In a deserted Sofia carpark, a deflated palm tree becomes strangely relatable

9 May 2019

Mihail Novakov was taking a break from shooting a commercial project in his hometown of Sofia when he noticed a sad inflatable palm tree abandoned in the car park.

The neon prop looked both at odds and in harmony with the sleepy industrial landscape around it. Besides the faint glow of the moon and the Vitosha mountains in the distance, the photographer was completely alone. The melancholic vista demanded a photo.

Novakov cut his teeth on skate and street photography. His first solo exhibition was centred on life between Sofia and Varna, a popular seaside town where Novakov spent his summers. There is a hint of post-holiday blues in the deflated tree trunk even in this shot.

The camera anthropomorphises objects; breathes life into items which are lost or neglected; fills that which is broken with meaning and stories. “I’m very interested in ordinary life,” Novakov says. This scene is hardly one you’d encounter on any street corner. Yet the mood is familiar: there is something strangely relatable about a palm tree shrinking under the weight of the world.

That sense of deflation, though, is quite the opposite of the elated feeling Novakov experienced while taking this shot. As he says: “For me, photography is primarily a feeling of awe and joy at the surrounding world. I’m still learning how to apply curiosity and criticism to it.”

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