A Tale of Nessebar
Nikolay Popov, Architect
Our reading of the definition “classic of Bulgarian photography”, when applied to architect Nikolay Popov, is not a belated compliment but a time-tested critical assessment. Such is his position in the Bulgarian history of this art, but above all such is his manner of shooting marked with balanced virtuoso compositions, aesthetic function of light, filtering the important from the insignificant and invoking intrinsic spatial meaning, erudition grown into a viewpoint, equipoise of truth, beauty and grace. All in all, with his exquisite pictorial taste cultivated after the Western European tradition rather than in the post-revolutionary socialist times, when he was foreordained to work. And it is exactly his taste that charges his photography with a soft but in its own way unflagging resistance against the ideological conjuncture.
His “A Tale of Nessebar” series, displayed for the first time in 1961, was the very antithesis of the all-pervading at those times photo propaganda of the new life. It reveals that life in its spontaneity and in its core cannot be new and remains just the same. And fishermen with their nets in the black and white frames by Architect Popov continue to catch fish in the sea as they have always done before. The photographer seeks the joy of life away from the offensive of a history, of which his camera captures only its stone traces. To him history, together with nature and the correlation between them, embodied in architecture, is nothing more than a subtle décor of everyday life, with its rituals, hopes, innocence … Everyday life for Architect Popov is far from being trivial, it is poetical and its poetics disembarks in Nessebar “by sea”.
There is one more reason to appreciate Architect Nikolay Popov’s heritage as a classic – time has been powerless to lay its hands on the message of his images. They could have easily been taken today as long as there is a photographer availing of his mastery and skill to preserve in their images the life along the coast from the havoc of post-communism. Just as Architect Popov spared life on the shore the devastation of communism.
Assoc. Prof. Georgi Lozanov