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New edition of “I am a Bulgarian woman” - the photo project that has become a sensation on social media

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Photo: Radoslav Parvanov

“I am a Bulgarian woman” – a photo project that has been gaining popularity in this country and abroad, has turned 9. The magnificent photographs of young women by photographer Radoslav Parvanov from Gabrovo present the beauty of Bulgaria and Bulgarian folklore.

Through the years, the project grew, to include a series of exhibitions, with more than 70 girls involved in it to date. The “I am a Bulgarian woman” photographs have so far been presented in many different places in Bulgaria and elsewhere -  at the “Palace” in Balchik, in Koprivshtitsa, but also at the National Assembly in Sofia, in Milan, China, London…

It all began in 2014, when Radoslav met a girl wearing a traditional costume in Koprivshitsa. The combination of beauty, history and the old-time costume made a very strong impression on him. So, he decided to take photographs of the girl, wearing the traditional clothing, though not in Koprivshitsa, but in the town she comes from – Plovdiv. The photographs caused a real stir on social media, and gave the start to a project that was to span many years. “At the time I thought to myself that there will be as many beautiful girls as there are beautiful spots in the country,” Radoslav says, in an interview with Vanya Bahchivanova from BNR-Blagoevgrad and adds:

“So, I selected 22 faces, 22 girls with whom I started drawing up a map of Bulgaria, to include an array of faces, traditional clothes and places of cultural and historical significance, natural phenomena, so as to present the history of Bulgaria, the wealth of our culture, folklore and traditions in the innocent, fresh faces of the girls of Bulgaria.”

At the moment, the photographer is working on a new edition of the project titled “I am a Bulgarian woman, guardian of the home”. This time, the photographs show Bulgarian women in the home, in an authentic atmosphere.

“There are 25 girls in this project, presenting 23 traditional kinds of activity from the past at the open-air ethnographic museum Etara near Gabrovo. The project will be shown next spring,” says Radoslav.

Interestingly, instead of the typical photo models, his camera captured Bulgarian girls with their own, personal attitude to the legacy of the past; the traditional costumes they are wearing belong to their grandmothers and great grandmothers. Actually, the girls underwent careful selection.

“They cherish history, tradition and folklore, but they are also involved in folklore themselves, and in the arts connected with it. They are girls who do not don a national costume as a one-time act, as most photo models do, they wear it with pride, with respect, as a natural extension of tradition,” Radoslav says.  

“I am a Bulgarian woman” is also a celebration of some of the magnetic places in Bulgaria, with a special focus on the Southwestern part of the country:

“Being one of the golden corners of Bulgaria, the Southwest has a special place in the project. It is a part of the country with a diversity of folklore tradition, and with magnificent nature. In Pirin, I discovered so many inspiring places. We chose eye-catching authentic costumes which are the heirloom of the girls themselves,” Photographer Radoslav Parvanov says.  

Interview by Vanya Bahchivanova, BNR-Blagoevgrad

compiled by Veneta Nikolova

Photos: Radoslav Parvanov

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