BULGARIA IN DEMOCRACY

On the 25th anniversary of democracy in Bulgaria, Dailey embarked on a photographic journey of the country, capturing its political electorate in all its complexity. Building on a similar series he conducted in the United States from 2010 to 2012 – America in Color – he set out to portray the character of the Bulgaria voter as it completed its latest national election in the fall of 2014. The project took him and his team across Bulgaria from its mountains and plains to its shores, resulting in a series of more than 450 portraits encapsulating the breadth and depth of a culture whose origins dates back to 5000 BC. 

The series of full-length portraits depicts the Bulgarian electorate who used the ballot box as a means to voice their hopes and desire for the future direction of their country. These are everyday citizens and workers represented in portraits that not only declare how they voted in the most recent election but also reveal something about their own character and identity in the process. Dailey’s camera highlights generational differences between new and senior voters as well as rural and urban individuals who constitute the country’s constituents. From the Bulgar to the Turk to the Roma and beyond, he has captured the ethnic character of the nation. Seen through his lens are hunters, waiters, artists, shop owners, factory workers and more as they express themselves and their identity in poses that range from reflective to the humorous.

To document Bulgaria’s political diversity—more than 25 parties competed in the October 2014 election—Dailey asked individuals to declare their political party affiliation by holding a placard displaying the ballot number of their party and its color affiliation. While limited to the eight political parties that won seats in the parliament, the series nonetheless offers a colorful and captivating look at the Bulgarian voter and political system at this time in history. Even the nearly 50 percent of Bulgarian voters who decided not to vote are represented here; holding black placards, they express their decision to abstain.

A diverse selection of 128 portraits from the series was displayed in solo exhibitions in 2015 in Bulgaria at the City Art Gallery in Plovdiv and at the National Assembly in Sophia. As Bulgaria celebrated its 25th anniversary of the individual right to vote and looked to its future, Dailey’s Bulgaria in Democracy series presented a compelling look at a country at a crossroads in determining a future that will be decided through the ballot box and the individual right to vote. As one Bulgarian proverb so aptly and succinctly states: Drop by drop - a lake becomes whole.

The following images are a selection from this larger series.

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