Crowdsourcing images from personal archives across the internet, @thebalkanarchive spotlights small joys and family ties in the Balkans from the 1920s all the way to the 1990s.
@thebalkanarchive, an Instagram account featuring individual, couple, and family portraits, as well as snapshots from parties and important life events, was set up by Bulgaria-born, UK-based archive researcher and photo editor Milena Vassova. “I started this project in order to offer an alternative historical narrative of the Balkan region, shaped and written from within,” she told The Calvert Journal. “My hope is that the project will grow into a rich collection of archival family photography, that will serve as a resource to research, study, and reflect on, encouraging artistic production and public engagement.”
One of the account’s strengths lies in the life stories it tells in the caption of each image. One moving description tells of the meeting between Kallia Nikolova’s grandparents in Sofia, Bulgaria, when her grandmother was performing social service duties in a vegetable canning factory in 1972, and her grandfather had just finished his two-year mandatory military service. “The first time he saw my grandmother, she was crying,” the curator writes. “He says he thought to himself: ‘why on Earth would such a beautiful girl cry?’, and approached her. It turns out, the women had the task of peeling onions that day.”