Nostalgia for the Sea

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An exhibition of photographs, An Account of Nessebar, by architect Nikolay Popov (1914–1973) opened on 4 June 2018, ay Synthesis Gallery. Taken in 1957–1965, the black & white pictures take us back to the long gone days of the mid-twentieth century. On display are seventy photos, copied by the author himself, using the classical gelatin silver print technique, courtesy of his son, Boyan Popov. In his article on the show, Georgi Lozanov calls the author ‘a classic of Bulgarian photography[i]. And indeed, though an architect or may be for this very reason, Nikolay Popov’s flair for composition, details and important objects is incredible. There is nothing superfluous in his pictures, everything in them is very precise and well cropped. The viewer’s eye goes all by itself right to what he has sought to show. The visitor feels like a silent witness of the life in the small coastal towns of Nessebar and Sozopol. There is nothing manipulated or artificial in the pictures. People are captured in their natural daily routines and the photographer seems to be a silent witness conveying his feeling to us. Susan Sontag’ words: for while paintings or poems do not get better, more attractive simply because they are older, all photographs are interesting as well as touching if they are old enough[ii] refer to this type of photography. Now, with the coast changed irreversibly, these photos take us to the fairytale of empty beaches, dusty empty streets running between old houses, wooden boats, old fishermen, hanging washing and the sea and the isles are seen through … A long gone, a long lost world. A special quiet comes after the first nostalgic feeling, a quiet perceivable in each of these documentary photos. The sea, the people, the fishing… the photos exude a certain calm and naturalness also lost long ago. He was lucky to be highly appreciated in his lifetime: being conferred the title of an art photographer in 1951 and in 1961 he received Excellence FIAP (Fédération Internationale de l’Art Photographique). I’d define his photographs as a specific blend of a documentary survey and sea poetry compelling you to watch them for hours on end: that meditative feeling at dusk, when watching the sea horizon and the sun going down. Unfortunately, we are now more often than not experiencing these emotions on foreign that have retained that fascination rather than on Bulgarian beaches. One can immerse oneself in this time travel of a kind within A Months of Photography event, running until 19 June 2018 at Synthesis Gallery, at 55 Vasil Levski Blvd., Sofia.

[i] https://photosynthesis.bg/statia/razkaz_za_Nesebur_izlojba_fotografii_na_arh_Nikolai_Popov.html [8.06.2018].

[ii] Susan Sontag, On Photography, https://archive.org/stream/PHOTSusanSontagOnPhotography/PHOT%20Susan%20Sontag%20On%20Photography_djvu.txt

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Nostalgia for the Sea

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