The exhibition “Box of Negatives” is an inspiring, poetic chronicle of Bulgarian modern art. The author, Galina Yotova, has captures some of its most significant events from the last three decades. Sweet nostalgia seeps from her photographs, right into the heart and mind of the observer. According to Galina: “a good photographer has to be invisible” but I find it hard to imagine that the presence of this radiant, talented woman can go unnoticed.

Recently, I went through a micro existential crisis, during which I would wake up in the morning and go to bed at night with question like “Am I any good at what I do?”, “Is there any point to go on writing?”, “Am I talented or have I somehow fooled my editors and readers into believing me, even though I have no skills?”. Even though it was my first experience of the kind, it was plenty zestful. For instance, I spent one morning reading job ads and crying, as I pictured myself having to quit writing and apply for one of them. Another day was devoted to some of the most self-pitying stuff I’ve ever written. As a part of the solution, I decided to fill my life with art. All the art in the world! So much that it starts to ooze through my pores. With this I opened a new chapter in my life, and one of the most important first acts became the exhibition “Box of Negatives”.

Box of Negatives by Galina Yotova

I admit that I knew nothing about Galina Yotova and her work before I met her at the gallery. On the 4th of October, as a part of the photography exhibition “Box of Negatives”, she presented some of her work – photos of important art events in Bulgaria.

The work is exhibited in a minimalist aesthetic, arranged by year. Most photographs are black and white and lack pretentious titles. You’ll just find small signs, listing the characters in each natural composition, brought about by the artistic spirit and energy of the events that Galina has photographed. Even on their own, the works are captivating and worth your attention. However, what touched me the most was Galina Yotova’s subtle, gracious manner, with which she walked us around the exhibition, talking about the  story of each photograph, about her work, and unexpectedly – about her creative insecurities.

To see such an incredibly talented artist, with an impressive career, talk about the issues she’s always had with her own work restocked my courage supply when I needed it most. At a rational level I understand that self-doubt tears at everyone’s soul sometimes, but I still couldn’t stop asking myself if being a good writer actually means never leaving the site of the proverbial muse. As Galina Yotova took us around the exhibition with sparkling eyes you could tell from miles away that she loves what she does, and her talent is indisputable. After the tour I just had to thank her for the inspiration and share how important it was for my own work. This wonderful woman caressed my shoulder and smiled encouragingly: “There will always be times when it’s hard, but never dare give up.”

Box of Negatives by Galina Yotova

Her sincerity and sheer lack of pretentiousness shine through both her work and deeds. The exhibition was instigated by Galina’s donation of negatives from her personal archives to the National Art Gallery in Sofia, where it will be at the disposal of other artists. They can then breathe new life into them, reconstruct them through their own inspiration and thus contribute to social change with their art. The author says with a smile: “I don’t want to hoard anything or struggle to leave a permanent trace after I’m gone.” With her talent for creating beauty and lack of arrogance, she reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from “Shogun: “How beautiful life is, and yet how tragic! How fleeting, with no future and no past, only an infinite present”. In my present, I choose to create – sometimes the words will be at my fingertips and other days I’ll feel blocked, but when that happens I’ll think of Galina Yotova, her work and the amazing gift she has given me.

You can visit the exhibition at Sofia Arsenal – Museum of Contemporary Art, until October 14th, 2018. After, you’ll find the negatives at the treasury of art that is our National Gallery in Sofia.

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