PENCHO BALKANSKI - Photography On the Trail of His 1936 Vienna Exhibition

Pencho Balkanski - On the Trail of His 1936 Vienna Exhibition

Interest in Pencho Balkanski's photography and the famous LUNA [MOON] Photo Studio has been born out of the facts of a seminal presence in the past and the oblivion in our days. Even a quick leafing through the press of the 1930s gives the conviction that this name was a symbol of original photogra- phy with an innovative aura and emphatically artistic qualities. The reviews of his photo exhibitions are impressive. The 1936 Vienna exhibition had the broadest coverage. Then come the years of the Second World War, and after that - oblivion. Various answers may be given to the rhetorical questions why, and even a philosophical explanation could be sought for the odd vacilla- tions in what has been referred to as collective memory. I was almost certain that one of the causes of oblivion had been the destruction inflicted on Sofia by the bomb raids in the winter of 1944. The Luna Photo Studio was located in the centre of Sofia, close to the National Theatre, the City Garden, the Post Services building and the Mayoralty, i.e. where destruction had been very heavy. But at one point, in a conversation with Pencho Balkanski's eldest son Alexander Balkanski, also an artist, it turned out that he had preserved the photographic heritage of his father. In this way the idea of a museum exhibition and a publication, specially devoted to Pencho Balkanski's photogra- phy, acquired material substance. Selected from among the huge number of photographs and personal archives were 160 original photographs, 55 documentary sources and a few curi- ous objects, for instance, a KODAK Century 5 photo camera, the objective of which - Vesta Portrait f-5, USA - had registered so many images.

This publication aims at familiarizing the reader with the early years of the artist's path, when he had independently joined artistic life and immediately earned a name for himself as an original artist. The text presents chronologically devel- opments from 1933 until 1939, i.e. the time from the first to the last photo exhibition. On the basis of ample documentary material, illustrations and facts, the evolution, personal suc- cesses and contribution elements have been outlined in the artist's creative work. The ample bibliographical references aim at bringing the readers closer to the maximum to the authentic time period. The album part features all of Pencho Balkanski's significant works, preserved to this day, which he had entered for various exhibition. Through this forgotten pho- tographic skill, keeping the patina of years past, but having received also new qualities of a valuable museum exhibit, we hope to restore our broken links with the past. Scrutinizing the world of images of Pencho Balkanski is getting knowledge about the highest achievements of photography in Bulgaria and in Europe at a rarely encountered point of synchronous development.

Janet Miteva, Sofia, January 26, 2010

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