Strangers in Their Own Country by Pepa Hristova
Strong through their unity, isolated by their traditional, ritualistic life rhythms, withdrawn from the outside world—the Muslim minority in Bulgaria is almost unknown in Europe and takes a very diff erent approach to life than the Western one. In her search for a European conception of values, photographer Pepa Hristova has portrayed the Muslims in her homeland in a series of strikingly poetic photographs. Her staged portraits and snapshots of religious festivities such as weddings and circumcision celebrations break the silence of this national minority. In her photo reportage, she documents the feelings, desires, and fears of those portrayed and in so doing refl ects on issues of identity and social dislocation, dignity, and the values of this population group on the margins of the European Union. Hristova explores questions of identity and integration particularly in the unique and absurd situations of everyday life and in the life realities of the people. She explores the theme of isolation with intentionally placed spotlights that emphasize the subjects within the overall visual composition. With this concentration on the individual, Hristova emphasizes the vulnerability that is revealed even more clearly without the protective shell of the community. By focusing on the essential, Hristova gives clear expression to individual life stories in photographs that have an almost fi lm-like quality. Her snapshots have a documentary feel, but her use of artifi cial spotlights lends them their purely descriptive character.