THE TREE AND OTHER STORIES

by Professor Tsocho Boyadzhiev; translated by Traci Speed

Photography of Aleksandar Ivanov

 the tree aleksandar ivanov 3.jpg

Unlike the other visual languages, photography retains the "effect of reality." The photographic image verifies that what has been photographed is "really like that." At the same time, it arises "technically," through the effect of light on light-sensitive material. What, then, is the role of the photographer, where is the creativity in the creation of the photographic image, and to what extent is photography’s claim of being an art justified?

When we talk about the work of one of the most important contemporary Bulgarian photographers, we must mention first of all his keen insight into the hidden meanings of nature, which he loved so much. These were shown in a remarkable way in one of his previous projects, "Bulgaria from a Bird’s Eye View," in which ostensibly familiar places were subjected to an amazing "Platonic" geometry that we may perhaps suspect, but which remains inaccessible to us, because we do not have the eye of a bird.

The series "One Life" is all the more amazing because our blindness does not have that aforementioned justification. We carelessly pass by the old rotten tree, misshapen, worthless as a shelter, useless as material. But look how the photographer stops at it – and for a long time. Because upon careful and intelligent examination, it turns out that it is much more than a rotten tree – it is a bird, and a snake, and a spectral being; it is a strange but bright beacon; it is a living being, changing with the seasons; it is a storyteller, or a hand caressing us. The tree has graciously revealed its many faces to the photographer, and the photographer has patiently read its visual language, benevolently met and decoded its messages, resorting to the variability of the technical intermediary to reveal the deeper layers of meaning of the object. There is also grace in the photographer’s gesture. He not only overcomes the fleeting transitoriness of life, but also wisely teaches us that everything in this world is greater, is more significant and more worthy than what our superficial gaze captures. This "more" is reality, not a fiction, and the ability to see and to recreate this reality in an exciting way is a trademark in Aleksandar Ivanov’s photographic work.

This togetherness of man and nature, of the photographer and his "model," is witnessed in the series of black and white photographs called "Up Close" by Iliyan Michev, which documents the path of the creation of Aleksandar Ivanov’s series, while fully exploiting the potential of photography and having its own independent artistic value. In this way the viewer gets not two parallel exhibitions, but one double-faced show, which is novel in this country’s cultural life.

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