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Photovacation History

Or how it all began

Photovacation is a unique of its kind photography event which has taken place over 20 years now. However, it is hard to find sufficient written sources of information on its history.

In our effort to reconstruct the history of the event, we interviewed two of its founders in the remote 1982 – Mr. Igor Chipev, Executive Secretary of the then existing Club of the workers in the Art of Photography within the structure of the Bulgarian Photography state enterprise (presently he is Director of  “Books and Library Work” Directorate to the Ministry of Culture of Bulgaria), and Mr. Yuriy Treyman, Photovacation organizer for the period 1995 – 2010.

Photovacation before 1989

Photovacation concept was spawned at the beginning of the 1980s at the time of socialist Bulgaria. Then the Bulgarian Photography state enterprise took full “care” of photography art life in Bulgaria. Competitions and exhibitions were organized. Even a big Bulgarian Photography Biennial took place as a contest and outlook on the Bulgarian Art of Photography. But times did not allow for freedom of expression.If an artist wished to send a serious, meaningful message through his/her work of art, they had to meet the requirements of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party stipulating what could or could not be exhibited.It was due to these constraints that the Club of the workers in the Art of Photography within the structure of the Bulgarian Photography state enterprise decided to establish a Forum to allow for more artistic freedom. The event was to take place “beyond the sight and hearing” of the Central Committee, far from Sofia. This is how the idea of establishing a photography event similar to the already gaining popularity Apolonia artistic forum came into being. It is exactlyApoloniato be taken as a model for the Photovacation basic format.

At that time Apolonia was already institutionalized and scrutinized through the Central Committee’s “magnifying glass”. Despite the structural resemblance, the goal of Photovacation was different – to give the Photography society the chance to informally exchange ideas and exhibit their works…

„... sowhat did we do? We invited all photographers. We invited them to a vacation at the seaside."

(Igor Chipev)

Photovacation was born out of the aspiration of the Bulgarian photographers at freedom of creativity. The first edition of the forum, however, failed. Envisaged for September 1982, the event was cancelled only a week before the fixed date because of the Shield military exercise.

And yet, September 3rd 1983marked Photovacation date of birth - Oasis camp site became the area of free self-expression for the Bulgarian photographers.

The Event

It was an 8-day event. The organizers negotiated for Photovacation participants, mainly members of the Club as the event was popularized only among members of the guild, overnight special prices.

Official artistic programme was elaborated. A huge “balloon” (marquee) was erected to host all official programme exhibitions, both Bulgarian and foreign, which did not oppose state ideology. Each day featured a new exhibition of various participants.

Outside the “balloon”, among the bungalows, on clothing-lines with pegs, everyone could hang and exhibit whatever work they wished. Thediscussionvenuewasalsothere.

It was then that the first Photovacation contest took place. Each participant was provided with one diapositive slide film and three frames. The artists were to exhibit three selected by them frames. On the last night of the gathering, in a large field, on a screen (stretched bed-sheet), all slides were projected. Above the screen there was a row of red and green light-bulbs. For each frame, the jury pressed the respective colour button and thus it was decided whether it “passed or failed”. Each jury’s judgement, of course, was welcomed by exuberant comments and yells, applause or booing by the audience. Such was the procedure of award frames selection. The awards themselves, quite attractive for their time, were provided by companies invited to participate in Photovacation exhibit.

There and then “a Fair” was organized. Representatives of participating companies allocated and enclosed part of their bungalows (of about 15 sq.m size) and demonstrated their produce. Part of the produce was later presented as awards.

One other “banter” was also introduced then – nude photography models were organized, which was unheard of. Everybody could be entered on the list and shoot at the fixed hour.

Having heard of “the right way to do it”, the organizers then decided to create Photovacation logo. One of them happened to know the famous Bulgarian artist Mr. Kancho Kanev. “…one day he spotted him and told him: “Let’s do something”. Photovacationlogowasborn. A sea horse made of film.

The event was organized then by a team of four enthusiasts who gathered every week and discussed what might happen. Photovacation succeeded to immediately draw attention.

„ Everything is relative. Now you have to go and mollify some TV Channel, persuade them how interesting what you’re doing is and even pay them to cover the event. Thenitwasjusttheopposite.The moment they heard we were organizing such happening, they exclaimed: “We want to shoot!” (Igor Chipev)

Information about Photovacation used to be spread only within photographers’ brotherhood. Then it involved about 400 people. Until the third Photovacation edition no member of the association could be found who hadn’t joined the event.

In the very first year of its existence, film director Plamen Maslarov shot a film about the event.

After the fist Photovacation, which was cancelled, the relationships with foreign photographers became a bit complicated. Some were invited to participate in the first edition and they accepted the invitation. Attheverylastmoment the initiative fell through. Telegrams were sent to them not to arrive as without an event the visit was pointless. Three years were to pass before the arrival of the first foreign guests. More and more were to follow their step in the forthcoming years.

The first year also featured T-shirts for all participants with the logo of Photovacation. Once again the idea followed the principle “We are aware this is the right way to do things”.

The last “old type” Photovacation took place in 1989.

„In those years Photovacation was real success as it was a deep breath of freedom by the sea, artistic discussions, clothes-rope exhibitions, a chance to meet photographers from all parts of Bulgaria…” (Yuriy Treyman)

The New Photovacations

Instead of falling into oblivion, Photovacation awakens increasing nostalgia. Bulgarian photography life is missing the call for freedom.

In 1995, Photovacation was brought back to life by Mr. Yuriy Treyman, President of the Fomus Ltd. Company and official distributor of Kodak for Bulgaria.

What was kept was the name – Photovacation, the format and the logo of the event. They were patented in 1995 by Mr. Yuriy Treyman and Mrs. Zvezda Spasova (May you rest in peace!), who years on end was the new Photovacations driving force.

Mr. Yuriy Treyman managed to persuade Kodak that the event boasts a very good reputation and in this way Kodak brand will be associated with a very positive concept. Thus Kodak became the main sponsor of the first new Photovacation.

Vacations were revived. This time in Primorsko International Youth Center.

Now the team consisted of three. Zvezda Spasova and a graphic designer ardently took to heart the image building of Photovacation. This period features many original ideas generated by Zvezda.

Medals, T-shirts, hats, shorts with Photovacation logo were produced, incredible programs took place. Gradually Photovacation started to encompass happenings connected not only with photography: sports tournaments, fantastic parties, joined by some of the most popular Bulgarian performers, entertainments for all age and taste. Photovacation somehow became the focal point of rich photography exhibits associated with unforgettable experiences.

The contest. This is what all are united around. The best part of the event budget goes exactly to the Awards fund. In the course of years, it has been provided by sponsor companies like Fomus Ltd., Canon Bulgaria and many others. From slide-based, the contest consequently proceeded to images as our sponsors’ interests are basically in the area of photo production. And so it has been going on for long years when three years ago the slide contest was revived as “Masters’ Contest”.

In 2011, the main organization efforts are in the hands of Mr. Emanuil Treyman. For the first time in its history, the venue of Photovacation will be Albena Resort. Still, in no way will this imply a retreat from good traditions.

Photovacation 2011 will embody the freedom and creative spirit of the “old” Photovacations and the innovations, enthusiasm and scale characterizing the best years of the latest history of the event.