The conversation about Nikola Stoichkov /1917 – 2003/ begins in the room where part of the archive of the Academy of Photography Bulgaria “Yanka Kyurkchieva” is kept. Over 200 original copies of the photographer are kept there. He himself donated them to the Academy of Photography and today, thanks to its chairman Yuri Treiman, I have the opportunity to open the original brown leather case in which they arrived. I begin to unwrap it carefully and find the inscription: ‘Take good care of them! This is my whole life”
For the 8th edition of the “Month of Photography”, the NSFA is holding an exhibition and publishing an album dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth. I received a copy of the book and this motivates me to tell you more about the life and work of Nikola Stoichkov.
Brief biographical reference
Nikola Borisov Stoichkov was born in Sofia. Back in 1936 he made his first steps in photojournalism for the magazine “Labor News”. In 1947-1948 he graduated from the half-year evening course “Cinema and Photo”, organized by the Bulgarian Cinematography.
In 1942 he started working as a photographer in the photo service of the former old city museum in Sofia Municipality, and after 44 he took over its management completely, after a serious illness of the titular photographer Petar Hlebarov. After the bombing almost the entire inventory and premises were destroyed and Stoichkov set up a laboratory in the former village of Boyana. He did that with his personal inventory and inventory purchased from private individuals. He remained in this post until April 1954, after which he moved to the BTA, as a photographer-artist in the editorial office of the magazine “Bulgaria”. Later it came under the umbrella of the “Sofia Press” Agency. Nikola Stoichkov himself remained employed there until the end of 1972. When “Interfoto” was founded, he became the head of a photography unit consisting of 15 people. At the same time, he was a lecturer in art photography and photojournalism at the Technical School of Polygraphy and Photography. He retired in 1980.
Nikola Stoichkov is a recipient of the Order of Bravery and other military honors, two Orders of “Cyril and Methodius”, numerous medals and diplomas for participation in domestic and foreign photo exhibitions. He was awarded the title of photographer-artist (1951) and artist of the International Federation for Photo Art AFIAP in Bern, Switzerland (1974). He is part of the juries of many national and international competitions. In 1999, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of photography, he was awarded an anniversary plaque and a diploma for his contribution to the development of photography in Bulgaria. In 2000, he became one of the first winners of the newly established award for contribution to Bulgarian photography – the honorary “Academica” statuette of the Academy of Photography Bulgaria “Yanka Kyurkchieva”.
In the first days and weeks of the Ninth of September coup in 1944, Nikola Stoichkov documented the events in Sofia. Georgi Papakochev says in his memoirs that Kolyo Stoichkov was one of the three people who were allowed to preserve the memory of these events. The other two are Todor Slavchev and the owner of the photo-studio “Astra”, located next to the French High School “Stancho Djidjev”. The footage by Stoichkov from “Day One” appeared on posters, front pages of the party press, newsreels, and feature films.
The Day One exhibition was first shown between 7 and 17 September in 1974. It includes four sections: ‘Sofia on the Eve’, ‘Day One’, ‘The Great and Invincible’ and ‘The Beginning of the Great Road’. The first section shows photographs of Sofia destroyed and devastated by the bombing.
Even before that, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Stoitchkov had saved photographs of poor workers and children in the suburban neighborhood where he was born and knew well.
The Sensitive Creator
Nikola Stoichkov fascinates us not only with his photojournalistic shots. The photographer’s personal work in the artistic field is no less impressive. In the archive, I find the pigeons he photographed through his window or the snow by the barely outlined Mausoleum. The high-key and low-key experiments impress with their graphic quality. Hidden in the archive are also some of the first concert performances of the rock band “The Crickets”. I find many more portraits, including that of the formerly still unknown violinist Mincho Minchev, the illusionist Mister Senko and others.
50th Birthday Memory
In issue 5 of 1967 of the magazine “Bulgarian Photo” I find an article about Nikola Stoichkov. It is dedicated to his 50th anniversary. Here is what the author D. Marinov (we publish with abbreviations): “Kolyo celebrated his anniversary at a reportage. In the plan of his editorship there was a theme called “Fans” and because the football season was ending, and because the layout, as always, was waiting, and because… Otherwise, I can not imagine it. Because Nikola Stoichkov is first and foremost a journalist… Typically, Stoichkov shoots what he needs. In the process of his work he sees and completes his subject so that he returns to the editorial office like the author of the text – with a “complete notebook” from which, with a small selection, the “material” comes out as it was conceived… Stoichkov prefers the immediacy and the uniqueness in things and phenomena, he strives to capture and seal on film their movement and dynamics. That is why he resorts to the so-called “hidden camera” and very often begins the realization of his conception at the moment when others would decide that everything is already ready.”
We would be grateful to anyone who is willing to join the Photoworld Club’s initiative to preserve Bulgarian photographic memory and I look forward to receiving your memories and photos by email: email@example.com
Author Anton Daskalov