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Metropolitan Noises

Desislava Tomova

Nencho Balkanski, 25, holds a BA in Advertising and Art Photography from New Bulgarian University. Presently, he is finishing his specialization in Graphical Design. His creative endeavors are not limited to photo journalism. He is also interested in nature, nude photography, portraits, the relations between people and their environment (urbanism). He has worked as a fashion and table-top photographer for Denil and Club M magazines.

Balkanski’s photographs do not establish him as an expert who determines the urban esthetic policy or debates visual problems. In his cycle “Industrial Sites”, he uncovers the permanent and transient traces in the memory of the city and its inhabitants. It is a sort of an artistic mastering of metropolitan specifics. Focusing his attention on the semi-forgotten, run-down buildings in the Zaharna Fabrika district and the Railway Factory, he seeks to pull the urban environment and its people out of their nondescript anonymity.

I have always enjoyed strolling around the industrial areas of Sofia. This is a testament to my complete willingness to embark on something unusual, and I keep looking for people to share it with. Perhaps I’m on the same wavelength as the artist. When you look at these photos, you can easily imagine being a random passer-by, and you quickly forget you are somewhere around the deserted fringes of Sofia, each with its nature and metropolitan noises. The locations chosen may be regarded as architectural reserves. They possess the peculiar spirituality of buildings constructed at the turn of the 20th Century, with its mixture of reforms and conformism. Everyone is bound to exclaim, “But this is so depressing.” However, Balkanski has found appeal precisely in the uncultivated homely sight of the urbanistic territory reflecting Bulgarian reality. The contemporary value of these archaic industrial sites may well consist of enlivening reality through its extraordinary activation. In his more philosophical photos, he has captured his delight in things that look insignificant at first sight: a majestically rising crane located symmetrically in the foreground and reminding us of the crown and trunk of a tree, as an allegorical illusion to Mother Nature. Behind the barbed-wire fence of a characteristic building, another crane looms over a grade crossing. The viewer’s industrial ascent proceeds along external spiral stairs, captured from a low angle. The journey then takes us to the storage room between two walls, and a tunnel crossed by many horizontal beams creating a sense of both suspense and depth. A short while later, we are presented with a miracle where others may see only a man walking down the street: a ghostly apparition among the shabby buildings. Balkanski invites us to appraise differently each moment and each place. “I want us to look for ourselves in the Other, try to position ourselves where he has already been,” the artist comments. It is as if through the realization of these photographs he aims to connect separate time segments. He tries to recreate the memory of how the place used to look and then follow the course of its change. He seeks to form visual symbols that would assist in the recovery of memory, of places as much as the people who used to inhabit them.


Fo magazine, April 2004