Johana Trayanova - Like Father, Like Daughter

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Jun 12, 201
June 23, 2023

I will share with you several words that became a leitmotif after this encounter – inspiration, light and kindness. This was what Johana shared with me for about an hour and a half. Lucky me!  She is, surely, an endangered species – part of the pack of people who are always seeking to conquer the world in their own way without pretending to be or imitating someone else and have a lot of faith in the beauty of the world around.

Johana is 26 years old but she has experience in various roles – as an intern in a production company, junior producer, playwright, scriptwriter, production coordinator, photographer, designer etc. Her whole life is surrounded by art – before and after birth.

Before and after birth

Without any fear and with a lot of enthusiasm, Johana started telling me the story of her family. She first mentioned her great-grandfather – the poet Teodor Trayanov, declared by literary critic society as the father of symbolism in Bulgarian poetry together with Yavorov. He was a colorful, soul-rich and sensitive person. He had a daughter named Johana and a son, named Assen. Assen is our Johana’s grandfather. He was an intelligent and literate man who lived and worked in Austria but was forced to come back to Bulgaria and was imprisoned in the concentration camp in Belene. Her father followed his father’s footsteps and went to Germany to study and live there but also was forced to come back to Bulgaria. Even though this seemed like a step back at first, this was maybe the best thing that ever happened to him because he met Johana’s mother. She was a talented young music student – a violinist. She did not have the self-confidence to become a performer and she decided to teach. She became a music teacher but Johana’s father secretly listed her for a job competition in the Bulgarian National Radio. She won it and has worked there ever since. In my own opinion Johana took a little from both of her parents – talent and impulse to pursue art from both of them, modesty from her mom and courage from her dad. Unfortunately, life took her dad away from her when she was seven years old but she keeps clear and concrete memories from her favorite moments with him. It also turns out that many of these memories are in fact related to her decision to be “a child of cinema”. She remembers how they spent hours in the video library/store choosing which movie to watch next. And the movie that they watched over and over again was “My Best Friend’s Wedding”.

Growing up, looking for herself, finding the life Johana doesn’t like to label people, to identify someone by their lifestyle, profession or hobbies. She doesn’t give a definition of herself or her activities. Maybe that’s why when I asked her what her job was at the moment, she told me that there was none. She wants simple and plain things – she wants to shoot, to learn how to manage valuable projects, to learn how to do photobooks, how to capture the magic behind the scenes in cinema, to explore and observe people on the streets and keep them sealed in her mind and camera. That’s why she finds inspiration all around her, and her strongest motivation is love, “because love makes us better”. And she is giving all of her free time to feel the love – she is travelling with her boyfriend or just spending time with him.

Countryside | Personal archive

One of the places which brings her calm and peace is the countryside. Sometimes she feels frustrated from all of the information overload and frantic consumer behavior of the city and its residents. She sees the village as an escape because of its beauty, silence, solitude, serenity and privacy (maybe use serenity?). She dreams to live in a village someday, in the future.

Countryside | Personal archive

She told me that she has always known, ever since she was a little girl that cinema was her personal and professional sphere. That’s because for her, cinema is magic and same as almost everyone, she is attracted to magic. For example, she adores taking part in the birth of a film. To watch and explore the fairytale-like process – everyone is concentrated on their task and all together have a common goal – to create a new reality. She cannot imagine exchanging this for a daily routine in an office. Every single day that she spends on the set is like a special award for her. This is one of the reasons she loves taking pictures behind the scenes.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes.|“The Pig”, dir. Drago Sholev

To capture what is happening on set, what every single person is doing and how he is doing it in this small ordered chaos.

These pictures weren’t even part of her obligations on the set of the film with working title “The Pig”. Johana was part of the art department but in her free moments she caught some fascinating working moments.

She loves surprising people with her camera not only on set but also on the street. She is strangely attracted to street photography.

Behind the scenes.| “The Pig”, dir. Drago Sholev

Street photography

Street photography | Paris

She loves cities like Paris for this kind of photography because no one there cares that you are taking pictures of him/her. While in Sofia it is not the same – you can always find someone who will be embarrassed, angry or even curse you…

Street photography | Paris

Conceptual photography

The main themes she likes to explore in the field of conceptual photography are dreams, desires, fantasy, imagination. Every night she dreams and remembers her dreams even though she doesn’t write them down. Every night she travels in an alternate reality, product of her imagination, presenting the influence of the past day, or the excitement of the upcoming one. She is a sensitive person, ready to turn over her own ideas for what is real and what is not. I define her work as a constant searching for the unknown and unexperienced, for the beautiful and the ugly beyond the established notions of these concepts. Her first conceptual photography project is


These photographs are dedicated to the memories.

“Going through the hard times of your life, consciously or unconsciously we look back to our memories – we call them from the deepest places of our mind to help us take some kind of important and different decision. We rarely realize how dependent we are on them. But what are they?

Memories are static, emotional, far, frozen in time, looking like a dream.

When we try to remember an exact memory we get lost in series of moments built on dreams, emotions, desires.

That’s the topic that Moments explores – the state of human consciousness in which reality is crossed with the past and the desired. “

At the moment one of her most important and really personal project is

The exhibition “Dreaming”

The concept for this project won funding from the programme “Debuts” of the National Culture Fund. Behind this project stands a team that Johana gathered herself – a producer, coordinator, curator, art director and Johana herself as a photographer. The exhibition will be an installation of different artistic techniques to represent the theme of dreaming.

„The dream does not look like a story told by the conscious mind, everything is possible in it, everything is real. This is why children do not distinguish the dream from reality, because dreams are not made up, they happen.

Dreams are an integral part of our being. But what are they? A way to look to the future? Hidden deep within our subconscious complexes? An answer to life dilemma? Suppressed desires? Dreams? Escape from reality? The intersection of the consciousness and the depths of the unconscious…?

In this sense, the project “Dreaming” aims to provoke the search for the meaning of dreams for each individual.”

When I was preparing for the encounter with Johana I wasn’t sure why she is always paying such great attention to the imaginary world from the past or to dreams but I found an extremely beautiful and romantic answer to this question when she told me about a future professional dream of hers.

Working title “Coffee with Dad”

Johana has a project for a photobook with found photos. This approach is called „Photo Vernaculaire”. Its representatives are Jean Marie Donnat, Eric Kessel, who even claims he will not make any photography until he uses all the photos that has been taken so far. Bulgarian representative of this approach is Tihomir Stoyanov with “Imaginary Archives”.

In my own opinion, there is nothing accidental in Johana’s life. One day while looking at the old basement, she found street photographs that her father took while being in Poland. Until then she had no idea that her dad was into photography. I would say, like father, like daughter. That’s when she decided to create her own, very personal, gentle and beautiful project for a photobook. I can definitely say that this is one of the most special and exciting things I have recently heard of. Using all your love and care you are gathering and creating the stories between you and your dad that have never happened, using the photographs he made while he was alive. She aims to recreate in her own way the conversations she would have had with her father if he was here next to her. For life, love, attitude, relationships, and everything else.

Hallo and Goodbye Lexicon

The topics in your conceptual art are related with psychology and philosophy. Are you into some particular philosophy? I am attracted to the eastern philosophy – the wisdom, the ability to listen to others and yourself, the silence.

Are you under some kind of influence in your work? I wouldn’t say so. I get inspired while watching movies, going to exhibitions, exploring people etc. but I don’t follow fashion or any trends.

Who is the most emblematic person in art history in your opinion? Van Gogh. I was in Amsterdam and I saw some of his work. I swear that I was hearing noises while I was watching the paintings – I heard seagulls, the sea, the wind…they were talking to me. Michelangelo as well – he always wanted to be a sculptor the most, but he kept receiving different tasks that kept him away from what he had dreamed of the longest. However, he sought absolute perfection and made all of his works perfect. I am saying this because today I am a photographer, tomorrow I will be an assistant in an art department of a movie production, after that I will be a production coordinator and nothing should be done in mediocrity – that’s why I always try to do everything in the best possible way.

Is there a universal question you seek to answer through your work? What will happen in this life? But after a while I said to myself that I don’t need to know all the answers because it will be too boring to live.

Is there anything that repels you with art? Making art only for yourself. This can feed your ego but in my opinion, it can’t make a work of art.

What do you always carry with you on trips? Camera, swimsuit and a hat.

Top 3 places you would like to visit in the whole wide world? South Africa, Iceland, New Zealand.

When you were a little girl what did you want to be when you grow up? An actress (she blushes).

And now, who would you like to look like when you grow up? Mom and dad.

If your life was a movie, which one would it be? Grease.

And what if you could be a book character, which one would you choose? (Here we said unanimously and almost in one voice): Pippi Longstocking, of course!

And if now I ask your mother to describe you in three words, what would they be? Dreamer, treasure and crazy. (Later that day Johana told me that she actually asked her mom and the three words were: euphoria, light and love. Well, I agree!)

If you could steal credit for any great piece of art, song, film, book, etc which one would you claim? MINE. I wouldn’t do this even if I could because to steal credit for something that’s not yours is unfair.

Are you afraid of reality that you are locking yourself in the world of imagination? I just pay attention to the small things beyond reality because I think that people don’t pay enough attention to the magic that surrounds them and is invisible at first glance.

Do you have a special ritual for a successful day? First thing first, I have to wake up. And to put two different socks on.

Wish for something out loud …. A briefcase for developing photographs and the exhibition “Dreaming” becoming a reality.