Category Archives: documentary

The family pictures inheritance

My grandfather in 1940. Photograph by Kiro of Smardan

This is a portrait of my grandfather, taken while he was doing his military service in 1940 Bulgaria (not part of the Axis yet). I discovered it last summer while perusing the stack of family photos at my parents’ house.

And it was one of the delights of my summer. I saw, in this picture, something in him I had not known but was so excited to discover it.  I saw how he felt in that particular moment of his life and some truths he never told me; things I would’ve discussed with him if only he were around today.  This picture gave me back a great piece of my own personal puzzle that I didn’t know existed but am so glad I found.

So, what could I do with this treasure? I plundered it from my parents’ collection without telling them, or my sister. My only justification was that it was just temporary and I would scan it and print it in large format and give them copies. Continue reading


Discouraged Dialogs — Human Rights, Borders, War Zones and Bodies: Lee College Human Rights Art Exhibition and Symposium.

Lee College in Baytown, TX, organized an exhibit drawn from the permanent human rights art collection at South Texas College back in April of 2012. It was called Discouraged Dialogs — Human Rights, Borders, War Zones and Bodies:
Lee College Human Rights Art Exhibition and Symposium.

Artwork is featured in this video – can you recognize my pieces? They are in color and I haven’t worked much in color for some time… I miss it!

In any case, it’s one of the few collections in the country dedicated to human rights, with special emphasis on border issues. Here is the official description of the event: Continue reading

The road that leads to Roma

©Ellie Ivanova, 2012. Celebration on the Square.

Roma Transitions, an online portal for news related to Romani issues in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, recently published an interview with me about the Third Eye photography project. It was a great occasion for me to talk about the ideas behind it and thank all the people who contributed. Here is an excerpt: Continue reading

Old photo magazines

Popular Photography from February 1954. Click on the image to view it large.

If you know my experience with old photography books, it is only logical to turn to magazines next and see how they fare at the distance of time. Do their topics seem outdated now? Their perspective silly? Do they provide a unique glimpse into what photography is, while giving us all a real-life demonstration of what endures? After all, magazines are meant to focus on the current and the fleeting, so this kind of fading of significance can only be expected. And it could help distill the significant out of the passing and lead us to a conclusion on the meaning of timeless art.

That’s how I started going through a stack of photo magazines dating from the 50s on. Continue reading

Old School Art Residency in Gorna Lipnitsa: the end as a beginning

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This is a small selection of the work I completed at the Old School Art Residency. Since the theme was based on legends about the end of the world interpreted as a beginning, I used expired film from a country that no longer exists (East Germany) and expired paper from now privatized companies. The images I made show archetypal vignettes representing our expectations and anxieties related to endings and beginnings. Continue reading

Photography in an Orthodox Church

St. Elijah mass in a village church, Bulgaria. @ Ellie Ivanova, 2012

Anyone who has been in an Eastern Othodox church in Europe has admired the beautiful iconography and ethereal atmosphere of those architectural gems.  But if you’ve attempted to take a picture to record your experience, you’ve probably been stopped by the stern voice of the priest. Or you’ve seen the “no photography” sign at the door and didn’t even dare raise the camera to your eye.  And maybe you’ve felt both frustrated and puzzled by this prohibition.

So, why is photography in an Orthodox church frowned upon, even outside of mass? Is it a practical necessity or a doctrine? After all, the reason some priests give is: “this is a church, you can’t take pictures here”; it’s not that they forbid just the use of flash for fear of ruining the frescoes. Some would add that it’s disrespectful, others, that it’s too secular an act for a church.

Continue reading

The Bulgarian National Radio has a Third Eye

The Bulgarian National Radio (aka the Bulgarian version of NPR) aired an interview with me on the work of the Third Eye Photography Workshop yesterday. For a transcript on their website – in Bulgarian – just follow the link above.

In related news, I am at the seaside village of Ravda in Bulgaria where the first workshop in this summer’s series is taking place. It’s happening within a summer camp for Roma kids from Northwestern Bulgaria. We are very limited in terms of photographic material due to our location, but the kids are getting very creative with their modelling.

The most exciting thing so far? One of the teenagers from last year’s workshop is now a junior counselor in the camp! It was so great to see him again, especially in this capacity.