Teodora Georgieva’s documentation of industrialisation in Bulgaria hints to a large-scale, global issue

The Bulgarian photographer uses her practice to explore the histories of places, and peoples’ relationships to their environments.

Date
15 February 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read

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Along the swift current of time is a project by London-based, Bulgaria-born photographer Teodora Georgieva. The series began during Teodora’s time on Middlesex University’s BA photography course, from which she graduated last year, and explores intense industrialisation in Devnya, Bulgaria. Comprised of epic panoramas of industrial landscapes in conjunction with portraits and details of the terrain, Along the swift current of time is a fascinating, beautiful and at times ominous body of work.

As a photographer, Teodora is drawn to creating work encompassing ambiguous images that need to be seen in sequence to be understood, exploring the histories of places – particularly in her home country. It was during university that she first developed her conceptual approach, as it was the first time she had worked on specific projects. “Even though my interests in subject matter and photographic mediums have changed immensely over time, I think I was always trying to find a way to connect to my surroundings. And photography allowed me to do that,” Teodora tells us, when asked why she favours this particular creative medium.

Teodora’s process is a slow one, seeing her heading out with her Mamiya RZ67, a medium format camera which requires time and attention rather than constant snapping. “I like not being able to go over images as it really grounds me and helps focus on just shooting,” she explains. Importantly, Teodora’s camera is a vehicle through which she is able to explore and learn about the world. “Actively being somewhere out there and engaging with a place makes me fall in love with photography all over again every time,” she says, adding that this is particularly true whenever she finds herself in Bulgaria. “I find that I invest myself the most in projects that I feel a genuine connection to. There is so much that I still don't know or understand about my home country that I think photography turned out to be a really useful tool in peeling back different histories and making sense of them.”

Along the swift current of time is one example of this. “In the 1950s,” Teodora explains, “Devnya, based at the site of the ancient Roman city of Marcianopolis, was chosen by the communist regime to become what would be known as the chemical valley of the country.” Resource-rich in terms of salt, water and limestone, the area appeared to be fertile land from which the future of the chemical industry in Bulgaria could depend.

GalleryTeodora Georgieva: Along the Swift Current of Time (Copyright © Teodora Georgieva, 2020)

Over the years, the location has changed dramatically. “Today, many that live there are worried by the lack of regulations in the chemical plants,” Teodora says. “There is constant speculation about Devnya’s future and rumours that a lot happening in the industry is being kept from the public.”

Employing the process she has developed over the previous years, Teodora spent a long time preparing and researching the project. “Compared to the projects I’ve worked on in the past, I’d consider it relatively long-term, and it made me realise that that’s the type of projects I’d like to work on in the future,” she tells us. It’s also important to her that her projects raise questions about issues that may not have been known before. “For example, I see Devnya as a small-scale model of what is a much larger, global issue.”

During the research phase of Along the swift current of time, Teodora was mainly interested in Devnya’s history and the grandiose idea of what a place could become; “The glorification of labour and the idea of progression.” Most of the materials she stumbled upon were from before the fall of communism and served “as a praise to the regime and a symbol of what the nation was supposed to be,” she recalls. “It was used as a beacon of hope and an example of the opportunities of the regime and is now suffering the consequences of the exploitation.” These ideas, therefore, trickled into the imagery Teodora went on to make. While the series is about Devnya and its past, there’s a futuristic feel to the images, as if Teodora too is looking into the future and imagining what the place will become, albeit without such an optimistic stance.

Aesthetically, Teodora tells us that she was interested in how industrial waste has become part of the landscape, “thus creating a new, alien-looking valley.” This side of the project is subtle and intriguing, rather than hitting you over the head with bright colours and damaged earth. “I wanted to evoke a feeling of uneasiness when looking at the more abstract shots, as I’m interested in the dissonance of seeing something visually pleasing and connecting the dots to realise its origin,” she explains. This aspect, combined with portraits of those who inhabit the area, makes for a project which highlights a worrying facet of human existence, confronting viewers with the damage we do to our planet while portraying those forced to work in these industries to make ends meet. It’s a complex narrative unearthed through poignant and beautifully considered photography.

Currently, Teodora is working on publishing the project with Another Place Press and is looking forward to being able to travel to Bulgaria again to continue the project. With the hope to also exhibit the series sometime in the future, for now, Teodora has several new projects in the works. And, since Along the swift current of time is a project Teodora started while still a student, we’re excited to see how her projects continue to grow.

GalleryTeodora Georgieva: Along the Swift Current of Time (Copyright © Teodora Georgieva, 2020)

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Teodora Georgieva: Along the Swift Current of Time (Copyright © Teodora Georgieva, 2020)

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.

rbd@itsnicethat.com

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