Party Close-Ups: What Eyes on Pills or a Condom Under a Microscope Looks Like?
A new look at Berlin nightlife, MDMA under the microscope, and eyes on ketamine — in Gergana Petrova’s portfolio, which is different from the established standard: primarily because of her attention to detail.
In the case of photographs of nightlife and club culture, many photographers choose an easy way. It is ideal if they are in the epicenter of events, for instance, in Berlin. A film snapshot camera, rave, and drugs — by now, this is a sort of cliche, a genre where photographers don’t try to invent anything new. The portfolio of Bulgarian photographer Gergana Petrova is different from the established standard: primarily because of her attention to detail. If she is working with the theme of drugs and doping, in her photographs you can see cocaine under a microscope or in the eyes of intoxicated night club guests. If it is a portrait from a party, it is bright and blurred, but at the same time, rather personal and shot close-up — the viewer gets an impression that they are at the rave themselves.
Photographer, artist. Born in Bulgaria, lived and studied in Berlin, Barcelona, Beijing. Worked for VICE, was Nan Goldin’s assistant. Exhibited her work in Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, and Belgium.
— I loved taking pictures of my friends at parties when I was younger, but some of them have families now and it is never quite the same anymore. Now I am more focused on nature, not only because it is the most stunning thing that surrounds us 24/7, but also because it is extremely fragile. With my pictures I just want to capture or create something that is beautiful, and ultimately, timeless.
I rarely take portraits of strangers, I am way too awkward when approaching them. It is usually my friends I take pictures of, it is much more intimate and real. I don’t like to stage things and I’m kinda frantic about taking the picture only if the moment or person really speaks to me on an emotional level.
I have made projects about the nightlife in three cities: Barcelona, Berlin, and Beijing. Berlin is very dark and grey during the day, not very interesting for taking pictures, it is at night when everything happens in this city with vivid personalities and lights. In Barcelona it was different, I was fascinated with the light at dawn and the beautiful structures along the beach. I woke up at dark and spent almost every morning along a strip of beach, taking pictures. Quite a meditative experience.
After living in Western Europe and Asia I found out I feel most at home in Sofia. There is nothing like home, nothing can be a substitute for it. Every city gives you something different and thrilling, but once the thrill is worn, you find out there is one super important thing that you can’t find elsewhere — peace of mind.
When I worked at VICE, my photo editor was constantly stressing me out in order to produce some quality content for the site. I was lucky to get introduced to a colleague of my sister and I got access to his lab and microscope. I just got my hands on the stuff I had around, girly stuff like nail polish, lipstick, etc; my photo editor added some of his (condom, MDMA, weed), we threw in some döner meat, and voila! The things that are typical for nightlife in Berlin.
It is surprising how easy it is to take pictures of people that are wasted, they are so ready. I waited in front of clubs and asked to take their picture. And asked which drugs they were on. On other occasions I took my camera to some house parties and there it was easy, too. Berlin is crazy when it comes to drugs, everyone takes them and no one is embarrassed to talk about it.
When I worked as Nan Goldin’s assistant, she used to constantly go over edits, the one day she loved a selection of ten pictures, the next she was convinced it’s crap. It is important to be true to one’s self and to be honest with the things you do. If you look at a pic and you are able to find a bit of this honesty, then it is more than enough to call it art.
I want my pictures to communicate immediately without the need for explanations and concepts. Words for me are a barrier in the communication.
Cézanne has said that if he’d ever find his style, he’d stop painting — I relate to this deeply — we shouldn’t feel constrained at any point, it kills creativity and freedom.