From Sofia to New York, Lubo Sergeev’s conceptual photography is known all over the world
They call him “one of the best Bulgarian photographers” and we have no intention of arguing.
Interview by Aneta Nedyalkova
Lubo Sergeev is the founder and owner of Studio Sergeev (sergeevstudio.com) and has over 18 years’ experience in advertising, retouching and commercial image output. He has won the “Victoria” prize, the equivalent of an Oscar statuette in the world of photography. His conceptual frames really advertise Bulgarian talent in the world of visual art.
It is an honour for Elysium magazine to put his work on the front cover of this issue.
How did you get to the point of having your own studio in New York?
For the studio in New York, I am in collaboration with two fellow Americans. They manage a total of four studios, and I participate in one. We created a production company – Ruby Bird Productions, in which the three of us combine efforts and participate on an equal footing. I also maintain a studio in Sofia, I can even be a bit brave and say it is the best equipped photographic studio in Sofia! I am constantly shuttling between Sofia and New York.
I know for a fact that success in any direction does not happen overnight and to reach wherever he wants to go, a man has to work hard. When success is related to art or something more abstract, it is considered by many that talent is enough. I’m right here where I am only because I have persisted for many years and I have pursued my goals with daily hard work. I am that kind of man, constantly focused on the outcome, and I am trying to keep only lessons from the past, not regrets.
I do what I believe is right every minute and with a little patience, it is all coming together.
You’ve worked all over the world. Can you name some of your clients from Bulgaria and abroad?
For conceptual advertising photography, projects on which I work are very diverse and so are the customers. Мy clients are very different: the youth theatre in Bologna, the Opera House in Barcelona, the Russian Athletics Federation, the Rotana in Dubai and the Middle East, corporations like HTC for campaigns in America, New York Yankees, Uber in China and quite a few others, extremely heterogeneous and very often unknown in the Bulgarian market. In Bulgaria, I have worked with most of the major advertising agencies and clients including Phillips, Gillette, Mercedes, Mazda, Audi, almost all the banks, Zagorka, Kamenitza and hundreds of smaller ones. I love the smaller clients from Bulgaria, for the freedom which they give me and I will continue to come back to them in Bulgaria. They have the courage to come out with more provocative adverts and brave messages.
How do you combine your personal projects with client projects?
I constantly try to imprint a personal idea onto an advertising concept. Sometimes this can be just the direction of the lighting, the background colour or the garment of the model, and sometimes it can be a more comprehensive solution like location, direction and even a message. Very often I am in direct collaboration with creative directors, art directors, copywriters etc. and we are aiming to crystallise ideas to perfection. Unlike personal projects, advertising is the product of many people’s thinking and teamwork and often involves more complex messages. In America they tend to ask me if I’m a team player first of all and only then if I can do the job itself!
How do you get ideas? How do you find the elements and the memorable details that would sell a product?
I don’t think there’s a recipe or a particular route to reach ideas. To me every job is different, depending on the task. If something is constant, then this is the hard work. I am not waiting for the idea to come to me, as they say, I go looking for it. I have found certain things that inspire me and I am trying to acquire more, wherever I am. Travels inspire me and relax me at the same time. So does spending time alone, often in nature. Nothing can prepare me so well for a production meeting with an advertising agency in Manhattan as a morning walk in the Sea Garden in Varna. The good energy has the strange ability to accumulate and be available when you need it.
How do you see the power of online networks for creating business outside of Bulgaria, and creating the right reputation?
It is all networking these days. Without networking today’s business, in any field, is doomed to perish. In the last 7-8 years I have spent around 60% of my professional time networking, and 40% of this on online networking. Until a few years ago about 80% of my earnings were invested in marketing and a big part in networking. There was however a great wandering off track at the beginning when I was taking the first steps outside Bulgaria. Many of my resources were spent improperly, in the wrong direction. I had nowhere to learn and I was struggling alone, using the trial-and-error principle. Today I speak in front of many people in Bulgaria when I have the chance and share experiences to help those coming after me not to make the same mistakes. The truth is that without Internet marketing, social networking and online networking you can’t succeed. The world has become very small and demand is huge. It has never been easier to introduce your work to someone on the other side of the world, looking for what you offer. This is the future!
What projects are you working on now?
I am working on more projects than I would like. They are projects from four different continents and many different cultures. I’m working on some pretty interesting personal projects, one of which I consider to be very important from the point of view of Bulgarian history and ethnicity. This is a pretty major project, strongly associated with the culture of Bulgaria. I am aiming to present it to as many places in the world as possible. For the moment my first location is New York, and if things go well I have plans for Tokyo, Beijing, Sydney, London and wherever there are open doors. I will be counting on a lot of help from many directions in order to carry out as many exhibitions as possible, so I can successfully acquaint the world with the culture of Bulgaria.
As for my personal projects, they are so numerous, that frankly I can say that if I stop taking assignments, I have enough to do for at least six months.