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Swiss photographer Doris Peter about her trilingual book “Sofia: In Broad Daylight”

February 28, 2010 by · 1 comment

An interview with the photographer Doris Peter by Dessislava Berndt
Translation to English: Asya Draganova


Doris Peter was born in 1967. At the age of 18 she starts a four-year photography course in Zurich which she finishes successfully in 1990. The world is vast, and Doris Peter decides to follow its call. What follows are a lot you travels all over the world. For her photography projects, she travels to Asia, Europe, and the USA.

People are the predominant topic in her works. Not the rich, so-called successful people, but the average ones attract her attention. People, whose life is often an everyday battle for survival. Part of the photographer’s works have been shown during exhibitions and also published in books and newspapers. Doris Peter lives with her family in Berlin.

Doris, what or whom do you prefer as a subject of your photography?

Actually I take photographs of everything with pleasure. Everything which in some way provokes interest in me and makes me feel fascinated with it. People and their surroundings, however, are a leading factor. Catching a moment, or a situation, or making a portrait, are some of my themes.

When and how did you choose photography to be your profession?

When I was 16 I wanted to become a photographer but then I started hesitating. Some people around me thought that this was not a real job which could guarantee a stable livelihood.

Later, when I was 18, after uninterrupted nursing education and a lot of part-time jobs in factories and in the sales sector, the desire to take photographs appeared again.

This time it was such an incredibly strong feeling, which one would probably call inspiration, that I tried to find a vacancy for a trainee in an advertising and fashion studio in Zurich. I succeeded in that. My training lasted four years. My aim was clear.


Would you please tell us more about your project “Sofia: In Broad Daylight 1990 – 2001?” How did the idea to make a documentary about a city rise? For how much longer will you continue following the development of Sofia? To whom is the photo book dedicated?

My long-term project about Sofia includes the period between 1990 and 2001. In 1990 I visited the city for the first time. The fact that I went to Bulgaria was an accident, or what one might call it a gift from fate. Some friends had told me about Sofia, because they had visited it in the summer of 1990.

At that time I was feeling a strong urge to travel anyway, so I just caught the train from Berlin and travelled 36 hours to Sofia, the capital of a country, about which I did not know a thing previously. That is how I found myself with a camera and a suitcase in the centre of town. That is how it all started.


In the beginning the project was not planned as a long-term one. The idea appeared during my second visit in Sofia in 1992. After I had had a look around, my interest increased because of the forthcoming developments of the city and the changes in the conditions of life that were about to take place in the years to come.

That is how I started visiting Sofia every two years to take photographs of it. Mainly outdoors on the street.

Most of the photos I took with my middle-format camera Hasselbald and with black and white film.


People, situations, and moments which are visible for everyone, which can be seen on the street but not indoors: that is the reason why I called the book “Sofia: In Broad Daylight”.

The result of all was a trilingual book, which consists of 356 pages with 212 black and white illustrations, stories told by eyewitnesses, texts about the PEOPLE and the CITY, a chronicle and citations of my observations throughout all those years.


I think that this photo book is addressed to photography-lovers, to all Bulgarians or people who by one reason, or another, have some relation to Bulgaria, as well as to sociologists and ethnologists.

What relation do you have to Bulgaria?

I have warm feelings of affection towards Bulgaria. Here I have to call Sofia in particular, because the greatest part of my time I spent in the capital. Throughout all the years, I met people, with whom I have had friendships for a long time now. For me what emerged and grew through the years is extremely valuable.


What do you think of the contemporary development of digital photography? Can everyone, thanks to technology, be a good photographer?

I think that digital photography has many interesting aspects. By itself, technology is fascinating for me. It is cheaper and faster that analogue photography. One does not have any laboratory or film expenses any more, and it saves the time for developing the film.

For one to do everything by oneself, like I did for my Sofia project, means weeks or months in the dark room: from developing the film, through the so-called first copies, to the printing out of photos for exhibitions on baryta paper.


Nowadays a lot of people have a small digital camera or even a digital mirror reflection camera. Photos are taken a lot more than they used to because it is easier and cheaper indeed.

I doubt that this is the reason for having more good photographers than in the era of analogue
photography. Most photographs are definitely more technical and better quality. However, technology is not the major factor, but the content and the composition of a photograph, its expression, no matter whether or not it has been taken in a digital or analogue method.

What are your plans for 2010?


At the moment I am dealing with offering my photo band “Sofia: In Broad Daylight”. Exhibitions and presentations for the book are already planned. Apart from this, I am working on other projects as well, emphasising on ordered works.

According to you, what are the qualities necessary for a successful photographer?

The term “successful” is relative itself. For some, it is a success to realize their projects, for others it is a success to support themselves through their work as photographers. One does not exclude the other, but the first it hardest in this field for sure.

There are different sectors of photography work like landscape photography, studio photography, fashion photography, journalistic and documentary photography, etc. What is definitely important for all, is the ability to understand the detail and the moments, the feelings and moods, to master the flexibility needed to experience a situation yourself, and above all these – constancy in work is a must.


How do you spend your free time?

I do not rapidly distinguish my work from my free time. I often mix them. My personal interests coincide with my professional interests. Travelling is definitely one of my favourites – to be on the road, to change places, especially by train. Apart from this I love being outdoors, to swim, to ride a bicycle.

Do you share your experience with young photographers?

Yes, I like the idea of delivering my experience about the process of work and the language of photographs to people, who are also interested in photography. I used to lead photography courses and I would teach in schools, evening classes, or universities.

Where can your book be found? Who or what is the publishing company Ulpi? is a small independent publishing company with its main office situated in Berlin. More information for me and my photography works can be found at or directly on my website . If you wish to contact me or have any queries I can be found at .

The easiest way to order my photo book “Sofia: In Broad Daylight” is through Otherwise, it can be found in any book shop.

2009, 356 pages, 212 black and white photographs, Duplex,
Size: 23 x 28 cm, hard covers. Bulgarian/ English/ German
Photographs: Doris Peter
Publisher:, Berlin
ISBN 978-3-00-029204-0
39.90EUR/ 69.90 CHF/ 70 USD


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