Pictura Gallery

Single Image Crush | Doriyan Todorov

October 24, 2023

Doriyan Todorov

The border between land and sea is a familiar sight. But a beach is a remarkable line, a primary physical division on earth. The dreamlike colors in Dorian Todorov’s photograph make that border seem like a metaphorical division. It’s a formidable leap from the fine white sand into the murky purplish unknown.

The scene looks baptismal, but like something gone wrong. The picture immediately feels allegorical to me, but also like a non-staged, real and passing moment. There are five figures, sharply outlined. A woman in white wades into strangely burgundy waters; if she goes deeper, she’ll be out of the picture. The two women on shore are communicating with some urgency, but the figure in the water looks unconcerned. A small boy looks on with interest as his father holds him back. What is going on here?

Here is the caption, provided by the artist.
Iranian women warn a Russian influencer that the water is deep, and it is dangerous to take pictures there.

How does the caption change our reading of the image? With the idea of allegory already awakened, but with new information to fold into the first impression, what might the photograph mean? An Iranian woman calls out to a Russian with a warning issued from experience -do not wade in this blood water. Do not cross this border. The warning seems to go unheeded.

Or, perhaps the picture can speak to the culture of influencers. If aesthetics are the key currency in this field, then why did the influencer choose this white dress? The cut and color gesture towards traditional garments, or a baptismal or bridal outfit. Was she aware of these associations? it is hard to believe they were purely aesthetic choices. In this reading, the danger in the photograph comes from taking things that are real and complex and disregarding their meaning, or misusing them for currency.

However we read it, what draws me to keep looking at the photograph, besides its elegant composition, is the energy that thrums between the characters. The boy forms a point in a triangle; his attention is unreturned, and he is only an observer. But the outstretched finger of the concerned onlooker sends a beam straight to the pretty, posing face, which looks back towards towards the hand of warning.

-Lisa Woodward

Doriyan Todorov — winner of the Life Framer Colours’ contest. Chosen by Damarice Amao, associate curator in photography at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.