Beyond Boundaries: Our Favourite Photographers Reinventing Bulgarian Identity

 

A country in a permanent physical and socio-political borderland, Bulgaria has long been struggling to find its own voice and unique identity. From the innumerable battles and transitions of early civilizations, to the 19th century Bulgarian National Revival and Liberation, the Communist period, or the post-Soviet transition, Bulgaria has been submitted to competing identity forces and geopolitical influences. Amongst constant metamorphoses, Bulgaria has either been neglected or automatically classified according to prefabricated South Slavic or post-Soviet stereotypes. However, in our contemporary post-modern and globalised society, Bulgaria is moving away from grand narratives to redefine itself as an eclectic, vibrant and unique country radiating creative energy.

The new Bulgarian generation does not define itself in terms of perestroika, economic hardships or territorial disputes; it is defined according to its own contemporary struggles, not according to geopolitical or social categories. It is concerned with feminist issues, minority struggles, ideological battles and identity clashes and, above all else, an overarching quest for freedom.

This heterogeneous social and personal mosaic is undoubtedly reflected in the Bulgarian arts scene, so vast that it could not possibly be wholly captured in a single piece. However, this list of photographers aims to give a glimpse into the burst of young and unique artistic talent and stylistic diversity that Bulgaria is contributing to the global photography scene. This new wave of Bulgarian photographers uses art – as other means would fall short – to portray the efforts of the new Bulgarian generation to redefine itself not by oblivion or stereotypes, but in its own original terms. Make sure you follow them on Instagram for a constant flow of meaningful aesthetic pleasure! 

Yana Lozeva

Born in 1989, on the brink of transition, the work of Sofia-based Yana Lozeva is a soft yet raw capture of the dazed harmony latent in the midst of everyday chaos. Unwilling to bypass the strangers on the street, Yana’s lens accurately captures life in all its intricate layers. From timeless memories in a childhood village, the hidden tension of faces lost in the crowds of Sofia, or the delicate decadence of an abandoned Bulgarian island, Yana submerges the viewer into a world of velvety, pastel-hazed portraits of contemporary Bulgaria.

Miroslav Marinov 

Vibrating with the beats of deep house techno, Miroslav Marinov’s recklessly captures bright neon reality behind-the-scenes. Set in an underground scene, Miroslav’s still shots paradoxically capture the dynamic carelessness of Bulgarian youth, bursting with psychedelic energy amongst intertwined body parts, ecstatic smiles and fearless stares on a lens that candidly captures reality as an insider. 

Mihail Novakov

Combining his craft in street and skate photography with an eclectic palette of faces and landscapes, Mihail Novakov reconstructs the image of a new Bulgaria in Technicolor. Ranging from intimate portraits to vast sceneries or minute details, Mihail offers an unfiltered portrayal of reality, as he reinvents Sofia and contemporary Bulgarian culture through a youthful and heterogeneous raw lens.

Gergana Petrova

Oozing with feminine energy, Gergana Petrova combines the still life of nature photography with the dynamic intimacy of portraits. In hazy pastel tones, Gergana’s style embraces the viewer, walking him along the features and curves of geographical landscapes and human bodies in her fresh and unique portrayal of the physical and social map of contemporary Bulgaria.

Alex Dabi Zhevi

A self-described “peasant”, this Austrailian-Bulgarian captures reality in the form of black and white portraits that tenderly evoke old reel camera photographs. In a black and white play of shadows, Alex timelessly captures strengths and subtleties, the innocent intimacy and fierce boldness of the visages of contemporary Bulgaria.

Deni Georgieva

Madrid-based Deni Georgieva’s world takes the form of hazy triptychs, where feminine, youthful intimacy and fairytale landscapes are captured in pastel-coloured hues. In an almost dynamic, cinematic fashion, Deni’s photography holistically embraces the viewer, making him aware of the delicacy of the minute details of everyday life that would otherwise remain in oblivion.

Lora Musheva

Lora Musheva’s photographs uniquely capture the tenderness of the human body; of faceless, nude body parts, and the innocent boldness in stolen shots. Through her monochromatic shots, Lora thus invites the viewer into the deepest layers of personal struggle, portraying Bulgarian youth’s search for identity in intimacy.

Miroslav Zhivkov 

The warm-hued photographs of Miroslav Zhivkov submerge the viewer into the static timelessness of the fine details generally lost in the chaos of our autopilot existence. Zhivkov’s unusual shots sweetly capture hidden frowns, innocent nudity, the disregarded aesthetics of everyday details in rural Bulgaria, the embracing spell of landscapes where time stands still, creating a mellow portrait of life in Bulgaria beyond the mainstream.

Vera Hadzhiyska

Based in the UK, Vera Hadshiyska uses photography as a medium to, overlapping fact and fiction, recreate Bulgarian singularity beyond political agendas or nationality stereotypes. Blending together personal and collective memory, migration, diaspora and cultural and national narratives, Vera produces highly symbolical, powerfully captivating photographs that visually reconstruct historical narrative and national identity in a contemporary Bulgaria.