Silent Shadows, Faithless Night

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If you wonder what I’ve been working on lately, here are a few images from a new project I started based on the poetry of one of my favorite authors, Dimcho Debelyanov – a Bulgarian symbolist poet, intellectual and one of the most sensitive soldiers to lose his life in World War I. Unfortunately, very little of his exquisite works has been translated into English, so I can’t fully show you the depth and sensitivity of his verses and let you judge how they inspired the images above.

In a few words, his poetic dilemmas focused on the impossibility of reconciling reality with ideals. Which, for this projects,  metaphorically speaks of the impossibility of art to transparently represent ideas. I aim to use Debelyanov’s particular metaphors in images not to evoke your despair as viewers, which many people report as the effect of his poems, but to address this dilemma. Austin actor Greg Holt modeled for it. If you are local to DFW and would like to help me out by modeling, let me know! I promise the experience won’t be depressing as the poetry suggests. Continue reading

“Pictures fade when you caress them”. Found Memories (2011)

If the first day of the year is auspicious about the rest of it, I’ll be watching photography-related movies all throughout 2013. But I bet you could’ve guessed that even if I didn’t watch a couple of them on January 1 🙂

One of them was the mesmerizing – in a quiet, subtle way – Brazilian film Found Memories (Julia Murat, 2011).  Just like eavesdropping on a conversation and slowly realizing it’s about you, I realized this story could be about me: raking through a past with a camera lens and trying to bring it back to life, when the camera can only capture what’s here and now. Full of metaphors and lightly paced, it’s delightful to watch and ponder on the interweaving connection between photography and life. Continue reading

A German Holga: Certo-phot camera and the pull of nostalgia

photo by camera-wiki

One of the bonuses of spending time in Bulgaria for me is the chance for old, interesting, quirky photo finds. That usually means old photos, but also – and especially – old cameras and curious photo equipment you rarely come across these days.

My latest acquisition is this Certo-Phot camera, produced by camera maker Certo in Dresden in what was East Germany. Now, the company itself was founded way back in 1902, but it almost fell apart in the wake of WWII, after which it became state-owned. Its history follows the twists and turns all German technological brands experienced as a result of the war: nationalization, patent restrictions and plundering, activity shifts or even splitting between East and West, which by the way gave us two Agfas for more than 40 years. Continue reading

The Edelweiss Camera: A Bulgarian Holga

A mention of an Edelweiss camera today would make people think of the newly released Diana+ Edelweiss. Ironically, an edelweiss is a small, white, sturdy, very rare alpine flower (see left). And the new Diana+  edition is just a reproduction of the original Diana+ ; the only difference is the look and the only connection to its name is the color.

But actually, the original Edelweiss camera was a Bulgarian medium format camera, Continue reading

My silver gelatin prints with photogram elements (Photo+Craft)

© Ellie Ivanova, Playing with the Strings of the Past (2010)

Lightbox Photographic Gallery in Astoria, OR, has made its name promoting film and traditional photographic methods as well as alternative processes. Its upcoming national juried show, Photo+Craft, focuses on works that have a strong conceptual voice balanced with a high level of craftsmanship. Two of my silver gelatin prints with photogram elements will be part of this exciting exhibition.

I realize I haven’t written here about this process that I started working on recently. Since I take exception to the concept of photography as a transparent representation of reality, these recent explorations have led me to ways in which photography tweaks and interprets the world instead of simply registering it. Continue reading

Recent Holgascapes

Why film photography?

I love digital photography. If it weren’t for it, I probably wouldn’t have started to work seriously in photography at all – I’d fear the blank roll of film and the possibility to waste it 🙂 Also, it’s proven that instant feedback is a very effective tool in any learning and exploration process, and you get that only through digital technology. Plus, it’s convenient, cheaper, reliable, extremely versatile and leaner to carry around. And then if you really care about that certain “feel” of film, you can get software, like Silver Effex, to imitate any film brand or classic photographic process in your digital photo.

But ironically, film is still around – and its proponents are even more passionate about it. And isn’t it even more ironic that Francis Fukuyama, the philosopher who pronounced and celebrated the imminent triumph of economic liberalism throughout the world, now laments the loss of quality in photography and music due to the dominance of cheaper digital technology replacing the better analogue one. It is not very frequently that Francis Fukuyama and I see eye to eye 🙂  , pun intended. Continue reading

Stepmom (1998)

Julia Roberts as photographer Isabel in "Stepmom"

I started my blog tradition of photography-centered movie reviews with the intention to discuss the photographic aspect of certain iconic films. But so far those reviews have focused on something else rather neglected: the role of photography and photographers in society. (See my posts on Everlasting Moments, in which photography empowers a woman in an abusive relationship, and The Bridges of Madison County, about a photographer whose job is to discover beauty but also deprives him of social ties).

Stepmom (1998, with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon) is about the opposite: the power of photography to create relationships yet also to make people vulnerable to an invented reality. Isabel, the new girlfriend of divorced dad Luke, tries hard to connect with his kids, but they reject her. Maybe because their mom sabotages those attempts. Or maybe it’s Isabel’s high-pressure job as a fashion photographer that makes her distracted and impatient and she only has a vision of a false reality. Continue reading

Kodachrome Americana

I missed the Kodachrome mystique growing up in Bulgaria. It simply wasn’t available there. But when I learned about its discontinuation last year, it became supremely important for me to have it. Besides its exceptional qualities, shooting Kodachrome was part of the full fledged American experience which I would join.

I got some rolls of Kodachrome film (expired, since production stopped in September of 2009) and decided to shoot images that speak directly of the notion of Americana. Landscapes, old neighborhoods, whimsical traditions. I was in a creative rush, as the only lab in the world that processed it was going to stop accepting Kodachrome in late 2010. Continue reading

Smena 8m: not a toy, but a serious little camera

Smena 8m is the camera of my childhood, which I still use. When I was leaving Bulgaria years ago, my Smena was one of the few things I took with me on what was going to be a long trajectory across several countries with just two suitcases. Throughout the years, the multiple geographic moves and the acquisition of other, much better cameras, my heart didn’t let me throw away my Smenka. And I was rewarded of that sentimental attachment when I finally took it out of the box again and loaded it with film, a few years ago. Reliving the forgotten experience of shooting with Smena took me back to my childhood. But most of all, the images surprised me with their clarity and precision. Seems that I had underestimated Smena and all that recent talk about it being a toy camera had made me downgrade its reputation.

A basic entry level Soviet camera from the Cold War era, it’s ironic to see Smena becoming more and more popular recently. That has become possible thanks to Lomography, an Austrian merchandising company that put in motion the aggressive marketing machine of toy cameras. First came LOMO LC-A, a medium-format camera produced by the LOMO factory in Saint Petersburg in Russia, now refashioned as a charming old time, “artistic” toy with unique quirks. Lomography took the manufacturing license for LC-A from the LOMO factory (which now produces industrial equipment only) and, along with the resurrected LC-A, started promoting the lighthearted approach to photography, whereas the low fidelity characteristics of cheap gadgets were championed as artistic advantages. They were now called “toy cameras”, because photography was not a matter of serious work and serious expectations but instead of serendipity and living in the moment. Continue reading