US art: the Met

Venue: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

Music: Luciano Pavarotti – Nessun dorma (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMsqjXv9aJk)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or simply the Met, can best be described as the American Louvre (from the European perspective at least). It is the largest art museum in the United States and hosts a huge collection of art pieces from all periods and locations of human life, meaning that it’s virtually impossible to visit it just once for a couple of hours and truly understand and appreciate fully everything. This was my second time at the Met and I originally planned to be very picky about the parts of the museum I see. As it turned out I also didn’t have too much time for the permanent parts of the museum as I was unexpectedly drawn to the temporary photo exhibition of Irving Penn’s works where I spent half of the time. So here comes a random and very limited collection of photos I took at the Met with my usual comments. No riddles this time (you can still try all the Guggenheim’s puzzles though, nobody got the right answers yet)!

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Irving Penn was one of the most famous fashion and portrait photographers of his time. My personal observation is that his photos do interest people a lot and make them stop and stare as you see here and on the top photo where he captured Picasso in an iconic image.
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Some people just looked closely at Penn’s photos…
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..while others even made sketches. In any case very few passers by seemed indifferent to the collection so I urge everyone to check out Penn’s work even just online. I promise you it’s way better than anything you’ll probably ever see from me!
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After the photo gallery I passed by some more abstract modern art that was more similar to the pieces I showed you from Guggenheim than the rest of the Met’s collections. Here we have the American painter Marsden Hartley…
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..and here a sculpture that I liked but forgot the creator of. So I guess I do leave you with a small riddle here.
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After the thin head above I had to counterbalance with a more massive sculpture that was towering over the museum visitors around.
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And this is how Jean Dubuffet saw the apartment houses in Paris in the middle of the 20th century.
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A more abstract black and white piece of art that didn’t seem very interesting to the girl rushing in front of my camera.
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The Met also hosts a very interesting (and my personal favorite) section of tribal art from across the globe with very exotic statues made of wood, stone or various metals going under the name “Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas”. Here we have a wooden statue from somewhere in Oceania or Papua New Guinea I believe.
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And here are the scary looking God-like creatures also typical for the same parts of the world.
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Another wooden statue from some of the indigenous people in Papua New Guinea that served for decorating their ceremonial houses in the beginning of the 20th century.
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Back in time and moving to the American continent with the golden statues of the cultures from Central and South America.
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And naturally we finish with the continent where we all eventually come from, with a somewhat abstract wooden statue of a man…
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..and the iron statues of a man and a woman elsewhere in Africa.

 

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US art: Guggenheim

Venue: Guggenheim Art Museum, New York City

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

Music: Maurice Ravel – Boléro (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r30D3SW4OVw)

On my recent US trip I visited plenty of art museums and exhibitions, mostly in New York City, and decided to assemble a series of posts with art pieces and occasionally the people and places surrounding them. Most of the art you’ll see is quite modern and abstract so it’s open for various interpretations and might not appeal to everyone. Yet this first post in the series is probably the least controversial as it features extremely famous and well established works mostly from the first part of 20th century exhibited in the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan’s Upper East side. Paradoxically with the title of the series I chose, Guggenheim’s art pieces are predominantly European and there’s very little connection to the American continent except for the venue (with one notable exception, let’s see if you spot it). To make things more fun for the reader, I decided to give three small riddles in the photo comments below in order to challenge the artistically inclined people among you. Enjoy and good luck with the answers!

First
Even if the Guggenheim museum is packed with amazing art pieces, it’s probably most recognizable for the iconic spiral shaped building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The various paintings and sculptures you’ll see are exhibited along the spiralling pathway that curves upwards.
Vasily Kandinsky - Black lines
We start the art tour with the famous “black lines” of Vassily Kandinsky who is one of the best represented artists in the Guggenheim museum…
Pablo Picasso
..along with the hardly-mistakable Pablo Picasso, here with his “woman with yellow hair”.
Marc Chagall
Another hardly mistakable artist, Marc Chagall, with his highly non-standard view of Paris on the left and drinking soldier on the right.
Naum Gabo
Maybe very slightly less famous than the previous three artists, but at least equally abstract – Naum Gabo.
Robert Delaunay
Another abstract artist’s view of Paris – Robert Delaunay and his impression of the Eiffel tower.
Piet Mondrian
A wider shot of the museum visitors and in particular two of the famous “compositions” of Piet Mondrian. And here comes my first and easiest riddle for today – what is the relation between the music I chose and almost all the art pieces and artists here?
Nude - Amedeo Modigliani
Another famous artist, Amedeo Modigliani, chose to depict less abstract subjects in comparison to his good friend Picasso. I find a strange resemblance between the two women on the photo, don’t you think?
Oskar Fischinger
This is Oskar Fischinger with his untitled work. He’s one of the odd ones out that doesn’t fit in riddle 1 that I stated above.
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And here comes the second riddle which has nothing to do with the Rolling Stones fan on focus: who is the author of the painting behind?
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A piece of pure wisdom that I found in the museum shop.
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Another abstract composition related to the last riddle: who created the painting and what is the number associated with it?
Jackson Pollock
Getting to the very top of the spiral pathway in Guggenheim and the final piece of abstract art, one finally reaches the unfathomable style of Jackson Pollock and the end of this art journey.

 

An eclectic art tour in Italy: love, mummies, and cinema

Venue: Museo della Permanente (Milano), Museo Egizio and Museo del Cinema (Torino)

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

Music: Domenico Modugno – Nel blu dipinto di blu (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4IjJav7xbg)

As mentioned in my previous post (https://kirilson.com/2017/08/10/weekend-in-lombardia/), the main reason to visit Milano this spring was a contemporary art exhibition curated with the main theme “Love”. In addition to that we also visited Torino for a day and saw the museum for ancient Egyptian art and the Cinema museum there. The combination of these three subjects seems almost impossible, and yet I decided to show you some photos with the art pieces put together from all the three museums (and even some extra bits). Hope you still enjoy them, and please let me know if you figure out the (possibly nonexistent) connection  between the various art forms.

 

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To add to the confusing collection, we start with this solo piece of modern art in “Corso Como 10”, a small free art gallery and shop in the centre of Milano. Adding to the creepy look of the seemingly shattered glass in the middle you can see my shadow on the wall on the right. 
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Already at the main art event, the “Love” exhibition in Museo della Permanente. 
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An interesting combination of two old Roman statues that were originally unrelated. They were placed by the artist in contemporary times in a suggestive way. He also put a subtle layer of lipstick on the lips of the woman. Unlike this example, the statue of the kissing people on top of this post was truly originally made to show a kiss.
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Fitting to the love theme, this installation with mirrors had an infinity of hearts being reflected endlessly
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More heart shapes, and more messages of love left by the visitors.
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One of the most famous contemporary artists, the Japanese Yayoi Kusama, and her signature style of creating art using dots.
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Another famous piece of art fittingly placed at the entrance and the exit of the exhibition.
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A brutal transition between love and death – an old Egyptian mummy from the very beginning of the funeral art in ancient Egypt.
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A more refined version of an ancient Egyptian coffin that was made thousands of years after the mummy on the previous picture. 
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And some more burial art from Egypt of ever increasing sophistication.
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A copy of the sphinx, doubled by its own reflection, to show us that Egyptian art went much further than the graveyard.
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Another “smooth” transition and we find ourselves in the Cinema museum! The exhibition there starts with various examples of the era preceding the cinema where people came up with many ingenious ways of creating moving pictures by strange optical illusions.
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The museum is situated in the most iconic building in Torino – the “Mole Anotonelliana” (the tower of Antonelli) which was originally constructed as a synagogue but was eventually never used on purpose. It has a large dome and a tower on top, which one can nowadays reach by a lift that is suspended on the hanging wires that you see.
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The main part of the museum exhibition has a large amount of photos, props, posters, and sections of movie theaters with live picture and sound from various iconic movies.
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Another photo showing various bits of the exhibition, all situated in the large hall under the dome of the tower of Antonelli.
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An original costume of the Alien movies as most people would immediately recognize. 
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Close to the exit from the Cinema museum, on a side street in Torino, one finds yet another modern art piece reminding me of the screaming man of Edvard Munch. If by now you’re also screaming from the eclectic nature of this post, you can relax as it’s over.

 

Konst in and under Stockholm

Venue: Stockholm metro and Fotografiska museum, Sweden

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

Music: Depeche Mode – Enjoy the silence (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSKrC7dGcY)

The next place I visited this fall was Sweden and one the main sights I was eager to see in Stockholm was the famous metro system, which is one of the cheapest and biggest modern art (or “konst” in Swedesh) museums in the world. In particular the blue “tunnelbana” line, built quite recently, hosts some jaw-dropping sights that I tried to capture. My photos are unfortunately limited to only several stations as the station-hopping turned out to be quite time-consuming and there were plenty of other things to do in Stockholm. On the plus side I had time to visit the Fotografiska museaum so I’ll also show you a few photos of other much more famous and crafty photos exhibited there. The metro and the photo museum sum up my Swedish art exploration, but there are plenty of other photos from Sweden that I promise to show you soon.

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First stop on the metro: Radhuset station, under the Stockholm city hall.
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And this is what you’ll see if you try to exit the Radhuset station and take the elevators upwards. But exiting would be a mistake as there are plenty of other stations to visit first!
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The next noteworthy station on the way was Solna centrum, depicting rural life in Sweden with forests and wild animals and whatnot..
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..and the elevators at Solna centrum are also quite amazing, probably one feels like descending to Hell when taking them down.
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The next stop of Vastra skogen was less scary and the little Guinny and his friend Moewe could be taken out for a stroll.
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A shot from the moving train overlooking the Duvbo station (or was it Sundbybergs, hard to tell now) with the world map.
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The last stop of the mini metro tour was Tensta, which was probably the most amazing one of all, with cave-like paintings like the one here, penguins (see the photo on the top), and peace-messages all over the place.
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Some octopus-like creatures and more peace messages on the far wall written in dozens of different world languages.
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Part of a huge wall-painting with “amore” (love in Italian) and “esperanza” (hope in Spanish) together with the “солидарность” (solidarity in Russian) sign.
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Going above the ground and into the Fotografiska museum, where the main exposition showed the photos of Anton Corbijn. He is probably the top music photographer of our days, having worked with most of the big names in the music scene. Here is an iconic photo of David Bowie.
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And here a collection of the Rolling Stones.
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Apart from the amazing photos you see, Corbijn also made some movies and directed many music videos, including the one of Depeche Mode in the link above.
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The photo museum also has a beautiful cafe with a great view towards the somewhat misty islands of Stockholm.
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But even the cafe is full of photos and has a very artsy feel.
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The other expositions featured some more black and white photos of people in Italy..
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..and some jeans commercials! Yes, this is a part of an advertisement campaign showing that even people in North Korea wear jeans. And a good place to end the post, bringing you from Sweden to North Korea.

More kunst

Venue: Kunsthalle, Fischmarkt, and Deichtorhallen, Hamburg

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

Music: Johannes Brahms – Hungarian Dance No. 5 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X9LvC9WkkQ)

As promised in my previous post from Hamburg, I decided to give you a pure art experience from the exhibitions I visited there. Obviously the photos here won’t represent anything original from me, they are more of a random collection of pieces I enjoyed seeing in the three main kunst (= art) exhibitions I visited in Hamburg: the main Kunsthalle with quite famous classic and modern art, the small art festival in the Fischmarkt which offered various art pieces for sale, and the contemporary art exhibition in the Deichtorhallen. I won’t spend much time explaining the paintings, in hope to make you search for them online or visit the actual exhibitions offline. Hope you enjoy the virtual tour and the new type of photo-topic here, and as usual feel free to comment on your favorite piece of art below.

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Starting from the start: the lobby of the Kunsthalle, where four sculptures of monkeys behave like people and appreciate art – this one is clearly impressed by the artwork on the ceiling.
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First came the “Old Masters” collection before moving to the 19th century and modern art.
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“Prometheus”
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“Madonna” by Edvard Munch, famous for the screaming guy.
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A German classic: “The Wanderer before the Sea of Fog” by Friedrich.
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Salvador Dali with his unmistakable style.
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Moving from the priceless art in the museum to pieces with actual price tags in the Fischmarkt: close to the entrance there was a stand with a wide variety of ostrich paintings that I found quite cute.
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Naturally there were many colorful and joyful paintings for sale.
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Simple drawings can also be very nice.
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Some larger scale heart-art with real rope attached to the painting.
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A gothic-looking visitor checking out some paintings at the Fischmarkt.
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And now back to museum-worthy and weird art: the contemporary exhibition in the Deichtorhallen, where also the photo at the very top of this post is made.
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A collage of black and white photos of clothes…cool, right?
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A minimalist take on a Japanese pole-dancer.
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Abstract sculptures curated to go along with the abstract paintings behind.
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A sentence on the blackboard and a candle – contemporary art has no boundaries.
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Another interesting curator choice of a metal “sculture” put on the side of a black and red rectangle.
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What better message to end this post with, I think there is plenty of hope for art in all its forms.

Sofia photomarathon III: Escape

Venue: central Sofia

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

Music: Pink Floyd – Hey You (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEDjF2tLbhk)

This is the third out of three posts about my participation in the Sofia photomarathon (scroll down to see them in chronological order). The last theme in the contest was also pretty conceptual: “Escape”. So it can be pretty much anything – a city escape to the nearby mountain, or people running away, some friends were suggesting escaping somewhere up high on a tall building..I liked instead the “escape from reality” idea making use of one of the places we went to for the previous topic in search of “silence”. I thought someone reading books in this isolated place at the library would be the true “escape” photo, but it required submitting a different type of photo for the second topic and we were happy enough with the stopped clock for this purpose.

So we headed back to the library with this idea and then wanted to try some street photos afterwards, just to try the “running away” idea and see what chance brings. And here’s what happened:

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Back to the desk at the library, with my model for day.
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But we wanted a darker photo where you mostly see the reader’s contour and the white curtains are  leading you away.
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And this is the one that we both liked the most.
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But we had to try a few more shots, changing the focus..
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..or the posture.
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Back on the street we saw someone else competing in the photomarathon, and she (the lady on the right, she even had a tripod) used her kids as models to run around.
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So I also tried a few shots, just for fun and not to use them in the competition of course. But still the lady with the camera got pissed and came to complain, so we went on.
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Another randomly spotted thing on the way – a backyard with two old and rusty cars “Moskvich” – the Russian cars that were the only option in Bulgaria during the socialist times, many years ago. An escape in different times..
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And the promised tries for a street escape, but we just couldn’t get it right I think.
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Another try, but we decided that’s not it, and the shots in the library are much better.
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So we headed back to deliver the photos to the contest organizers, but not before taking a few shots on the way – a plane passing by is also a very obvious escape metaphor, even if this one was actually landing.
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And here are some weird windows and graffiti in one of the hipstery streets in town – if you think about it pretty much everything is a form of escape from some angle.
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Even this pipe was trying to escape from the sewers.

But at the end of the day we went for the reader escaping reality photo, which was probably my best shot for the day if I compare the three photos in the different topics. But surely others would think differently, so I again remind you that you can rate all the photos at http://photosynthesis.bg/maraton-glasuvane.html by entering your email and clicking on a photo rating it from 2 to 6 (2 is bad, 6 is excellent).

Sofia photomarathon II: Silence

Venue: central Sofia and the Lozenets neighborhood

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 and Nikkor 24-120 mm f/4.0

Music: Simon & Garfunkel – The sound of silence (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zLfCnGVeL4)

This is the second post of the photomarathon series (you better check part I below first), where we’re moving on to the second topic: “Silence”. An important detail I should mention already here is that the time of the day allocated for this topic was between 1am and 3pm (the reason I say it here will come later). And everyone I asked was thinking first in the direction of finding some big empty space, like a theater hall, a school, a cinema. I guess people naturally associate emptiness with silence, but at the end of the day that’s not the type of picture we chose, even if we tried plenty of them. The other ideas my friends thought of are photos in a graveyard, or a public library. Meanwhile I realized I have an easy access to huge empty lecture halls at the Faculty of Physics at the Sofia University where I teach, so we decided to head that way, and then on the way back pass by a public library and see if suitable photos can be made there. As the Physics faculty building is further away from the centre of the city there wouldn’t be more time for any extra ideas and places anyway, as we already had less than two hours.

So that was the plan, and here’s the photos I took and why I chose the one you see on top:

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This is one the big “aula” – the auditorium in the Faculty of Physics. Looks quite miserable to be honest, it’s part of a building from the 60’s with a typical socialist architecture.
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Another photo of the auditorium, I decided to put some actual physics formulae on the blackboard to make it more realistic, but you can’t see much anyway.
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A closer view to the front side of the auditorium, but it keeps being pretty ugly I think, so we decided that it was not the right place, even if the topic does fit well.
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On the outside of the auditorium I accidentally spotted an old clock that didn’t seem to work and made a few pictures of it, not yet thinking properly how to fit it in the topic of “Silence”.
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We checked out some smaller lecture halls, but those were as old-school as the big auditorium, so we decided to let go of the idea and check out the public library.
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But right at the entrance/exit of the stairs at the Faculty of Physics we spotted a cupboard with some very old physics instruments and an old clock. They seem to have been arranged as a sort of museum exposition, which is pretty nice.
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So at that point we decided this old stopped clock is worth taking a picture of for the topic. After all it shows 10:27 so it was obviously stopped as the time for taking photos was between 1 and 3 pm as I stressed in the beginning.
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And after several experiments with the focus and angle we decided this is the photo that best fits the “Silence” idea.
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And then we went back to the centre and entered the Sofia public library on Slaveikov square. The building and the books inside are much older than the socialist times, and for this reason way more beautiful.
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And this empty desk around the bookshelves at one corner of the library was such a relaxing and silent place, that we thought we found the perfect shot.
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After trying several photos here I think we decided that this is the one we want. So we were satisfied we have several good shots and decided to head back and hear the next topic.
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On the way out I took some more shots of the place, which is quite nice and quiet indeed.
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And these are the stairs of the library, which are also very nice and “silent” except for the mirror they put downstairs that breaks the symmetry due to its tilt.

And so in reality my favorite photo from the series is probably the empty desk in the library, yet in the end I decided to officially submit the old stopped clock. The reason you’ll see in my next post, as it turned out a similar library photo would fit perfectly not only the topic of “Silence” but also the third topic in the photomarathon. I remind you that my three photos from the marathon are now also part of an online competition that everybody can vote in if interested – http://photosynthesis.bg/maraton-glasuvane.html – just enter your email address, confirm it and then by clicking on a photo you can rate it from 2 to 6 (2 is bad, 6 is excellent).

Sofia photomarathon I: One more time

Venue: central Sofia

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

Music: OneRepublic – I lived (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWuRA_JvCR8)

This is the first in a series of three posts, each of which describes two hours of my participation in the Sofia photomarathon (http://www.photomarathon.bg/en). The rules were simple – you have 6 hours and three topics that get announced in a space of two hours. So you’d hear the topic, think and shoot as many photos as you like, come back for the next topic…and in the end of the 6 hours you can only submit three photos, one for each topic. So you not only had to come up with an interesting concept for a photo, but had to choose exactly one photo, which is not so easy. Fortunately for me I had an amazing teammate and a vast group of friends giving me ideas, so I was really happy with the outcome and most importantly it was great fun! I will tell you about each topic and our creative process in a separate post to keep it simple.

And so the first topic is… “One more time”. And the clock is ticking! I think the most discussed idea with this topic was going to a bar and having someone order a cocktail “one more time”, but eventually we went for something better, I think. In any case, our three main ideas that we went on to pursue were: finding kids on swings pushing each other; finding an ice-cream place with kids ordering some at the time; going to a bar for a drink (that we’ll take a picture of). And on the way there came other possibilities as often happens, so here’s my selection of best photos on the topic:

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On the way to the swings we saw someone sweeping the street the old-school way, so we thought it might also fit the topic somewhat.
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At the swings in the park in front of the national theater. There were a few kids with their grandmother, and they were very relaxed and nice and were quite positive when we asked them if we can take some photos.
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And the little girl was so amazingly genuine that if she keeps it up this way she’s gonna be an actress one day.
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So I took quite a lot of photos as I felt that’s the real thing, that one of these will be our pick for the topic.
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And the girls kept having fun and not minding the camera at all.
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And eventually this is the shot we chose as you see also on top, but of course I’ll show you all the best ones so that everybody expresses their opinion.
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The little girl was totally in her element.
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And the last photo of the series, at which point we thought we have enough material.
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But a few steps away from the swings there were people playing backgammon on one of the benches in the park, and I just couldn’t miss the opportunity. The rolling dice actually make the perfect “one more time” photo I think.
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But eventually the reason we chose the kids is that they feel more alive, maybe a better executed dice game photo would have really made it to the top, so it is partially my fault.
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Next stop was the ice-cream place. We went to my favorite one on Vitosha street and I took the raspberry flavour, to try out some photos with it (and then obviously eat it, it was delicious).
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But there was a family with their kids and we asked them to take some pictures.
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The kid was super nice and posing with pleasure, but we thought that the father actually spoiled the photo as he was too close. I was too shy to actually dare asking him to move aside for a second, so the photo didn’t make it to the top.
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Yet another ice-cream place.
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And a cocktail with tea and rum, it was a bit chilly this day so I felt like something warm. Anyway the people at the bar were not very understanding and were pissed at me taking photos around, so I stopped and didn’t produce anything memorable.
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Just this photo with a cappuccino and the grog
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And the last randomly seen shop on the street before heading back to hear the second topic.

So stay tuned for the next two topics, which I will be posting in the next two days, and let me know if you think I didn’t choose the best photo in this round and you prefer another one. My three photos from the marathon are now also part of an online competition that everybody can vote in if interested – http://photosynthesis.bg/maraton-glasuvane.html – just enter your email address, confirm it and then by clicking on a photo you can rate it from 2 to 6 (2 is bad, 6 is excellent).