Prof. John Howard
Prof. John Howard
Without question, my Shtraklevo house residency with Culture&Energy NGO was the most intensely productive and rewarding period of my entire ten-year photographic practice, resulting in completion and exhibition of a major project: Fields, Factories, Workers. I shot, edited, grouped, and sequenced dozens of works, culled to a final selection of twenty-two, thanks to Hristiana Stomonyakova’s superb curatorial guidance. Hris also helped shape the project statement, greatly improving it, additionally suggesting floor text. After excellent local printing and framing, the exhibition hung at a Ruse museum before traveling to another major museum in the capital Sofia.
All this concentrated activity was made possible because Hris generously provided leads, contacts, links, and email information months in advance of the stay, as well as on site. She welcomed me at the border, took me shopping, and graciously introduced me to local life. The house was in perfect order, with a well-stocked library and inspiring artwork, mostly by Ruse’s most famous painter, Plamen “Papi” Yordanov. Beautifully nestled on the very edge of Shtraklevo, between town and countryside, the house was an ideal setting for thinking, reading, and working, interrupted only by bird song. People in Shtraklevo were very kind to me, often posing for portraits. When work became too intense, Hris proposed and arranged kayaking on the Danube! In sum, Hris’s infectious good humor, can-do attitude, and razor-sharp curatorial perceptiveness guaranteed a successful residency.
Missing you, missing Bulgaria!
My stay at the Shtaklevo Residence was an incredibly peaceful and thus artistically very productive time for me. The house is beautiful, with hewn stones, gorgeous artwork on the walls, a light-filled space in which to work, and other thoughtful touches, located in a verdant rural setting surrounded by trees a short walk from a quiet village that has been lost in time. My every wish was anticipated by Hris and Plamen, who were such kind hosts and shared many stimulating a conversation and were the best of fun whenever I had the pleasure of seeing them on occasional trips to Ruse. I couldn't speak highly enough of my stay. The novel I worked on while participating in the residency is now close to finishing stages, and the translation I worked on is coming out in November. Had I not had the space, time and tranquility to write at Shtaklevo, I am certain these projects would not be nearly as far along as they are at present.
Much love, Eli