Maritsa Kolcheva: "Each look marked the beginning of a story."

In the end of June, the last but one event of the cultural orientation programme for refugees and asylum seekers took place. The topic was a tour of Sofia with a professional guide and a photo workshop, which was intended as a smooth transition to the end of the programme: an exhibition of pictures taken by the participants. The special guest of this event was the professional photographer, poet and artist Maritsa Kolcheva, who was the main driving force behind the preparation and realization of the final photo exhibition within the project. Maritsa is the founder of the Rubber Gallery, a unique photo gallery in Bulgaria. It is an honour for us that she agreed to provide space for the final event of the project! We present to your attention Maritsa’s impressions after her first meeting with the participants in the programme:

1. Could you shortly introduce yourself?

My name is Maritsa Kolcheva and I am a photographer. Alongside my photography work in the last two years I have been involved with Rubber Gallery: a space for contemporary art photography in Sofia, and since May earlier this year in Plovdiv as well.

2. What is your previous contact with refugees and asylum seekers?

Never before have I been part of such a format of a meeting with refugees. However, I’ve grown up in the Ovcha Kupel neighbourhood, where I studied in 151 School. My school shared its yard with the one of the accommodation centre for refugees and asylum seekers. The children from the centre played with us in the playground and they would sometimes even enter the classes and stay with us if the teachers would allow it. They would look around with interest and put all their efforts in remembering separate words. In our common games no separation could be felt, not even a language barrier. The word “different” did not exist, tolerance was a natural inherited quality, there was no need for it to be specifically cultivated and educated. I think that this childhood experience was extremely valuable to me.

3. Did you have prior expectations about the event and the participants? If yes, what where they?

No, I didn’t have expectations. I had the wish for an authentic touch with the individuals behind the collective term “refugees”. Each of them has his/her own story, different language, origin, interests. I was slightly worried about the language barrier, about the interference of interpretation in our communication. However, my wish was to talk to each other through the language of images. My initial meeting with them occurred to me in my capacity of a photographer during their sightseeing tour of Sofia. At that moment we started communicating with each other in silence, by looking at each other’s eyes. Each look which met mine marked the beginning of a story.

4. Was there something which surprised you or made a strong impression on you at the event and did you take something from this experience?

One of the participants in the meeting asked me whether there was specialized training in photography somewhere in the world: photography is something that you learn or it’s a matter only of talent. The obvious answer aside, this question made me think. I was impressed by the shot which one of the participants showed me on his phone. He had followed all the composition rules, the existence of which he was barely aware of. Intuitively he had sensed and applied them, making a a very good photograph and proving that eventually it is the author’s look, no matter the technical device or the carrier of the image, that is and will always be the most important thing in photography art.

5. Would you like to add something or to address the participants, the organizers, and the blog readers?

I thank the organizers for the magnificent initiative and the cordiality with which they do their job! I am convinced that each of us has felt like a refugee in some moments of our lives, in our own country or even inside ourselves. This is the reason why it is so important to cultivate empathy. It helps those in need, but saves us too.


We also thank Maritsa for the diligence and the professionalism which she invested in the photography workshop and the preparation of the photo exhibition! She managed to build confidence in the participants in their own photography skills, and inspired them to take the  interesting shots which they would soon present to us, making it very difficult for her to make her selection from the sea of images, characterizing the life of our heroes! We wish Maritsa lots of creative achievements in the colourfulness of everyday life.

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eea grants / a25 culgoral foundation

eea grants / a25 culgoral foundation