interview by Gergana Manolova; photography by Britta Morisse Pimentel

German photographer Britta Morisse Pimentel shows the young and vital face of Bulgaria

Britta Morisse Pimentel
Have you ever wondered how you would describe Bulgarian culture or young Bulgarians? If you think the question too philosophical, see German photographer Britta Morisse Pimentel's recipe.

A "vagabond" in her soul, Britta Morisse Pimentel arrived in Bulgaria in April 2009 at the suggestion of a friend. For the German, who is a graduate of the New York Institute of Photography, this wasn't her first plunge into the vibrancy of another country. She had lived in the US and in Brazil for some time and won the São Paulo Critics' Association award for one of her photo essays.

Her stay at Bulgaria was supposed to be a two-week exploration of what remains an obscure country, but it ended up being something much bigger – the photographic project "Young & Bulgarian" 2010, in which Britta mixes together 39 portraits of young Bulgarian people with quotes and pictures by Bulgarian authors and artists. The resulting 48 page book is being published in Germany in May 2010 by the ConferencePoint Verlag in Hamburg ISBN 978-3-936406-24-5. At the moment there are four exhibitions planned; two in Bulgaria, in Sofia and Plovdiv, and two in Germany, in Hamburg and Berlin.

The problem of Bulgarian self-identity has always been a non-provincial one A. Bakratcheva

The problem of Bulgarian self-identity has always been a non-provincial one A. Bakratcheva

A German "vagabond" in Bulgaria?

I was going to do some travelling in a country that most people I talked to thought of as a blank spot on the map. I was tremendously curious to explore how this unknown place would make me feel. Photographic work was not on my mind, no concept had occurred to me. I didn't come by the idea – the idea came to me, and I was not prepared. I got grabbed by the "Young & Bulgarian 2010" project after meeting all these amiable young people. I remember feeling the magnetic pull it had on me! I found myself taking portraits of innocent, auspicious faces with sparkling eyes, expressing a fascinating mixture of questions and answers simultaneously.

We instantly had a good rapport with each other. Conversations were surprisingly brief or absent. Communication took place beyond words, with signs, looks, smiles, gestures and sounds; we were thinking at the very edge. The desired exchange from soul to soul came completely naturally. There were gestures of mutual consent, here and there some giggling, followed by the delicate sound of the digital shot confirming our creative interaction, which resulted in a spontaneous artistic conspiracy. We felt the challenge of initialising a sensual touch between strangers by invading new and uncharted territory without the usual chit-chat. I call it my Bulgarian Event, documented by 39 portraits. I returned to Hamburg with my interest in Bulgaria piqued.

den Unterschied in der Gleichheit leben – das ist leichter gesagt als getan T. Todorov

den Unterschied in der Gleichheit leben – das ist leichter gesagt als getan T. Todorov

Why did you decide to include quotations and paintings from Bulgarian artists, and how did you select them?

I liked the idea of adding another Bulgarian dimension to my images, a linguistic adventure intermingling with the faces. Looking into somebody's eyes while listening to the words of someone else requires special attention, just like being onstage. While young, these Bulgarians already have a strong, appealing identity. During the photo sessions this became clear to me and it might have influenced my selection. Some of the text is in English and some in German, which is deliberate. Since the literature I accessed in Germany was either in English or in German, I decided not to submit the text to translation again.

For a month I got lost in researching Bulgarian literature and art in order to get an idea of what the Bulgarian soul could be. I was intrigued by the idea of linking my portraits to the literary style of Bulgarian minds – young, candid faces joined to concise wording. Furthermore, seeking Bulgarian portraits in oil and drawings of the past, I found a similarity in features with my photographs of today. This time I had to elaborate the concept of my photographic work with the wisdom of hindsight – the pictures were done already.

How did you find and choose the 39 young Bulgarians for the project?

All the Bulgarians that I photographed were unknown to me. The way we met and took pictures was unorthodox, there was no rule. It was by pure chance, any place any time, nothing was planned. There were only a few exceptions. I met Plamena Girginova and her two sisters at the Opera House in Sofia, all three of them are opera singers. At the ArtNEWSCafé of Katrin Sarieva I met a bunch of really interesting kids and I met Veronika Kelbecheva at a dinner party. We have been good friends ever since.

old Bulgarian Literature is the oldest Slavic Literature A. Bakratcheva

old Bulgarian Literature is the oldest Slavic Literature A. Bakratcheva

Are the young Bulgarians you met while working on the project very different from young Germans?

On the one hand, they are much the same and on the other, very distinct. That's hard to explain because they do look like all the other young people in Europe. But according to my personal judgement young Bulgarians have a stronger desire for change, a more pronounced willing-ness to cope with individual responsibility and a controlled impulsiveness which can make them successful in anything they do. They also seem to have a more developed capacity to tolerate and manage uncertainty, and that's precious. "Young & Bulgarian" 2010 is an essay that searches to underline these characteristics. wenn er über Liebende berichtet, benutzt er die Worte:As for the blank spot on the map I mentioned, it is no more! It's becoming obvious: Bulgaria is a colourful nation.

What do you think is best about Bulgaria?

Bulgaria is a very rich nation with an impressive cultural identity, the countryside is gorgeous and there is something peaceful and cordial in the Bulgarian mentality.

And worst?

At the moment the population has to face a diffi-cult period of need, although there are helping hands around. There will be many opportunities in the near future that will fascinate young Bulgarians, making them stay in their country or return to it.

Tasting Bulgarian Culture

(the first intellectual recipe for feeding your soul)

You take

Bulgarian fresh and sparkling faces

Bulgarian shrewd thinking

Bulgarian artistic enticing images

Carefully selected with hear tbeat, humour, irony

Add plenty of Balkan independent spices

brew on a low temperature

simmer for about a year invite

your best friends

serve it in a beautifully coloured book of 48 pages

enjoy a unique delight

guaranteed three stars by Michelin Bulgary

changing your mind for ever

thinking at the edge

wäre es möglich zu fühlen, was ein Mensch hinter seinen Worten wirklich ist E. Canetti

wäre es möglich zu fühlen, was ein Mensch hinter seinen Worten wirklich ist E. Canetti

bulgarische Seele hat sich vielleicht selbst noch gar nicht richtig entdeckt S. Lewitscharoff

bulgarische Seele hat sich vielleicht selbst noch gar nicht richtig entdeckt S. Lewitscharoff

wenn er über Liebende berichtet, benutzt er die Worte:

wenn er über Liebende berichtet, benutzt er die Worte:



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