Hello Venelina, thanks for submitting your work to women in photography. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Thank you for your positive response and for this interview invitation. Photography has always been very present in my life. My father was a photography lover and I was used to seeing developed film rolls, pictures and photo albums as I was growing up. I always felt there is something magical in the transformation of moments into pictures. Another influence has been my grandmother, she was a great storyteller and was always showing pictures when speaking about all those fascinating events and people from the past. So to me photographs were part of the family life yet something magical that transcends the limits of time. Later in life, I felt the need to create my stories in a way that overcome different language barriers. So photography was an intuitive and natural medium for that.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is a way to create, express, feel and communicate. It allows me to see and appreciate the gifts of life. In a way I take more from life through photography and I can give more back through the photographs that I create. I feel free yet connected to myself when photographing.
You worked for over 10 years in finance before you decided becoming a full time photographer. What was the reason to dedicate your life to your passion?
I guess over the years I have learned to trust life and my own intuition. Thus, I simply followed my inner voice. Looking back, I see how naturally the dots connected and converged into the person that I am today. I have read recently the following sentence: In art, as in love intuition is enough. I would say, in life intuition has proven to be the right guide and my intuition has led me to photography.
You are actually from Bulgaria and have lived in many places like Geneva, Zurich and London. Currently you are based in Tokyo. Do you feel that places have an influence to your photography? For example - is there a different vibe in Tokyo, where you are currently living?
Living in different cultures has taught me adaptivness and openness. In that sense, I embrace the visual and emotional vibe of each culture and location and that impacts my work. It is a discovery of the world around me and at the same time a discovery of who I am from an altered angle. I see a different reality, photograph different subjects and often I create differently. For example, in Europe I was photographing mainly landscapes, in Asia I work predominantly with portraiture, street and conceptual photography. Then, some of the projects grew organically as visual tales - Tokyo challenged me and helped me to grow as a visual artist. I also invested time learning about Japanese photography and this has influenced me without any doubt.
Congratulations for winning the Silver Prize of the Fine Arts Photography Awards 2015 for your project GRACE. Can you tell us a little bit about it? How did the idea come up to that project?
Thank you very much! Coming from the world of finance I was used to see driven alpha female behaviour. Even in more female dominated fields such as fashion, design, marketing etc. women in the western world are business minded and determined. Arriving in Japan I was surprised and fascinated with the dreamy allure of Japanese women. Despite the economic and technological advancement of the society women seemed to have kept the connection to their soft, mysterious and somehow ethereal nature. The title ‘Grace’ came naturally to me as I found Japanese women intrinsically graceful. The camera recorded their faces and expressions in an attempt to understand the secret for their mystifying charm.
Why did you choose shooting „Grace“ in B&W and in Tokyo?
I work a lot in black and white – it is my intuitive colour pallet in photgraphy. Stripping out colours helps me to focus on the key emotion or message that I aim to convey with my photographs. To me the image feels special and more impactful when in black and white.
Do you think it’s important to take part at Photography Awards? And do you think it has an influence to the career of a photographer?
Photography in itself is a wide field in some areas such distinctions are more valued than in others. In general, industry recognition from leading institutions, organisations and competitions can open lots of doors. Distinctions and awards also give a signal for the value to art lovers interested in acquiring a photograph.
What is your opinion regarding film vs. digital photogaphy?
A good photograph is a good photograph irrespective of the medium used to create it. So my focus lies in the creation of strong, evocative and compelling photographs. That said, I use both digital and film cameras. I like the versatility, speed and opportunities the digital camera offers.
At the same time, I love analog cameras. It feels differently when shooting film – there is a sense for mindfulness, slowing down. In a way experiencing the magic on each step of the process –hearing the sound the camera produces when pressing the shutter, winding the film, developing it, touching the images. It is special ....more tactile and somehow relational.
Above all, I love printed photographs more than photographs on screens. I try to print as much as possible both my digital and analog work.
What type of photography do you enjoy most and why?
To me a strong, compelling and evocative photograph is always inspiring and impactful – irrespective of its style, colour pallet or subject.
Do you shoot daily?
I do shoot nearly every day and rarely leave home without a camera.
Do you research and plan a project or is it that you wait and see what your work brings up?
Most of the time the projects emerge from my work, from what I see as a repeating element, from an idea, from what attracts or interests me. I try not to rationalise when shooting, I follow my instincts and enjoy working freely on the projects. That said, because I am mindful of the idea or concept I read on the topic, ask people on how they perceive it and depending on the topic I might do in depth research. In other instances I know from the outset what I aim to produce and look for the opportunity to realise it. When working on commercial collaborations planning and working towards a clear goal is a must.
Which photographers have influenced your thinking and photography? Are there currently female photographers you like?
I had the privilege to work under the guidance of Magnum photographers Jacob Aue Sobol and David Alan Harvey - they helped me to grow as a visual artist for which I am very grateful.
In terms of female photographers find remarkable the work of Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Olivia Arthur, Caroline Drake, Cristina Garcia Rodero, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Kounrtney Roy and many others.
What and who inspires you?
Life! Love for life!
What are your next plans?
I am working on my new series and preparing an upcoming exhibition.
Thank you for your time Nicole! All my respect for your passion and dedication to women in photography! I look forward to discovering the work of many inspiring female photographers through ‘Women in Photogrpahy’!