The first post for 2021, with some images taken on a recent work trip to Bulgaria.
Street and social-documentary photography has been badly curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in Barcelona there are heavy restrictions on all forms of movement, with both a curfew and limitations how far it is possible to move. Added to this is the expectation of social distancing, which makes conventional street photography with a wide-angle lens and close proximity with people problematic.
Street photography is invariably something that feels risky, but with a highly contagious and relatively dangerous virus running out of control, there is a new worry, a new excuse to avoid taking a picture. Such photography feels like a gamble too far, for both photographer and subject who may be equally – and rightly – concerned.
So these photographs fall more towards the “urban-landscape” genre than usual, which feels disquieting and a retrograde step from what I was hoping to achieve in 2020. The term “urban landscape” itself feels like a crutch to hide the reality that these are photographs which would surely work better with meaningful human subjects and the city as backdrop.
But Sofia itself remains as beautiful as ever.
Even as the pandemic forces the bars and shops to cose, the city still has that unique feel of both old and new. Bulgaria is still deep in a whirlwind of changes that seem both different and yet oddly familiar to someone living in Spain.
Modernity, with all its comforts is taking over, but intertwined with the countries rich and often difficult past.
I hope to manage to put out one blog post each month from now on. All the material on this blog is newly created content, and COVID restrictions basically put a stop to the projects that were both ongoing and planned.
A separate problem is that as of today, British nationals have also undergone the greatest loss of rights and freedoms in the countries history. This particular trip was motivated partly by the impending loss of freedom of movement, which will make work outside a country of residence deeply problematic from now on.
Hopefully 2021 will mark a turning point for the better, although with both COVID and Brexit problems the near term does not look hopeful.
All images shot with the M10 and 35mm Summilux, using a diffusion filter for effect. Increasingly I avoid shooting film when travelling, as X-Ray scanners, push-processed films, and obstinate security officials are a mix best avoided even in the best of times.