* The photography is an art, not just a click of the button

An interview of Galina Kondova

Валери ЗаховTell me more about you.
I am like every normal person in Bulgaria – a family man, with two grown kids, with a hobby, that transformed in a profession, with 15-20 year-old car, with one rented costume, a pair of shoes (worn out), some pairs socks and underwear, beautiful girl friend (all people envy of the photographers because we take photos of the most beautiful women, isn’t’ it?) and a lot of admirers… (the last two are in the range of the joke :)

How you started to occupy with photography?
I started to occupy with photography when I was a schoolboy in 8th class. My first serious photos then were the photographing of a partial solar eclipse, because of that the teacher in physics liberates us from school works for the whole day and formed our yearly marks in month of April. For us and for her these were unique photos, although when I remember how amateurish we made them, now it’s funny for me. Later I started to take part in a number of photo competitions (that were organized then often) and I was winning many prizes. The portrait, the landscape, the action and the naked body attracted me (more precisely the fine art nude photography). Some photographers accentuated at the work at the copying of the photos and at the effects at the processing of the photo on the photo paper, but I was attracted by the experiment of the catching of the moment. For me it was important to have a unique photo that can talk.

What were the first photos that you have made?
Oh, that was so long time ago… Maybe I was taking a photo of some chick…

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What are you thinking of the Bulgarian fashion photography? What are its strong and weak sides, its possibilities and perspectives?
In my opinion we have quite good and able photographers. During the last years it had even covers of some foreign fashion magazines with photos of Bulgarian photographers, that is a sign of our world level. However the problem is the same like this of the Bulgarian music – only a few succeed to open the way through the iron curtain. I can say from my experience that beyond the Ocean people accept every capable person, while in Europe they try to kick you at the knuckles with the purpose to not eat their salt. Years ago I was invited to be the official photographer of the competition Miss Hawaii, but because of the bomb attempt in the World Trade Center they stopped the giving of visas and I couldn’t go. Some months before that, I was photographing Christopher Michael - a producer and an owner of California Dream Men. He wanted to be made on him a fine art nude photo session because he liked my photos during one interview for a popular at that time TV transmission. At first he took a look skeptically to the studio and to the technique that I was photograph with, but after he saw my photos he stayed delighted by them. He said to me that two thirds of the photographers, with whom he was working, are under my level, but these that are over it just have technique and conditions to work at and respectfully a high appreciation of the work by a considerable payment. Later I was convinced in his words when I received the invitation for Miss Hawaii after the competition that I won. The problem in Bulgaria is that the photography is not considered as an art, but as a click of the button. This was seen especially strongly at the appearance of the digital photography. Many advertising agencies bought digital cameras and started to “click” alone the photos for the posters and for the billboards. It is found to be that “this work is not like that work” and when it is necessary to be made serious photography they start again to turn to us – the specialists.

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What are your professional rules, when you photograph works of the fashion design, fashion shows and generally – fashion events?
I just “see” the photo before I make it – close-up, illumination, walk and gesture. The digital photography taught me to anticipate the event. Some years ago the digital cameras were very “slow”. They reacted with over 1-2 seconds of delay and often the moment of the reportage was missed. For fashion show it exist some rule of taking of the photo – the model has to be catch in a definite moment, when he seems to be in perfect form – position of the body, clothing. The young models “gallop” at the stage; good photos could not be taken because of the bad illumination and of the low speed of the shooter we have to photograph with, and often the photos drop out from the selection of photos for publishing. It is not important only to pass on the stage and to be seen by a hundred fashion experts and journalists at the hall, but to be catch by the photographers and after that to be seen by the hundred thousands readers in the fashion magazines and newspapers. Besides for the perfect photo during a fashion show the talent is very necessary – to the model and to the photographer. Not always it is obligatory for the good fashion photographer to be good in the photography at a fashion show. At the studio fashion photography the rules are others and the illumination and the effects have to be known very well to be achieved the wanted aim.

Фотография на Валери ЗаховIn Bulgaria the notion paparazzo as if brings a negative sense. According to you to what is due this commonly accepted opinion?
Paparazzo is a byword for everyone, who takes the camera and photographs “the forbidden” thing. The paparazzo brings to light things that the famous people wouldn’t want to become generally known. And this happens thanks to the yellow press. If didn’t exist yellow press it just didn’t exist the paparazzo.

Фотография на Валери ЗаховPaparazzo – is it a profession or a hobby for you?
Before I’ll ask to this question I would like to specify one thing – I am not a paparazzo as some rumors were spread in the media sphere. I was occupying with advertising photography during some ten years. Before five years I made the first blog site for fashion news in Bulgaria and since then I started to photograph reportage. I can affirm that my site can’t be added to the yellow news, but it’s rather one lifestyle event website, that has nothing common with the probing in the private life of the famous people in Bulgaria. That fact that I had the chance during some events to succeed to “catch” in frame some more from the bust of some star or her shaved intimate parts is due rather to a professionalism and to an expectation of the “event” (I talk about that upwards) than to the work of a paparazzo. In order to be eliminated these “compromising” photos the star would have to be dressed in an appropriate way. And don’t you think that they are dressed intentionally like this to be seen “that thing” and to be made a fuss around her? Here for example the scandalous video with Galena. Is it spread intentionally in the Internet or not, this could be an issue. The question is that it had its day and now she is one of the most requested folk stars in Bulgaria.

What provokes your interest to the paparazzo photos?
The reportage photography (the paparazzo photography is also a part of it) is as the hunting and the fishing – the shiver to catch the moment.

What qualities are necessary for one photographer to become a paparazzo?
It is necessary mostly talent and sense to the catch of the moment. A paparazzo photo can be made also with an ordinary mobile. The point is to be at the exact place, in the exact time and to succeed to “click” that what has to be clicked.

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In foreign countries the paparazzo job is a profitable business. Could we talk of some kind of phenomenon here in Bulgaria?
This is an absurd! If there was somebody to pay for such kind of photos everyone with a mobile with camera becomes a potential paparazzo (stars, watch out!). In Internet I was seeing more scandalous photos with the intimate parts of our folk stars from these I achieved to photograph.

In your opinion what is the difference between the paparazzo in Bulgaria and these in the foreign countries?
Of course, the difference is enormous. There the honorariums are big as the cosmos is. There it is worth even the risk to get the trashing if you follow some celebrity until you catch it in the inopportune moment. Here is the difference with the Bulgarian situation. Even in one interview with some celebrity in Internet I read that the starts make all alone scandalous photo sessions with famous paparazzo to be published at the first page at the tabloids. This usually happens some time before the edition of their album or before a recent appearance in the public space.

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Can you specify some pictures – masterworks of your colleagues – paparazzo in foreign countries and to explain shortly the value of these photos?
One or two years ago the paparazzo them selves were made a competition for a photo of Anna Kournikova because nobody till now didn’t succeed to catch her without underwear. The prize was $200 000. Some months later appeared a photo of the celebrity at one distant beach how she cleans the sand from her bikini. The paparazzo was using an objective with long focal length, which price exceeds $30 000.

Many celebrities lose self-control when the paparazzos direct their objective to them. Has it ever happened to you?
Just the contrary. They make just the contrary – they pose in a well-known way to look good at the photos. It seems that it becomes something “natural” for them after they appeared at the stage and in the media.

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How you personally define the limit of an admissible intervention in the private life of some person, which is an object of your photograph interest?
It is necessary to have some limit even in the paparazzo photos. It seems to me excessively that what was seen in the video of Galena. It could be a little softer, as the saying goes. It could be shown something, but not in so direct way and to be obtained the same effect.

It exist one theory, according to that for the celebrities it doesn’t exist a bad advertisement. How you would comment this statement?
That’s true. The important is that the media speaks of them. Here is the role of the PR – he has to estimate to what degree to be revealed the tit-bit and it has to be controlled, because of the danger of spoiling of the dish. It has to have an absolute confidence between the celebrity and the PR because if something is concealed sometimes it is very difficult to “paper over” the gaffe. In Bulgaria are so little the celebrities for which work professional PR experts. For example it is the occasion with Gloria about which the media wrote so many things. It could be made a discussion if she was with or without bikini at the concert. The problem is that a whole week people wrote in the forums in Internet, they got screenshots from the videos and it wasn’t proved what the truth is but I know it. But then it had to be set into motion the crisis PR and to connect with me – they know my telephone number and the email is in a prominent place in the site. And yet as a media I wouldn’t permit to publish some facts about somebody without a concrete proof. Even in one interview in a newspaper “Show” I tried to show the way for onе going out of an embarrassing situation, but…. the pride is a bad advisor.

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Do you looking for the provocation intentionally, when you are present at some event or you just are in the precise place and in the precise time?
I’m always looking for the tit-bits. The important is to expect and to catch the moment. It is a question of moral if after that this photo will be published. And I have a few of this kind of photos…

Which are the most provocative photos that you were made?
These are the photos of Kamelia, of Gloria and of Rayna. I have others also but I already said that the moral have to exist.

What is the behavior of the celebrities to you?
They behave to me with a respect. They all want to be in good relations with the media because we make them stars but we also can create troubles for them.

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Фотография на Валери ЗаховYou are the founder of What is the most important for such a media, to achieve to be different among the multitude of sites in the virtual space?
Фотография на Валери ЗаховYes, five years ago I registered, and when the came out I registered it like In fact both of domains are active. About the rating of my site in worldwide importance you can see it at The important for one site is to be published actual information in good time what push it very quickly forward, and the seek machines index it better than the great number of “dead” sites. I’m getting very angry when some PRs send information for their event a day or two days after it. Once even it was a scandal about one event. A PR who works for a hotel, where are accommodated the participants in the event, sends an information about the party that happened at the evening in the bar of the hotel and indicates with some words what is the occasion. The other PR who works for this event also sends information about it the next day in the evening. Of course, we – the media – send the first information, and about the same event we would never send information twice… And the scandal happened :)

Have you got a fetish in the photography?
I respect many famous people, but I don’t want to bore the readers with their names, that are not familiar to the audience. If the readers saw their photos they will remember of them very quickly – some of their works are used without their permission in a number of advertisements and billboards in Bulgaria.

How you have a good time?
Photographing – it doesn’t exist a better thing than your hobby to transform into your profession.

How you relax?
What is that?

What is your motto?
"The fashion news from the tomorrow’s newspapers"

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1. Valeri Zahov
Photo: © Private archive
2. – 24. Photos of Valeri Zahov.
Photo: © Valeri Zahov

Read: 4233 times                                                  © Fashion Lifestyle Magazine, issue 10, May 2008

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