Tina Boyadjieva is a New York based photographer. She grew up in Bulgaria and moved to America when she was 18 years old with a full academic scholarship at Jacksonville University in Florida. She then lived in California, and later moved to North Carolina to complete her Masters in Business Administration at Duke University. In the last ten years she has lived in New York and London, visiting Florence every summer. Tina worked in finance and fashion for ten years until she decided to exit the corporate world to pursue her true passion of photography. She is a student at the International Center of Photography in New York. She works with private clients and collaborates with other established photographers in New York and Los Angeles. Tina has had her photography published in various press including National Geographic, and Bulgarka Magazine (online Bulgarian magazine). She has also exhibited her work in Bulgaria, Italy, and the United States.
I have the privilege of working with Tina, and she discussed with me her passion for photography.
What is your role working with the Medici Dynasty Show?
My main responsibility is to personify Giulia de’ Medici. I walk the streets in Florence advertising the show, speaking with locals and visitors. I appear before and after some performances to interact with our guests. I also assist with various financial analysis and reports for the show. Additionally I photograph the performers and the Fuligno Complex where the show is staged.
How did you initially get into photography?
My grandfather was an amateur photographer. He used to turn his bathroom into a dark room and I would watch him develop rolls of film. It was communist times back then in Bulgaria, so only Russian cameras were available; they were a challenge to adjust. For example, it could take as long as fifteen minutes to take just one picture! My grandfather gave me my first camera when I was six years old, and he told me to be happy. It took me 30 years to finally decide that I wanted to fully dedicate myself to photography.
Which photographers inspire your work?
- Steve McCurry – He does amazing travel and portrait photography.
- Sebastiao Salgado – I admire his impeccable way of capturing human traditions and nature plus he didn’t get into photography until his late 30s, so it gives me hope.
- Henry Bresson – He has an incredible way of composing an image.
- Robert Kappa – I love how he is able to capture the spirit of small european towns.
- Bill Cunningham – For his constant search of beauty and originality, humble way of being and living, and for always maintaining his work independence. I feel very proud that we share the same birthday.
What are your latest photography projects?
I recently completed a project partially inspired by Sebastiao Salgado, who photographed tuna fishermen in Sicily. Last summer by accident I ended up in the Eolian Islands off the coast of Sicily. There, someone showed me a picture of an old fisherman with a captivating stare and a long white beard. I knew that I had to go find him. So I journeyed to Stromboli and found him and his four brothers; who still fish using old methods with handmade nets and old wooden boats. I traveled back to Stromboli this summer to extend this shoot and to continue my relationship with the fishermen. They shared with me their life stories and the history of their 300 year old house where all of them were born. They also took me out at sea to watch them throw their nets. I felt privileged that they welcomed me into their life. I am proud that their pictures will be on exhibit in Palazzo Santo Stefano in Taormina from August 20th-September 4th.
Another project very close to my heart and my Bulgarian roots is a folkloric women’s choir from the tiny village, called Dryanovo in the Rhodopes Mountains that I shot in May. The women there leave the village on very few occasions. They hand make their own traditional clothing using methods dating back hundreds of years; similar to their a capella singing style passed down for generations between mothers and daughters. Their pictures were published in a Bulgarian online magazine and viewed by an audience of 6,000 people.
Since my arrival in Florence in May, I started to shoot artisans in the Oltrarno area of the city. I find it fascinating that there are so many living arts that are still in existence in Florence. So far I have shot at least 25 artisans. Each artisan works in different media with a different set of skills. Each one invited me into their shop without prior introduction and they shared with me the history of the bottega (shop), often going back three to five generations in their family. They showed me not only their regular work but also the more time consuming and particular skills such as applying a thin layer of gold on a wood frame to create the beautiful gold varnish that you see in all the palazzos and palaces of Florence. It has been an amazing experience interacting with them. There is a question of continuity, as most of the artisans do not have apprentices or young people to learn the practice and continue the tradition of the work. I will be hosting an exhibit featuring these pictures in the second half of July in Florence, and later on in New York. Hopefully there will be some young people inspired to learn from these masters while they are still living and continue the tradition.
Tina as Giulia de’ Medici posing with one of the artisans of her project
I also do personal photo shoots outside and in studio. For tourists looking for a one of a kind experience in Florence, I do shoots where I dress my subjects in Renaissance clothing handmade based on works of art and real historical figures that lived during the renaissance.
What is your favorite thing about being a photographer?
The number one thing is that I see so much beauty everywhere as a photographer. The other thing is that I love the very intimate interactions you have with people. I have seen joy, love, sadness, and more through the colors of the lens. The most rewarding part of it is when my subjects can see themselves in a better light, and through the photos recognize the beauty in themselves that I see.
Tina’s Instagram: tboyadj
Post by Brianna Pohl