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Panayot Burnev’s photo archive takes us back to old Sofia and city life of the past

The first big exhibition in the framework of "Bulgarian Visual Archive" platform opens in Sofia

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Panayot Burnev

Some time ago Radio Bulgaria told you about the virtual platform "Bulgarian Visual Archive", which aims to show in an impartial and documentary way the photos of places, events and people in Bulgaria from the XX century. Head of the platform is photographer Tihomir Stoyanov, who has been working for years with old family archives, revealing the diversity of Bulgaria’s past that we often forget these days.

A year after the start of the project, Tihomir and his colleagues organized the first exhibition that reveals the previously unseen archive of Bulgarian photographer Panayot Burnev. "We were lucky that his daughter Milena Nikolova provided us with about 6,000 of his photographic films in various formats," Tihomir Stoyanov told Radio Bulgaria. The photos are from the period 1950 to 1990 and show the way of life of Sofia residents, the architecture of the city, the mountains in Bulgaria, as well as famous Bulgarian artists.


“Panayot Burnev is a photographer who worked in the Boyana Film Studios for many years. He was the head of the color laboratory at Bulgarian Photography and was part of the editorial board of the Bulgarian Photo magazine. He is the author of several books, as one of the most popular is titled ‘Portrait Photography’. In the exhibition we show interesting photos from the set of famous Bulgarian feature films and series.

Actress Nevena Kokanova

There is a very interesting selection of photos from the shooting of the documentary ‘New Artists’. This was a society established in 1931 that lasted just 13 years but played a significant role in Bulgarian art with its desire to change the status quo. Many of Panayot Burnev's photographs over the years are related to his hobby of an avid mountaineer. We have prepared about 40 photographs of Bulgarian mountains like Rila, Pirin, The Rhodopes and Vitosha."


Panayot Burnev was born in city of Svishtov, but as a child his family moved to Sofia, where he lived until his death in 2016. He loved the city very much and he loved shooting the simple everyday life in it. "We are not talking about photos of famous places, like those seen on postcards, but images of sellers of nuts, of people on the street, of the everyday life of ordinary citizens of Sofia in those years," Tihomir says. Burnev's work captivates and surprises with the ease he managed to capture everything that excited him in an unpretentious and unadulterated way.


Tihomir Stoyanov is proud to say that he and his team have managed to digitize all the photo films provided to them and a selection of about 12,000 photographs has been created, which will be uploaded on the Bulgarian Visual Archive platform /www.visualarchive.bg/. This way, everyone interested in photography, history or research will have the opportunity to see this valuable archive.

Nearly 130 of the best photos by Panayot Burnev can be seen in “Dom na Kinoto”(Cinema House) in Sofia. The exhibition continues until December 12.


Author: Vesela Krasteva

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: visualarchive.bg
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