Ivaylo Petrov’s Fresh and Inspiring Perspective on Portraits

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All images by Ivaylo Petrov. Used with permission.

Ivaylo Petrov is a portrait, editorial and commercial photographer. But he’s not just any portrait shooter–in fact, Ivaylo creates portraits instead of shoots them. His images have a very grand look to them that inspires and is a fresh perspective on the portrait.

“In my work, I mainly photograph people, both in studio and on location. I consider myself a versatile photographer, who likes to take on every assignment with individual approach and that’s what defines my style – its diversity.” Ivaylo tells us. “My personal preference is, however, classic, cinematic look and feel of the work that I do.” He continues to tell us that his inspiration comes from other forms of art. For example, he loves watching movies.

You can find more of his work on Behance, but we talked about it with him here.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography

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Ivaylo: That would be a truly banal story of a very young man who got his first camera as a gift from his father, managed to use medical spirit as a lens cleaner only a few days after that and found out that taking pictures (I couldn’t call it making pictures back then) was his passion – to the point that would make it worth pursuing as a career in his first year in university.

As a young photographer, I felt truly amazed by the unique mixture of cutting-edge technology, century-old physics and timeless aesthethics, all of them contributing to the creation of an image. I spent a lot of time learning the craft, mostly by myself, outside of my formal photography training. Never got the chance to assist to a big name in the industry, which I now consider a big luck for a number of reasons. It was my passion and my stubbornness that made go forward. And they still do.

Phoblographer: What got you into portraiture?

Ivaylo: I realize, looking a few years back, that it has always been more about a certain idea, a concept I believe was worth showing, rather than just the traditional and probably most obvious approach to photographing people. They weren’t my first and primary interest by the time I started out in photography, but I find them fascinating in quite a contradictive way, which is oftentimes a true inspiration to me. In our anthropocentric world, dominated by our own species’ priorities, needs, fears and so on, using a person, a human figure is one of the most powerful ways to convey a certain idea or a message.

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Phoblographer: You’re portraiture isn’t just any portraiture; it’s very grand. What usually inspires you to create the scenes that you do?

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Ivaylo: Thank you. I think the roots of my work are, and have always been, closely related to other forms of art that have influenced me throughout the years. I believe that the act of creating something is rooted in its very essence to the author’s character and mindset and mine have been formed by certain literature genres and hard music.

I’ve even had the awkward experience to finish a photograph and find out that it was based on something I’ve heard or read only afterwards. I have a prime and very recent example of that – the image of a conductor and a city – it was truly a representation of the beginning of “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury, which I read years ago.

Phoblographer: When you photograph a person, do you feel like you’re bringing part of their personality out or do you just create images? If the latter, how do you go about explaining your ideas to subjects? Do you storyboard at all?

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Ivaylo: It really, really depends on the project. When it comes down to my personal work, I would say that personality definitely has its say when it comes down to picking the person I’d like to photograph, but the finished work is almost never a true representation of who they are, most of the time they are put in an allegory, a metaphor in a sense, which compliments the initial idea that started the project.

In terms of technique and execution, my approach tends to be a realistic one, but the situations, events and the figures in the image are usually entirely fictional. In time, it has become easier to gain people’s trust and I’ve managed to photograph some really big names in my country, from all walks of life, but it took quite a lot of effort and dedication to get to this point.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear that you use.

Ivaylo: For commercial work, depending on the assignment, I’d go with anything between 5D mk II or IIIs and digital medium format, while my personal projects are shot mostly on full frame Canons and my favourite 85mm and 17-40 lens. I’m getting more and more inclined to buy a mirrorless system as I find myself lacking the capability to take my camera out with me more often and just enjoy the spontaneous approach that comes with it. I have always liked the traditional, film look of images, especially for certain genres and still have a few cameras that allow me to shoot a roll of film or two, but it’s mostly for my own satisfaction and nowadays I rarely use it for more serious work.

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