Reneta Gancheva

Bango Vassil

Bango Vassil is the day when Bulgarian gypsies are celebrating the beginning of their new year. It is on the 14th of January. For them it is the most important day of the year. The legend says this is the day when St.Vassil saves their nation from being swallowed up by the Red Sea.

Traditionally, Bango Vassil is the day when all the family gets together. The oldest women cook, clean,  and prepare the house and in the night all come to one house. When doing the housework, you have to be quiet and not to say a word.
The family I met was Vassilka and Vassil’s. Their nine sons, with their children and grand children,  celebrated in this big blue room. There was only bird meat on the table. A lot of wine, rakia and other alcholoic drinks disappeared quickly.  The feast continues for two or three days. This is the way the day goes. Everybody is happy and they enjoy their celebration!



My name is Reneta Gancheva. I am from Bulgaria and 18 years old. Now is my last year in Yambol’s language high school. I take photos for a small local media.

51 thoughts on “Reneta Gancheva – Bango Vassil”

  1. Hello Reneta from Bulgaria!

    YOU ARE 18?? Well, i would like to say congratulations to you for being published on Burn! What an achievement! This is an interesting essay topic and leaves me wanting more photos. The enthusiasm and togetherness on this sacred day are so clearly conveyed and understood by the viewer. Some of the photos are quite engaging: 3,4,5,6,9 and 10 (I wish i had the eyelashes on that little girl in #10!). Maybe it’s because i am on a cheap laptop but Number 3 completely confuses me and number 11 is only slightly better. I hope we see your work again when you have the opportunity to explore a subject in more depth with adequate time to develop your concept. Good luck and much success to you, Reneta!!

    A word to Burn management..Reneta’s English is charming but not altogether comprehensible. Is there any editorial assistance provided to foreign contributors to help them develop their artist’s statement?


  2. I must echo that.
    Somebody who can read English properly must have read this statement right?

    The use of incorrect grammar, by someone who’s first language is not English, when they are writing the text for an essay is understandable.
    The allowing of, not so much the incorrect grammar (although also), but basic spelling errors to remain is a bit of a mystery. It does no favors for the photographer and the viewing of their work and no favors to the magazine running it.

    [A difficulty getting hold of the photographer to discuss changes perhaps?…would make sense]

    As to the work I will say no more than; You are eighteen. Keep shooting, keep looking for stories to tell, and ways to tell them. Congratulations! A good start.

    Shoot more. Lots more.


  3. Micaël Martel

    I think the essay is interesting and everything seems to work together even with #2 and #11, but I don’t really know what to think of it. Frankly I don’t hate #2, but I don’t like it either. I think I like the texture and the color, but outside of that I don’t see how it brings anything to the essay. I like #3 though, it’s my favorite.

  4. Renata, congratulations for being published here.
    Your pictures open a world, which usually is closed to others. I sometimes travel European countries, and have to listen to much hate against the gypsies. We should have more essays like this, to show how people live and how they are. Just to get better understanding and less hate.
    Thank you.


    you are both absolutely right….this slipped by me…my apologies to Reneta and to this audience…fixing the text here is often the most perplexing thing …many of our photographers here on Burn do not have English as their first language….correcting them often sounds worse…so generally we let them say what they want…HOWEVER in this case, totally incorrect spelling and terrible punctuation needed to be fixed by us….this is my responsibility…no excuses….a mitigating factor however often happens on Burn… i rise at 5am every morning because all of my crew lives in Europe….nobody working on Burn is in my time zone….anyway, we did not coordinate the publishing of the story with me going over the text first….

    again, my apology….

    cheers, david

  6. Good gosh, why pick on the writing? Gancheva’s ideas come through loud and clear in the way it usually does when written by someone using a foreign language. There is a distillation of thought present, which to me is what matters. The weakness of her words individually are strengthened when taken in toto, similar to the way the images show these people like individual weak twigs, made strong and resilient when gathered in a bundle.

    A very enjoyable essay photographed lovingly in the (figurative) backyard style, by someone experienced and immersed in the culture, and local to it. #2 made me think of D’Agata, and his penetrating depth, and this has coloured my appreciation of the essay most positively.

  7. Congrats Renata, for being published here! Most people, me included, are rather igonorant of gypsey culture. Thank you for this glimpse into their hidden(?) world.

  8. I am sorry for my bad english. It’s me, who had to correct the essay before sending it.

  9. Congratulations Renata

    I love how the sequence here first teases us, gives us hints and glimpses of this little hidden world, then comes more into focus, welcomes us, food is thrust at us, the party unfolds, until ultimately we are ushered out and the story slides back into hiding and darkness.
    Delightful. and yes, #3 is my favourite as well.

  10. Congratulations Reneta for being published here.I like the essay and think if you have a good connection with these people (as it seems you have) you should go on taking photos of their lives. It’ s always interesting to see how other people live. As for the single images I do really like N°1 – 3 – 7 because the “lo-fi look” conveys a sense of instability, which I relate to their way to live. Just my idea.

  11. Reneta

    Our apology is mostly to you. Please do not worry.We published you on Burn for WHAT you said both in words and in pictures NOT IN HOW you said it.Everyone understands this in our audience.As editors we should have helped you out a bit.I promise you that there is not one post that I write in my own language that does not have spelling and punctuation mistakes. I hope we left this still in your own voice. We did not want nor intend to “over fix”.

    Thank you for sharing this special event.

    Cheers, David

  12. Congratulations at being published on Burn, Renata: 18 years old and your phoyographs are being viewed by a worldwide audience – way to go!

    I love the colour palette in your photographs, it really suits the subject matter. I like all the photographs – you break quite a few “rules” but rules are made to be broken.

    As John Gladdy says “Shoot more. Lots more.”. Good advice to us all.


  13. Love number 6. It has a nice timelessness to it. Don’t worry about your english…..what I just wrote probably makes no sense but it’s how I feel. Your work does the same.
    Number 2 makes me wonder what the hell it is I am looking at…it’s a good thing!

  14. I don’t get the point of publishing this stuff at all. The only thing this “photographer” should be encouraged to do is learn to use a camera. Come on, this is just bad photography. Can’t believe this was published here. All of this “good job” stuff is not going to help this person. Has burn devolved into the empowerment hour?

    Geeze. Just unbelievable.

  15. JIM

    This essay may not be the best we’ve seen on Burn, and the photographs are not very impressive technically, but there is a purpose behind them. Reneta has a true voice. From what I have seen, Burn is not just about showing who’s the best out there, its about encouraging talent in every stage of development. With just 11 pictures Reneta has showed that she can tell a story properly.

  16. Micaël:

    So right! I have been away for quite some time and Reneta’s essay is the first i have seen since coming back to Burn. I was pretty shocked at first. There were so few photos and the quality was very uneven. I wasn’t feeling any love from the artist’s statement either. Some of the grammar/spelling errors meant something altogether different than what Reneta wished to say and i was conjuring up some pretty funny visuals about chickens meeting and alcohol covered men that distracted me from the essay (and this comment i also direct to Jeff Hladun in response to his query “Why pick on the writing?” Because, as John Gladdy noted and for which David Alan Harvey apologized: poor writing does not do the photographer any favors).

    So i really was left wondering what to do with this essay. I looked at it again, this time putting myself in Reneta’s head, getting into the intensity of the moment with all that food, alcohol and togetherness on the most important day of the year for the gypsies. You really have to hand it to her for keeping her photographic cool in the middle of all that raucous celebration and then come here and show us, from the inside, what it felt like being there. Isn’t that what an essay should be? Shouldn’t we come away from the viewing experience more enlightened, better informed and maybe just a little bit jealous that we were not there to see it personally? This doesn’t mean i like photo #2 or #11 (i have no problems with blur but come on, just a little bit more skill is all that i ask here. And to Jeff again, uh, no, not every blurry shot is a D’Agata. If so, then i have gigas of D’Agata quality work on my HD). Like other people, i love #3 and the rest all serve quite well to leave me a bit breathless after sharing her experience. So for that reason i opted for a positive critique knowing that at 18, this young woman is ahead of the curve because she has some serious heart and soul and the guts to go along with it. You GO, Reneta!!

    As for Burn, well, anyone can publish an excellent essay that’s technically perfect and suitably trendy with just enough edge to keep the viewer attentive for a few minutes. But it’s a bit of a genius who can publish an essay that will challenge our critical abilities at a whole different level. And in this essay that difficulty level was brought to us by a relatively inexperienced photographer not up to world class standards technically but who had enviable access to a mysterious and alluring culture on the biggest day in their year and didn’t shrink from the challenge. The question was, could we keep up with her?


  17. Micaël Martel

    ”The question was, could we keep up with her?”


    I couldn’t have said it better, it can sometimes be intimidating to shot something so intimate et special. It’s not like gypsy culture has a reputation for being an open and accessible one. To have been able to go there, do the work and do something worthwhile with it was a challenge in itself. Reneta did a great job of it and my guess is that she learned a lot from it and will learn even more by being published here on Burn. That David and his Burn team took a chance on her really show how they care for photographers of every level of experience and their willingness to give experience to beginners.

  18. I understand all the criticism and I am glad that they exist. Yes, I’m still a young photographer and learn. I don’t claim that I am a great photographer . I lear. Thanks to Burn ( the editors), that gave me the opportunity to show my works and be published there. Actually, not every photographer would go to a gypsie’s house. Sorry for my bad English..

  19. If we want to encourage young photographers, lets encourage them to learn the craft, or at least set the camera on Professional mode.

  20. Kathleen, I admit it was the fuzzy blur of #2 that activated my connection to D’Agata, but there are other hints as well. Creating an essay under one roof, literally, with house lighting, over a specific period of time, are other telling equivalent elements found in D’Agata’s essay linked to here several months ago. There’s D’Agata’s signature claustrophobia, too, focusing my awareness which makes me feel the immediacy of Gancheva’s environment.

    Jim, for me the fun of being here on Burn and viewing the essays has much to do with understanding and learning from the all-inclusiveness David gives us with the emerging works and resultant comments. There is a wisdom at work here driven by the editors (which to this day I believe is not just David, but others as well) which takes us away from following just those we would naturally glom to, steering us toward other foreign emerging approaches with the hope and expectation of an illuminating broadening of our visual language.

    It’s about translating the strange about us, and opening the doors of our perceptions. Which is why hammering down on an artist’s statement because of second language barriers (Kathleen et al), or the content of an essay shot primitively and without technical prowess (you), only serves to quietly remove the work of emerging artists who may feel frustration and intimidation in the face of these door-slamming prejudices. Maybe photographers have to be tough-skinned eventually, but probably they start out as open-nerved gatherers sensitively becoming aware of their place in the world of Man. I try to follow David’s example by giving them a wide and welcoming berth, and firmly believe I’m the better for it.

  21. Jim..

    worst thing somebody who learns photography can do is to set the camera on professional mode, imo.. and photography is not about the camera, but about SEEING.. something Reneta does.. and with time she will dig deeper.. this is work in progress, not set in stone!

  22. JIM

    i work a lot with young photographers…of every age….for sure Reneta has a lot to learn…she would be the first to say so…and her pictures of the new year feast were shot with an excitement and a passion for the event, without thinking about how “professional” she should be…professionalism has killed more photographers than it has created….

    Gladdy has encouraged Reneta to shoot more and more and more…this is good …she needs to be able to experiment….and feel free…she is not going to come into photography as did you…the parameters are totally different…the “rules” of American newspaper photography just do not apply outside of America anyway, and particularly not in Bulgaria….

    Reneta for sure read your words Jim…..and even though Burn has published “better pictures” than those of Reneta and you know damn well i know the difference and have different motives for different stories, your words could have at least been somewhat constructive rather than just cruel..

    i critique very tough …and i do not let anyone off the hook regardless of age or gender, yet Jim do you have no sense of just common human decency when writing of a young woman’s work?

    your pictures may be “professional” but your sense of international diplomacy sucks in a very big way…


  23. I enjoyed looking at Reneta’s images, of course some of them more than others. They are from a place far away from my world. What really impressed me is that the photographer is so young and still in high school.

    It’s good that Burn features such work. Isn’t that how we learn and grow as photographers?

    Reneta, That baked dish in #6 looks so appetizing. What is it?

  24. Vissaria Skoulida

    Reneta, I like your pictures.Here in Greece, we have namedays too.
    St.Vassilios is on the 1st of January.
    and the pie looks good.Is this a cheese pita? My grandma makes one and looks the same.


  25. Reneta, congratulations of being published here on Burn. I liked your essay, especially that pie, which looks like it could make me gain weight just by looking at it. Don’t worry too much about your English; you are understandable and that’s all that really counts. As for your spelling, don’t worry about that, either; the editors should have caught the mistakes, not you, and besides, English speakers have been complaining about English spelling for centuries, so it’s not like you are the first person to have this problem. And again, many congratualations!

  26. Reneta

    You did great! No worries about the English..your original text was full of spirit for your project and to tell you the tuth, some of the funny visuals i got from your errors actually enhanced my viewing experience rather then detracted from it. But it took me some time to realize that and not everyone would go to that trouble. Some would read what you wrote and as Jeff said (GREAT comment by the way!), slam the door in your face. I`m glad i didn`t do that…but i almost did, My bad. There will be plenty of time for you to craft the perfect artist statement to appeal to the greatest number of viewers. But for now, be happy, keep shooting and bring us more, more, MORE!


    Ok, i get the d`Agata connections. The claustrophobia, the lighting, etc. so very present in the work of both photographers. I agree with you that #11 has a lot of d`Agata feeling but still cannot figure out for the life of me what i am looking at in #2.

    i hope that i didn`t so much “hammer” away at Reneta`s English usage as much as gently suggest that such a statement did not serve her best interests.

    I do really like how you think and express yourself Jeff. I know we`ll have more interesting exchanges in the future!


    Same old, same old..

    best to ALL

  27. RENETA

    Correction: I said this:

    “perfect artist statement to appeal to the greatest number of viewers”

    I meant to say this:

    “to inform the greatest number of viewers”

    See? we ALL make mistakes!


  28. Jim, you and I cut our photographic teeth at a time when getting a sharp well exposed image was a minor miracle and a major technical challenge.
    Reneta’s generation is growing up in a world where you can buy a camera for under a hundred bucks that will give you a sharp well exposed picture of anything you point it at, in any light, automatically on “P” or “Auto”. Sometimes that is great, but sometimes it is just the “make boring” setting. It’s the difference between what something looks like, and what it feels like. Sometimes, less is more.

  29. Give me photos with heart and soul and LIFE, like these, over those “awful perfect pictures” every time. I completely understand why these are on BURN. You are on the right track Reneta, you get the most important thing first, the essence many/most never get, or that some keep trying to get back to after having been stripped, disinfected, ground up and molded into professional pink slime chicken mcnuggets, smug and cynical, old and tired, like every other easily consumed chicken mcnugget that might satisfy for a brief moment but that never feeds the true hunger, and isn’t really good for you anyway. That may not make any sense to you, or at all, but ignore all those perfect mcnuggets and instead, do what you do and just go, go, go. I’m a big fan of organic chicken.

  30. “professionalism has killed more photographers than it has created…”

    David; Can I steal that quote for my kid’s workshop this morning? Too late; stolen already! :-)

  31. Jim, what dont you really like here? i mean really…im in the “event”..i feel “accepted”, feel the warmth, nothing creepy, nothing weird…NOT an easy access either…Yes it needs courage and compassion to be accepted in a gypsy family…A good heart too..and a little bit of a free spirited soul…
    This is a great story, photographed with love AND style..not cheap mimicking other (Koudelka) gypsy work..
    no fake ambitions , not showing off…crystal clear no pretentious photography from an 18 year old…
    Hmm i mean really whats not to like here? the originality?
    i love originality…wait a sec…dont we all????
    hmmm…maybe not? im lost…

  32. This essay is loaded with soul and by that I mean real honest and personal soul. I don’t see Renata attempting to assume the style of any famous photographer like I have so many times, she’s just being Reneta with her camera. Sounds easy but I have a very hard time trying to be myself when I lift my camera to my eye. I hope nobody interferes with Reneta’s creative freedom and lets her keep on flying high and free.

  33. and Jim trust me..even Reneta will someday “learn” (i hope not) all those “pro tricks” that “sentenced” most “Pros” in boredom, an endless backwards marathon of zero creativity and / or creative non existence…honestly i hope she never “learns”…
    we already have enough “pro boredom” Pros around telling us what to do all the time…whats wrong and whats right…we see it in their photos…yawn!!!

  34. “JIM:
    Same old, same old..” Just older, actually.

    A nice start,Reneta. Personally like the color palette and the way the warm tones mix with the cool.
    Your access seems good so could be a very compelling story to follow this family through their year.
    I know i haven’t seen much on this topic so would welcome the opportunity to see more. The motion blur is interesting but I think you have to consider if the blur adds to a picture and you are using it with
    purpose or if it is just a symptom of not having enough light.
    Frame #2 is interesting but just doesn’t fit with this selection in my opinion

  35. get what everyone is saying about the lack of photo skills so far and the excess of passion that we hope will never diminish. Really like number 3. Damon

  36. Reneta– Congrats on getting published here on Burn. I’ve been to Bulgaria twice recently and you captured the soul of these people in this ethereal texture I’ve experienced while shooting there. It’s something about this place of old and grounded and musty and energized. 2,3,6,10,11 are interesting pictures. I hope you will consider pushing your work further – outside of the box.

  37. For me it’s the photograph that matters, not the technique behind it. Does it move me? Inform me?

    Follow the beat of your own drum.

  38. Congrats Reneta! If you were my student I would say that #2 is too abstract, though I really like #11 (might be a bit dark – you could bump up the contrast) for the joy and abandon it expresses. Besides #3 it is my favorite. #1 is a bit too standard for me (at least for an opener – the pie shot might have been better to set the scene) and #10 doesn’t work for me because of the flash and is very standard composition/moment snapshot look compared to the other photos.

    Overall I like the mood you created and the glimpse into these people’s lives. Like John Gladdy says – now go shoot more more more!

  39. This essay is a real treat–I like the use of blur and soft focus to get at how things feel rather than how they literally look to the eye. I just got Koudelka’s Gypsies in the mail and was absorbing that last night, and now this–a feast!

  40. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    I have only just skimmed the previous comments so any deep response to any one of them would be inappropriate. But in them I saw words like ‘craft (lack of), abstract, creative freedom, congrats, professional, originality, loaded with soul’, and so many more just floated past without really feeling meaningfully connected to the images I just looked at.

    But one word caught my eye – ‘seeing’. This work seems to be purely about that and it is ineffably beautiful because of that single, simple impulse. No artifice what so ever. It is the moment we must all (hopefully) recall in our own photographic progress and process where it was really about what was right there in front of us and what prompted us to press the shutter button. It was impulsive. Instinctual. And possibly wrong on any number of levels that may matter to any number of more experienced photographers and craftsmen and technicians. But it was pure seeing; snap-shooting at its finest and most eloquent. And, on the other hand, perhaps not even to be complicated by too many words of praise and compliment; the images seem to exist for their own sake requiring neither criticism nor celebrating.

    I am envious of Reneta’s clarity, simplicity, lack of pretension and I’m grateful to find her work here today. A simple clear statement to accompany the images as well. In all a lovely moment to behold….

  41. Thanks for the congratulations and criticism! They’re both helpful. Thank you! I am glad I am published!

    skiwaves and Vissaria:

    it is some kind of traditional cake with walnuts.. as far as I remember.


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