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Meet the artists: Penko Skumov and Svilen Nachev

Meet the artists: Penko Skumov and Svilen Nachev

. 7 min read

"Wander for a wonder" is a joint exhibition of the two talented street photographers with bright future - Penko Skumov and Svilen Nachev. Revealing the moments of the everyday life which pass through us without noticing them and converting the ordinary moments into extraordinary art, their work is shifting the viewer's attention.
A candid interview of the two photographers about what inspires them and makes their photography as it is.

1. Describe the type of photography you create and the one you enjoy.

Svilen Nachev: The photography of everyday life in which there are elements of humour, absurdity or just something interesting. I love photography in which there is something mysterious and secretive.

Penko Skumov: I try to create just good photography regardless of the genre. "Street photography" is a very restrictive term. In fact, what I do can be called "photography of ordinary life" - I photograph the reality that excites me in the most direct and frank way. I like real and unadulterated photography and I don't like artificial, "make-up" and "candy" photography. The feeling of realism is extremely important to me. But I also believe that reality is something magical.

2. What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?

S.N: I want my photography to show something more than what seems at first glance, something beyond reality.

P.S: Good photography is open to interpretation. When we look at a work of art, each of us observes, feels and perceives it through something of himself, through his personal experience. If my work affects, brings visual pleasure, or touches the viewer in any way, then its existence is justified. Today, thousands of images pass through our eyes every day. Real photography is called to create such images that will remain in our memory for a long time - not just photos, but "photographs".

3. Who are some of your favourite photographers, and how did they influence you?

S.N: They are many, so I will only mention three: Lars Tunbörk, Jeff Jacobson and Cristobal Hara.

©Jeff Jacobson

P.S: I am inspired by authors like Josef Koudelka, Nikos Economopoulos, Harry Gruyaert, Alex Webb, Ralph Gibson… These are just a few of the names that have influenced me. I am constantly discovering new artists who inspire me. Viewing impacting photography constantly educates and enriches me. Every great photographer can be our personal teacher by researching his work, absorbing his style and taking something for ourself from his world.

©Ralph Gibson

4. Which are 3 of your favourite books on street photography – and what is it that you love about them?

S.N: It is tough for me to choose only three so I will say the first ones that come to mind: Mark Cohen - Dark Knees (I don't have it, but I've seen it many times and I'm very inspired by the author's work), Trent Parke - Minutes To Midnight (amazing selection and arrangement, everything is in the right place), Fabio Ponzio - East Of Nowhere (I have it since very recently, and I am quite impressed).


P.S: My collection of books is not large, but I try to always add to it. My favourite books at the moment are probably Nikos Economopoulos's "In The Balkans" and Alex Webb's "Suffering of Light". In both great Magnum photographers, I am drawn to their sense of authenticity and mastery in composing shots. The third book, which I can call a favourite, but I still don't own the physical copy, I ordered a little while ago. This is Koudelka's "Gypsies". I know the edition very well, but I haven't owned it so far, so I'm looking forward to it arriving.


5. What are your thoughts on working on single images versus projects?

S.N: I've always wanted to make incredibly strong single shots, which I then tie into series. I think the series is the next level of growth for any author.

P.S: I always strive to create a strong single image. This is of course, very difficult and many photos need to be shot. My approach is to go with the flow, to leave my intuition guide me while I'm shooting and try not to think much. I try to shoot intuitively.

There are several thematic projects that I am working on, but I still can't say when will they be completed. I may continue to shoot them, for years or they may never see the light of day. When is a photographic project, series or book completed? Very difficult question ... For this reason, I do not oppose the separate image and the series. These are the two possible approaches to working in documentary and street photography. A good project needs to be made up of many strong single photographs to be truly impactful.

6. Social media and where does the author draw the fine line in order to stay true to themselves?

S.N: The author must be extremely honest with himself and others.

P.S: Social media is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is a natural scene for the authors, without which we cannot do today. Another issue is that one can be deceived by the vanity of being liked and fall into the trap of one's own ego. Then it is very easy to start generating photos that are sure to please everyone, at any cost, and so lose yourself as an author. In order to remain true to oneself, a photographer must always compare himself with the best, constantly work and have a real sense of his own level as an author. Still, the adequate and dignified place of photography is not on Instagram or Facebook, but in galleries, museums and books. There is such an expression - "photography needs a body".

7. What advice would you give to yourself if you were to start with street photography all over again?

S.N: Study art history.

P.S: I would say to myself: For a good street photograph, you have to walk many kilometres, read a lot of books, take thousands of bad pictures and still doubt it.

8. If you could showcase your work in just one shot which one would it be and what’s the story behind it?

S.N: I would show my shot with the cross and the drone. It happened on Epiphany. I clicked, and then I saw that something exciting was made.

©Svilen Nachev-Svishtov, Bulgaria-January, 2019

P.S: I will paraphrase a thought of Ralph Gibson - I would like to present myself through the photo I will take tomorrow ... In my opinion, the photographer should work for his next shot, and not think about those he has already taken. Not to look back, but to constantly evolve.

But at the moment my photograph with the covered car and the fluttering sheet emerges before my eyes ... A banal, everyday scene, which for me is so magical and supernatural. This is my fixed idea - to recreate this magic.

Svishtov, Bulgaria-January, 2019
©Penko Skumov-Pomorie, Bulgaria-August, 2020

9. What is one question nobody has ever asked you—that you wish they did?

S.N: I would like someone to ask me why I do something like this, with photography that is not commercial and it is very difficult to have any success. The answer is - just because I like it; the uncertainty and coincidence of taking this photograph makes me feel alive.

P.S: We often joke that the most common question a photographer gets asked is, "What camera should I buy?" I want people to understand that good photography is created by the person behind the camera, not by an impersonal machine or computer. The photographic community should discuss more questions about the aesthetics, message and philosophy of photography rather than about the equipment.


View "Wander for a wonder" exhibition on Monochrome Hub Online Exhibition Hall.

Wander for a wonder
Visit the exhibition “Wander for a wonder” by the street photographers Svilen Nachev and Penko Skumov on Monochrome Hub Online Exhibition Hall.

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