“Passion is the answer to everything. And a hint of phantasy.”
Eugenia Maximova (born 1973) is a contemporary photographer from Bulgaria currently based in Vienna, Austria. She’s self-taught when it comes to photography. For Eugenia Maximova photography is “a way of creating my personal philosophy about life”.
“I first became interested in photography in 2005 after the sudden death of my mother, who was a known Bulgarian painter. Looking through the viewer and pressing the camera button helped me to escape the harrowing reality of her loss, to overcome the shock and lessen the burning pain.
As time passed, photography became my favored means of communication, a new outlet of creative expression, for how I feel about both myself and the world around me.
My journalistic background (I’ve studied journalism at the University of Vienna) has influenced and still does most of my photographic projects.
And although they mostly differ from the traditional concept of ‘photojournalism’, the goal of the images is to bring to light the lives of others and to communicate socio-political models and tendencies, to examine their consequences for society and culture.”
Interview with Eugenia Maximova
Eugenia, why did you become a photographer?
It never was my intention to become a photographer. Photography came into my life unexpectedly but it quickly became an integral part of it, my dearest one.
“In my childhood phantasy I was always a photographer.”
Curiously enough the photographer’s profession was always the most desired one when I was watching a movie. I hope you understand what I mean.
Many children and teenager, when they watch movies, they usually want to become what their favorite characters are: doctors, pilots, etc. In my childhood phantasy I was always a photographer. I have no idea why did it take such a long time for me to make some actual efforts.
What does photography mean to you and what do you to want say with your pictures?
I like to keep myself informed. I usually have a strong opinion about almost everything, at least about the things that play a prime role in my life. Photography is for me the easiest way to express this opinion. Photography is also a way of creating my personal philosophy about “life, the universe and everything”.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
In different stages of my career I’ve been inspired and influenced by different photographer. Sometimes by a single picture only. Often by a distinguished body of work. Shame on me but I don’t always remember the names of those artist. I often struggle to remember who was the author of something and what was the name of the project.
What’s your favorite quote about photography?
“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.”
David Alan Harvey
“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”
How would you describe your photographic language and way of creative process?
Life is a patchwork, assembled of numerous unique, irregular and often controversial pieces of circumstances and choices. You can arrange what appears to be unpleasant at first glance into a beautiful composition.
You can mix up pretty elements to create a piece of kitsch. Or form a completely new shape out of incompatible patterns. The end product depends on one’s vision, constructiveness and virtuosity.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
I guess it is important to know what you are looking for, to have an opinion, a distinguished vision.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
After my initial obsession with black & white photography faded away, I entered into a period of experimenting with colors and forms. It still goes on. It is very exiting to witness how those elements fit together to give an image it’s particular voice.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
Passion and even more passion. Passion is the answer to everything. And a hint of phantasy.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes? Especially keeping in mind the flood of images we are exposed to every day.
“It is difficult to explain visual maters with words.”
I have really no answer to the question what does a photo need to be a great photo; maybe the right balance of all the elements. But it definitely has to be done with passion and phantasy. It is difficult to explain visual maters with words.
This question reminds me of this anecdote: “The composer Gustav Mahler was sitting in his studio completing a new piano piece. As he was playing, one of his students came into the room and listened quietly. At the end of the piece the student said, ‘Maestro, that was wonderful. What is it about?’ Mahler turned to him and said, ‘It’s about this.’ And he played it again.”
If the ideas of the music could be expressed in words, there’d be no need to write the music in the first place.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
I draw inspiration from everywhere and everything. At the moment I am very attracted to, even obsess with all forms of kitsch. Really, totally crazy about it! I try to seize it, to feel it, to understand the human beings predilection for it.
I also love to watch pictures, movies and drama and read books. This is an immense see full of inspiration.
I just got inspired for a new project after a friend of mine told me a story.
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
I prefer to work with middle format film cameras. This certain form of image-esthetic best fits my visual understanding. A Hasselblad 500 CM was my first real camera. The story behind is a very interesting one. One day, a school friend of mine asked me to help his neighbor in Sofia, an elder Bulgarian photographer, to sell his Hasselblad in Vienna.
In Bulgaria, such cameras are practically unsellable. The 120 films there were (after the collapse of the communistic regime) and still are extremely expensive, especially in relation to the average salary. There is also barely a place where to develop them. And his neighbor desperately needed the money for a long postponed renovation of his apartment.
I said sure and went to meet the photographer and see the camera. The guy was nice and seemed to have quite a hard time separating from his “old friend”. He taught me how to use the Hasselblad, how to achieve different effects and so on. Back in Vienna, I decided to try it on; I’ve gathered a considerable knowledge about it, after all. I quickly fell in love with the Hasselblad and decided to keep it. And I still have it.
What projects are you currently working on?
I just finished working on my first book: “Kitchen Stories form the Balkan”. It is a limited edition of 500 copies. It’s already available for pre-order at the bookshop of “Anzenberger Gallery”. The book will be shipped by February 25th.
A relatively new project I am working on is called “Associated Nostalgia”. It is another one about my childhood memories behind the Iron Curtain. But this one is entirely dedicated to Kitsch.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
I am subscribed to “Le Journal de la Photographie”, “Time Light Box”, “Feature Shoot” and “The Art of Creative Photography”.
What book about photography would you recommend?
When I began taking pictures, naturally there were many basic questions I wanted to know the answer to. The “easiest to digest” ones I found in the National Geographic Photography Field Guide “Secrets to Making Great Pictures” by Peter K. Burian and Robert Caputo.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?
Get passionate and inspired!
“If I have any ‘message’ worth giving to a beginner it is that there are no short cuts in photography.”