Zak R. Dimitrov - I Don't Belong Here
The photographic series 'I Don't Belong Here' explores Zak's personal journey of moving to England at the age of 18, spending most of his adult life living here, speaking English and growing accustomed to UK Culture, and the rift between his home here and his home in Bulgaria and the culture shock he feels when returning 'home'.
"I started taking images during the two or three weeks per year when I’m in Bulgaria to remind myself where I come from and what my roots are even though I never felt a sense of belonging."
F&A: How did your series 'I Don't Belong Here' come about?
ZD: I approached this series a little more differently from some of my other projects as it was the first work that I did outside of a uni context. In this sense it didn’t have any definitive starting point where I said right, I’m gonna make a work about this, so the lines are a little more blurred - I go home very rarely as it’s around 2000 miles from London so I visit only 2-3 times a year. I’ve never really liked the place that much but being away made me look at it from a different perspective and feel an unexpected sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia as in not the feeling of wanting to go back but rather these are my roots and my memory isn’t ideal so I need to do my best to preserve them from fading away.
I started taking pictures every time when I visited without any clear purpose rather than this is where I came from and it’s so different from where I currently live. It wasn’t until last year that my thoughts came together that this could be a coherent project when I started combining images from Bulgaria with images from London, thus merging my birth home with my home by choice.
F&A: What camera/s did you use a why?
ZD: Initially I started off with my Yashica Mat as I really like the square format and medium format gives you a much better quality than 35mm without the bulk and weight of 5x4. Later on I moved onto Mamiya 7ii due to the convenience of an eye-level camera and the much, much better optics.
F&A: Is photography a form of self expression for you?
ZD: Photography is a form of self-expression, but to me personally is also a time-capsule that helps me preserve images of my family. At first they were included in the project but later on I decided that I want I Don’t Belong Here to be mostly about the place whereas the portraits can merge together into a completely separate project.
F&A: Why have you chosen to pursue an MA?
ZD: I come from a family of people that enjoy being in education - my mum has 3 degrees and was a student just before I started going to uni. Studying an MA allows me to explore and distill my interests further as well as delve into the knowledge well that my professors provide. Currently I’m making work that I wouldn’t have thought possible only until a year or so ago. Another factor is that I consider teaching in the future which would require an MA. Last but not least I missed being surrounded by creative people after I finished my BA - your peers’ feedback is incredibly valuable as they’re in the same boat as you and want to help as much as possible.
Follow Zak on Instagram @zakrdimitrov