeva, Boris Misirkov, Georgi Bogdanov, Dimitar Dilkov, Boris Despodov, Angel Tsvetanov.