RAISING AN ANGEL…
By Nadezhda Pavlova
This story is not just about photography, it isn’t new either. But it is real and it does happen to people, and when it does, it usually finds us unprepared.
This is the story of my friend Boryana. In 1998 she had her daughter Elena. They left the hospital and went home. The doctors had suggested there might be a problem. A few months later the diagnosis arrived – Elena had the gravest form of cerebral paralysis, epilepsy and the rest of the page was full of her other ailments. The mother was not spared some hard advice to abandon the child. „I could not drop a child I had been nursing for months and whom I love, just like that…” says Boryana, remembering.
In 2002 her son, Nikola, was born. Even more intense advice followed to give up Elena. Refusing to part with the child, Boryana had to part with her husband in 2007…
In the spring of 2007 I suggested to take photographs of her with her children. This way I wanted to show her what I see when I look at her and how impressed I am with her strength. While making the photographs we met a lot. I discovered how unaware I was of the effort it takes to raise a child like Elena at home. Our time together inspired the photo story “Raising an angel…”
I have never ceased wondering at the fact that photographs, once taken, start their own independent life. They may have the same author, but each follows its unique path.
I could not boast more inspiring pictures! What is even more important, they went right on target by showing Boryana how blessed with love she has been in her life, how happy she is with her children, and how happy THEY are to have HER, their good mother! What she saw in those pictures was a thing she was well aware of. What I saw, however, was a lesson I never forget! The love you give is stronger than the love you take. The love you give to a helpless person, who has nothing but you to rely on, is so powerful! It makes one so strong that you know you can go through the hardest times.
These photos won so many awards – national and international. One got the first prize for photo essay – Canon’s Photo of the Year 2008. But the prize was not what we had in mind, when entering the photos for competitions. Boryana and I, two mothers, believed that there were other mothers with her problems. Other families felt helpless and alone, lost amidst their woes. By telling her story, we could reach out to them.
In 2011 Bulged Ltd. printed an album with the photographs, and Arosita Art Gallery hosted a charity exposition. It was organised by George Trendafilov and Anita Kancheva at Kids with Development Problems Foundation, who were very responsive. I expressed my concern that the exhibition was unlikely to raise serious funds, but Anita said: “We are content to raise the awareness. We need people to know about the medical centre we have built, and that many children with problems come to us. We need them to know we can help the family in taking care of such children.” That was the second lesson I learned – that charity is not the money you give away, but understanding, caring, constant work, finding and networking with people who are ready to invest their time in a cause. George keeps saying: “I want parents to get involved in fund raising, in problem solving. Their involvement is crucial to the future of our foundation and medical centre”.
Such involvement gave rise to the “Dream Workshop” initiative a few years ago. It was Boryana’s idea. The Dream Workshop is a place where parents and children make glass jewellery together. The jewellery sells well. Because it is not just pretty – these ornaments are little drops of glass, filled with the love of so many people.
In 2012 JCDecaux Bulgaria donated 60 billboards to the Foundation to use in Sofia. The Foundation used the opportunity for a Fight DMS fundraising campaign. We used the pictures from the Raising an angel…” photo story. Two years later, while roaming the streets of Sofia, you will still see the Boryana, Elena and Nikola, looking at you from some billboard.
В многократно награждаваното фотоесе „ДА ОТГЛЕЖДАШ АНГЕЛ” авторката снима своя приятелка, майка на две деца едното със сериозни увреждания. Стремежът и не е да опише една трагична семейна съдба, а да промени гледната точка на зрителя, като се опита да погледне отвъд установените норми и предразсъдъци на обществото. Това е един откровен и вълнуващ разказ за огромната любов на майката, направила трудния избор да отглежда тежко увреденото си дете у дома, а не да го изостави, въпреки натиска на близки и социална среда. Уважението и липсата на претенция, с които този проект е зареден правят силно впечатление и оставят незаличим спомен. Факт е, че вече втора година няколко от фотографиите са лице на кампания за набиране на средства на „Фондация за деца с проблеми в развитието” и се разпространяват на билбордове в София и страната.