Zhana Assa: I am a photographer by passion not profession

name: Zhana Assa

age: 28

education: unfinished Bachelor degree in Fine arts

job: Photo editor and freelance photographer

location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

birth town: Burgas, Bulgaria


One thing I have trouble with is the title photographer. Am  i considered a photographer, what are the characteristics of one? I don`t make money as a photographer, this is not my profession. I am a photo editor, but photography is a big part of me so I would say I am a photographer by passion not profession.


Mokuso: How did you began shooting?

Zhana Assa: I began shooting when I was 14 years old. I used to go to my grandparents place and spend hours looking at these massive family albums and photographs that my grandfather took of us. He gave me his camera one day and since then photography became my pleasure.


M: What does it give you and how do you introduce your ideas through it?

Z.A: For me photography is a way to capture my own reality or my own fantasy that turns into reality. I thrive on a feeling. This feeling is hard to describe but it is giving me a sense of a world or way of living that is very attractive to me. Simply said, I am trying to capture an atmosphere that compliments my ideal for a place I would like to be part of.


M: You shoot both digital and analogue. What is the difference in the process – from plot to developing?

Z.A: I love film and film loves me. From switching to digital and then back to film made me realise how much more satisfying analog photography is to me. As i mentioned earlier, photography is there to give me pleasure and I may as well use its most enjoyable form.


M: What inspires you and what kind of projects do you make for yourself?

Z.A: People are my main focus. I look for potential characters that are appropriate for this manipulated reality.


M: Do you shoot for clients?

Z.A: I mainly photograph to fulfil my need for photographing and executing certain visions. Although I have done and most likely will continue to do work for clients, It is mainly a personal activity and I like to keep it this way.


M: Tell us more about your recent photographs of New York. How did this city inspire you?

Z.A: In this case It wasn’t the city that inspired me but the person I was visiting. The city just happened to be a habitat of my subject. Ignoring that, New York is it`s people as any other place. What mostly stood out to me was how the ugly, smelly, griddy  had beauty and charm in it.


M: Does the place where you live influence your art? And do the people you communicate with do so?

Z.A: I am dependent on people in a sense that they have the power to influence my environment as much as I do, unless I decide to isolate myself.


M: If you have he opportunity to move somewhere now where would it be and why? What did Canada give you and take from you?

Z.A: I can be anywhere really, if I find myself there. I don’t see my move to Canada as a gain or loss but continuation of existence and part of evolving as an individual. I feel I am like a particle that has left one end to go to another and find myself in the same plane at the end.



М: Do the Bulgarian roots affect your work and how? 

Z.A: I would say if I didn’t grew up in Bulgaria most likely I would be a different person. Many aspects shape my work as well as my being and being Bulgarian is a big part of it. It is impossible for me to pin point exactly how growing up in Bulgaria influences my art but I can say that before anything I am Bulgarian, my family is Bulgarian, my closest friends are Bulgarian, and with the chance to sounds cheesy there is no place like Bulgaria. I can also say that the best years of my life were in Bulgaria…


М: What can you tell us about the art scene and specially photographer societies in Montreal? How do things happen in Canada in these circles? Can you define some advantages or disadvantages to work there?
Z.A: Unusually to me, I am living a rather secluded lifestyle at this point and I am not too in touch with the art scene as much as I would like to. Montreal is full of artists and a lot of exhibitions and artist talks are taking place here. As anywhere it is not easy to make it as a successful artist without connections but what is great about Canada in general is that there are many programs, bursaries and scholarships to support artists. One thing I find important more specifically in Montreal is the French. Not speaking french could be very limiting here.


M: Can you give advise to the young photographers? Spare them the drama?

Z.A: My only advice for any photographer is to keep shooting as much as possible.


More of Zhana’s work here.

Her brother is Betino Assa and you can read his interview for MOKUSO mag here.

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