Bulgaria — wings and roots

More than ever, it is now necessary to return to our roots without forgetting our wings. We need from more new stories, that fascinate via the simplicity and beauty of what is locked in them, and between their ranks. Against the background of the return to the roots through the folklore, currently felt in Bulgaria, the pictures of photographers such as Assen Velikov preserve and distribute the Bulgarian cultural heritage. And especially that one spirituality in which the words and wisdom of our ancestors are preserved for the generations. Assen’s photographs, among other things, are wonderful stories of love, family valuables and traditions that today are more than ever the warning bell that many people need to wake up. And this magic of awakening is happening everywhere in Bulgaria. Now.

It is wonderful to see how the interest in Bulgarian folklore and traditional costumes from different parts of Bulgaria increasing. The Bulgarian embroidery, in which all of the symbols have their own code and messages, has gained increasing popularity. The embroidery is put on clothes, belts, bags, jewels, souvenirs. Many of the graduated young people prefer to appear on their prom in a traditional folk costume, or wear garment in which have a folk elements. And no, it’s not just a temporary fashion whim. Because: “The beauty of Bulgarian folklore is the business card of Bulgaria” (Assen Velikov).

They say that one picture speaks more than a thousand words. But how many words are needed to speak about the photographer?

He is 55. He looks exactly as it might be supposed to look like a voevoda of old times. The folk costumes is appropriate him. And no, he is not an actor. He is usually behind the lens to document the Bulgarian folklore. Assen Velikov. Come from Levski, Pleven municialy. He is also an entrepreneur, manager of a family company for the production of textile products for Bulgaria and abroad. The photography for him is a hobby, passion and vocation. His photographs are noticeable immediately and more from them collects thousands of likes on social networks.

Assen Velikov. Photo by Alexander Baron

He made pictures since the 1990s while he was a student. Like most people, Assen takes in the path of photography with landscapes. Next — birds, animals, streets. Faces. He captures the heavy and gray social reality in Bulgaria after the fall of totalitarian power. There is a certain lull in which he are a bit distant from photography, but their love rising up again — this time among to revive the lush folklore colors of the Bulgarian traditional heritage. And the results aren’t tarry — portraits from which the Bulgarian beauty is poured, and pictures which show the folk customs and the forgotten rituals.

“After the sparks we already had a flame, and now it’s a fire.”

An Authentic Wedding (2017)

In 2014 Assen is filming a folk festival and an authentic folk wedding, and this is the beginning of the ethnographic themes in his photographs, which is emblematic for him and makes him the most favorite Bulgarian photographer. A graduate of a school for folklore arts, and he is an ethno documentalist of Bulgarian traditions in national and regional folklore festivals and meetings (Zheravna, Rozhen). These festivals recreate the authentic atmosphere and traditions from 200 years ago. In their rich folklore program sounds a beautiful songs from the Rhodope Mountain, people dancing on the embers (Nestinarstvo), stories from the glorious Bulgarian past are told. People have the unique opportunity within a few days to move in another time, where all modern elements — from clothes to phones — are forbidden. Everything is authentic, Old Bulgarian, in the spirit of the solidarity. And Assen every year is there to seal these authentic moments for the generations. His traveling exhibition “The Different Bulgaria” has made numerous visits to different cities in the country, and recently — also in London, England. One photo of him work will decorate the cover of a Travel Guide for foreign tourists. Assen Velikov is married, with three children. He lives in Sofia, Bulgaria.

200 year old-fashioned national dress

He does not just make pictures. Assen is a hunter of hidden emotions — silent smiles, children’s eyes, that gather the whole world, first gifted flowers, magical movements of folk dances, authentic suits and ethnographic re-creation, where do not even need to have a preliminary scenario. “There is no preparation in my work. It is important for me to catch the emotion in the gaze. It can be one tear, funny things, or sadness”.

Rhodope girl with a bagpipe

While looking at Assen’s photos, you feel like to walk down an ancient path in which the steps weigh, but they are actually silent. And you are accompanied by a crying cry of the bagpipe and a dull rhythm of drums. The wonderful portraits of women, kids and the magic of love spill over into a huge kaleidoscope, beyond frames and concepts, beyond time. From the photos by Assen flow melodies, which telling tales of grazing flocks, for shepherds, lost in the coldness, for men’s courage and for feminine tenderness, for children’s dreams and for sun-meadows. For people who walk in the fire. Live portraits, glow in a halo from light. In Assen’s photos, the future is what you dream of seeing — kindness, love, hope. This is Bulgaria yesterday, today and tomorrow. Eternal and different. Like a river through which footsteps, traces pass. The waters are never the same, and yet they are there. The captured moments of Assen live their own lives. And they tell of an ancient people whose beauty and strength do not need many words. They do not even need words at all. The Different Bulgaria, which has always been the same. But this should be remembered. And do not forget. Assen know how to keep for the generations those moments that return the time.

National Folklore Festival in Zheravna (2017)

2018. Future that has not yet begun. And in which Bulgaria will be in the spotlight of world attention — in the upcoming Household and the presidency of the Council of Europe. Bulgaria — ancient and young. A country, that has no captured flag in the entire history of her existence. The different Bulgaria you want to see every day. A Bulgaria in which life is beautiful, simple and colorful like a embroidery. In her there is no place for cheap populism and promises, cheated hopes or struggles for power. Bulgaria of talents, artistic crafts and the pursuit of beauty. In her the spirit is not broken, but living, creating. Eternal. He has to reach till every heart and knock on his door to remind that only unification creates the power. And she itself comes from the consciousness for unity, brotherhood, and the love.

Bulgaria. A country that has given on the world much more than it is known. And photographers with hearts, such as Assen Velikov, return she to the Bulgarians. That alone is enough to turn all of him photos into a mirror in which ancient Bulgaria is looking through the countless faces of youth to realize its eternity. In national folklore costumes people glow. They are left without age, only in themselves — wonderful guardians of spirituality, encoded in symbols, colors and melodies. A pieces of Eternity for the future, stored a memory of a past. They will return us to the roots without taking our wings off.


There are other people. Assen is not alone in what he does, but it is one of the first, which discovered and feel the spirit of that renewal, which preserves only most necessary for the contemporary of Bulgarian history. Only if you know the traditions, you can love your folk.

Assen will always be there, where the souls speak without words and where the magic is happens. Because he is part of her. Assen Velikov, the most Bulgarian photographer. To return Bulgaria of the Bulgarians is his mission — to make this land the place where they would like to be the roots of their future. Today.

Christina Tchoparova

Bulgarian version