by Alfred Forns
I would like to introduce our first Senior Critic being interviewed, Ivaylo Ivanov. He is a long time photographer with strong technical background and has gone through different stages in photographic preferences, each contributing to what he has become today. You will find him interesting, particularly when you learn about Teodora, his muse, and according to him “his everything". His unconventional style and vision adds a lot to our Critique team and we are very proud to present this refreshing interview, which I hope all of you will enjoy.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
I am Ivaylo Ivanov and the more quiet and somehow mysterious Teodora is my partner, my model and my woman. I am a graduate philologist and Tedy has a master degree in Accounting and Financial control, she was a CFO. Now she is a modern and caring mother - she knows so much about healthy food and at least 5 ways to comfort a crying baby. I know one and it works sometimes. I never worked in any field related to my education, and she dislikes her previous job. The last few years we lived from photography and the time we are not spending on it - we are together fighting over something else. I like to cook, she loves to eat. She is a clean and tidy home fanatic and I am quote: the result of ages long selection to breed a personification of the pure chaos and disorder. So, we just belong together(laughs) And now there is our precious June (smiles)
How have your history and life experiences affected your photography?
I was surrounded with photography since I was born. And the first 25 years of my life I thought it was boring. Then curiosity made me look closer and I found inspiration to try it myself. The next few years I was shooting like crazy and every genre- searching for something I like and truly want. I quit and ran a coffee shop with gallery for modern art. There I met Teodora again. She was someone I knew for ages - old buddy so to say. And yes, she made me quit the Gallery and start with photography again. Concerning her, I am flattered to believe she is interested in photography since she met me (laughs)
Which are your most important experiences that have influenced your art?
It is only one important experience - a late afternoon in the Gallery, a Friday - Tedy was there drinking Vodka with somebody and suddenly she said she wants me to photograph her. As I said, she was someone I knew for a long time and at that moment I did not really care about photography. I was so curious and thrilled to see her undressed - most unprofessional approach. It never happened before and since then, true.Later I was told she had the same plan. She told me (laughs). And so - back to the lenses and cameras and memory cards and sleepless nights in front of the monitor.
What first attracted you to photography?
While looking at pictures I ran into the portfolio of a Bulgarian photographer who took pictures of people - portraits in their environment. They looked alive and I really could see their story in one image. I thought - this is something worth trying. Teodora is in this with me. She started with photography a few years ago. I love her sense of grace, of style and the precision. How she pays attention to every subtle detail. Not really me - I almost did not know those things existed (laughs)
Please describe your overall photographic vision.
I always try to find something about the model - she or he, that is special and often unknown even to her/him. Hope it does not sound too pretentious but that is how it works for me. I do not accentuate on how the people feel at the moment or feel about themselves in general. They could believe they are smiling, happy, melancholic, dramatic or sad. I try to capture what I like about them and that is how it works for me.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
My relationship is something between attraction and curiosity. I used to think it is a kind of strange love that appears for a short time but I changed my definition (smiles). Anyway it is something like this - from the inside I feel I must get involved in a personal way to get to the core of my subject, whatever or whoever it is. It is the way I begin to work. I must see something which I like and which becomes my theme. After that I am quick. And after the shooting I somehow let it pass away. I store the pictures and if it is not a rush job or project I forget the files for a couple of days. I try to let go any emotion that existed while shooting. I try to separate the creativity and mood of the time of shooting from that one present while processing. So, shortly - love, indifference and after that work (smiles).
Do you prepare carefully the locations or settings before shooting?
I choose locations very carefully and I usually am prepared with a concept about the photo shoot. On the day of photography, everything goes its own way. The preparation of the settings is a strange thing for me. It is always different. For some jobs I really prepare the settings to the last detail. Some I just let go at their own pace as there are things that nobody can control. Like rain or toothache or models with hangover. And when it is some of my personal stuff I like to let go and see where it lands. I have a plan but in the process I see something new and unexpected and I change the whole concept in a moment. And strangely it often works great.
What gear do you use?
We use Canon equipment. It was my first camera and later I just upgraded so I am really used to it. And for Tedy it is something she inherited from me. I have some bags for different occasions - all Lowepro - again something I am used to. I have a tripod which I used for 10 or more years. The manufacturer is unknown to me. I really seldom use lenses over 135mm. And my most precious one, funny or not, is the Canon 50/2.5 Macro. Many beautiful memories and some of my favourite pictures I have taken with the Canon 60D and 50/2.5 Macro. I have a basic studio lighting set - 2 lamps, 2 Mono blocks a few reflectors and some self-made accessories such as backgrounds.
What software do you use to process your images?
I use Photoshop and Camera Row. Next to them are Silver and Colour effects Pro. And that is it.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
This is quite a question for me (smiles). Having photography as a job and a way of personal expression is a unique situation. I went through different stages - now I do mostly wedding photography and jewellery. The first one gives me contact to other people and their stories. This is the social me. The second one is challenge. Jewels and jewellery are beautiful, expensive and above all - quiet. This is the true me. Teodora usually works with models. This is her true self - confident and evil. I secretly believe all her models hate her while shooting and love her when they get the pictures. A big happy family again. So, directions - no. I am good for now. We used to travel a lot, now we chose to stay put while June is still a baby. I have time for my personal stuff. Teodora is no longer so confident to travel the world as before. Just a plan - to keep June away from the madness around. We hope there will be beauty and joy and adventures and happiness and love and peace for her in the world in the future. Somehow self-sufficient for now. More relaxed and more concentrated (smiles).
What do you think about 1x as a home base for your work?
1x is a unique place. A digital shelter for me. Not only for the beautiful photography. Not only for the unique artists . It is the way they mix. It is the way 1x is a society. I remember the first time I browsed 1x and I landed in the gallery. My first thought was - damned, who are those people. I was shocked how is it possible to gather photographers with such pictures together - every single image I saw was great and showed me a unique place, mood and story. Then I read about the Curation (capital C I use here for a word with a special status, in the same category as Faith, Love , Inquisition, Good, Evil..) So I thought - why not, 3% approval - seems a friendly and well-intentioned place.
And as a home base for my work - it is perfect (smiles).
You are a most active 1x member, writing excellent and helpful feedbacks in the Critique forum. One can feel your passion to help photographers improving their work. What made you decide to become a senior critic why are you so drawn in this job as a volunteer?
It is the curiosity that drives me in this matter. True. I never really intended to teach or criticize or advise with enlightenment intentions. I just wanted to share a different point of view. How I see a picture and how it makes me feel. Is it emotional or is it a technical one. Do I see it beautiful and how does it correspond to my world. Is it a dialogue or is it a reflection. When I find some words I write them down, it is easy to like or not to like. Much harder is to try to explain why. And hopefully it is worth for both writer and photographer. And so I was just writing some words and then I got this mail from Piet Flour and it was in short like this:
- Much appreciated! Do you want to join the team as critic?
- It's a honour!
- Welcome :)
Can you tell us something about your criteria when “reading” the images submitted to the critic forum ?
This is the question, isn't it? At least for me it is a major one. I am a member of the SC team of 1x. The guys are great and the girls are even greater. So answering this question is a responsibility. Criteria - hard to define. I will try it like this: Reading the image and trying to become acquainted with the core of it. No matter if it is landscape or portrait or reportage...for me there is always something like a first impulse and I let it lead me. Usually I do not provide a strictly technical feedback. For two reasons - first - there are members of the SC team that are much more experienced in this matter and second - I always get involved emotionally with a certain image and the matter of mood, suggestions, impression, expressiveness, idea and story are which come foremost. Sometimes it is just a parallel with music, literature or painting, in other cases an old memory is recalled... the main impulse always remains the feelings and emotions elicited in me. I want to be convinced. Some technical issue I can ignore if I believe in what I see. Good that some other SC members catch up with the purely photographical side of the pictures. I often go back to their comments and...learn. Thanks, team. Honoured to have a place among you.