I met Ivan Shishiev accidentally at the Tourist Information Center at Serdica Metro Station. We had a quick chat on a tourism topic and then, I don’t really remember how, but we started talking about photography. I’m a passionate wildlife photographer and he, as it turns out, is a passionate and talented urban photographer. He showed me a few of his pictures on his mobile, which I liked a lot. Like thousands of other people, I started following his work on his Facebook page: The Sketches of Sofia. I was born in Plovdiv and somehow I didn’t fall in love with Sofia for a really long time. Actually, the pictures of Ivan have opened my eyes to the beauty of the Bulgarian capital. Ivan agreed to answer a few questions about his art that I will share in this post.
What inspired you to start thе initiative Sketches of Sofia?
The city itself, my friends and my brother.
What was captured on the first photograph that you posted on Sketches of Sofia Facebook page?
It is the rear side of sculpture in the form of a throne located at park “Zaimov” in central Sofia. There it was written in Bulgarian “Be a king even for just one picture”, but somebody has added in English “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken!”
What kind of photographic equipment are you using?
I’m a fen of Nikon. I like the depth, which it gives to the photographs.
Some of your photographs have been taken from tall buildings’ rooftops. I believe there are interesting stories about getting access to such places. Can you share such an experience with me?
I have plenty of interesting stories with and on rooftops. In the beginning, access to them was very difficult. After I built the “The Sketches of Sofia” as a brand, things got much easier.
The story that I would like to share is the following: 3 years ago a boy wrote to me that we can climb up on the top of “Millenium” building that was still in construction. This is one of the highest buildings in Sofia. Naturally, who doesn’t want to climb up there and be fascinated by the view? And I agreed thinking that he is a worker or at least a guard of the building. Two hours later we were illegally jumping over the high fence surrounding the construction. A few minutes later we started walking over a rail that was connecting tower 1 and tower 2. This was the only thing that was connecting the two towers. The rail was on the 10th floor and underneath us, there was only the solid concrete of the ground floor. Even after this experience I still enjoy climbing and adrenaline-filled experiences.
Do you have a rooftop that you always like to go to?
I have a few, but the most favorite is the rooftop I live under. It is in a building next to Slaveykov Square. From there I walk over the Graf Ignatiev and Georgi Rakovski streets, without the people underneath noticing me.
You have thousands of pictures from Sofia, but can you tell me the story behind one of your most admired photos?
One of the photos that I really like is of an old man, who is holding a balloon in the shape of a heart. I was feeling lonely strolling by myself in the city and then I noticed the old man with the huge red balloon walking on Ivan Vazov street. I followed him and took the photo. I didn’t want to capture the intimate look of his face as he was going back to his loved one. I named the photo “Love doesn’t acknowledge the age”.
Have you done an exhibition somewhere in Sofia? Do you have future plans for printing and showing your photographic art in a gallery?
Ок. I would like to say it like that. 10 exhibitions later… I can say that I have had. I had exhibitions of my photos in Vlaikova Cinema, Gallary 2.0, Arti Gambore Gallery, Hralupata – a boutique for words, images and meanings, at the Lovers Bridge, in front of the National Palace of Culture, at the Crystal Garden, in the Boyana Residence, at the Eagles Bridge and other places. I’m thinking at the moment at something bigger, but it is still in the phase of an idea.
Have you thought of doing a paid photography tour in Sofia for foreigners?
I have to admit that I have thought about it. There is plenty of things to show from our urban environment and the tours are a good way to do this.
What are your future plans for Sketches of Sofia?
I’m keeping them as a secret, but in general, I like to expand the idea of urban photography. A year ago I made the Facebook page “The Sketches of Stara Zagora” and I would like to keep developing the model “The Sketches” in Bulgaria.
If you wish to enjoy and be impressed by fabulous pictures of the Bulgarian capital than just follow https://www.facebook.com/etiuditenasofia/.
Here are some hand-picked photographs from Sketches of Sofia. Copyright: Ivan Shishiev