Free Bird

“Free Bird” is a research project on Collaborative Photography that I conducted in collaboration with Damyan Gotsev, a young man from Bulgaria. By inviting the subject to actively participate in the creative process and prioritizing ethical considerations, I aim to bring a certain objectivity to the story and partially blur the commonly perceived boundaries of power in photography, typically held by photographers, who wield the power balance.

Throughout the creative process, transparency, trust, and respect are consistently emphasized. I asked Gotsev many personally oriented questions, with the permission of the subject, and always stressed the importance of comfortably bypassing any questions that made him feel uneasy. There were vulnerable moments when Gotsev cried and we went for a walk. The connection and trust between the subject and the photographer deepened over time, facilitating a smoother creative process.

The project follows the story of Damyan Gotsev, who left Bulgaria to pursue opportunities in other European countries with the hope of improving his life through higher-paying jobs. Behind him are expectations and concerns from his family. The future remains uncertain as he has yet to secure a desired job and lacks any contingency plan other than continuing to move forward.

“I love my home country – Bulgaria. But due to the economic situation and the lack of job opportunities, I gotta leave. I got a job offer in a factory in Slovakia and they paid me about 1200 euros per month. Everything was alright but after 2 months, the factory closed and I lost my job. It wasn’t easy working hard in a foreign country and dealing with homesick. There were some days I felt like giving up to go back.”


 “I dream of one day living in my own house, securing a high-paying job, and being able to fix our current home. I want to help my girlfriend and have a vacation with her somewhere. I wish to marry her with the blessings of God.”

“My childhood was filled with many beautiful memories. I went to work when I was only 12 y.o. I had lots of good friends and it wasn’t easy for me to maintain a good friendship. We played football on the street, and we fought sometimes. Nothing but all the beautiful memories”.

“Mom is everything to me. She always forgives me no matter what I have done in life. There were so many times I saw her crying and I told myself that I need to leave Bulgaria for a better future. I hope that I can take care of her when I have financial stability. I am surviving because of you, mom”. 
“Dad left us too early when I was around 6 y.o. I miss him a lot. I wish that dad could come back to us and talk to me. I am sure that if he was still alive, everything would have changed a lot in my family. Sometimes I wonder whether he is happy somewhere, alone or with someone else. You are the second person I ever shared something about my dad because I trust you”.

“My tattoos remind me of the fact that there are good people and bad people everywhere. I am always thankful for those who came to to my life, and those who already left”.

“When I have money, I will go back to Bulgaria to support my mom financially. I also want to help my friends. I think about the fact that things might not go as well as I want every day. But there is no backup plan except moving forward.”

“I didn’t feel being objectified during the photo session. We’ve talked and shared many things together and I trust you. I believe you are doing this with all of your heart”. 

This photo is Copyright by Vinh Tran. All rights reserved.