I’m a person who believes that we all have the same rights, no matter what our gender or identity is, what our skin color is, what our sexual preferences are, or what our nationality. We are people, living on the same planet and we need to learn how to deal with this together without violating somebody’s rights.
I believe in only religion in this world which is called Love and only after that I’m a freelancer and a documentary photographer, working on long term projects and telling stories which are important to me. I was born in the country (USSR) which no longer exists on the world’s map and to be honest I’m very happy because of this, especially now, during this Coronavirus pandemic, when I can more clearly understand what it means when you are just locked down and not allowed to go somewhere outside your homeland. But I grew up in a small, magical, already independent country called Georgia, or as we say, Sakartvelo, and till now living in Tbilisi, which is absolutely beautiful, small piece of the world. I’m happy to be his little child and very thankful for braveness which this city gave to me, especially during the civil war when I was a kid, who didn’t even realize what the word “war” meant at that moment and of course it came later to my mind and memory and appears in my projects as well.
I love creating books, I mean handmade and limited-edition books out of my stories, because probably I’m too old fashioned and just love to hold something physically in hands rather than just watching photos on screen and yes, I’m a person who loves life.
I love to shoot very often people who I love and who are important for me and I’m very thankful them for their trust to let me be in their lives and at the same time, during doing a projects, I can say that I never searching for topics, I don’t know how this happens, but they just come to my life by themselves and ask to talk about them, probably I’m just a good listener and maybe that’s why I’m a very slow photographer, who always needs time to think how to show things, what I want to tell to the world and what can happen afterwards.
As we are now living in internet world it has become very easy to speak to a lot of people, to show much more than it had been possible before, but I feel responsible for all the messages, as I really do believe in the power of photography, I can’t just steal somebody’s emotions, seconds of someone’s life and leave without even knowing a name. It’s very important for me to know who all those people on my photos are. One of my projects, called “Frozen Waves,” is about kidnapped little girls for marriage in Georgia. Maybe this sounds a little bit weird in the 21th century, but yes, it’s still happening even now. I was so shocked, few years ago, when I heard from a 16-year-old girl that she was getting married to a man who was twice her age and not because she was in love with him, but because he had kidnapped and raped her, so she could not return to her family, because even they would not take her back. Georgia is still very conservative, I would say and of course the capital doesn’t reflect the situation of the whole country, as NYC is not the whole USA or Berlin the whole Germany.
She invited me to her wedding and it was hard to sit next to the people who were drinking wine and making toasts for the fake happiness of the new born family, but being there was a sign for me to start talking about it. I started doing my research and found so many girls with the same experience, that I was scared even more and felt bigger responsibility to react on this, especially, kidnapping somehow was a personal issue as well. I remembered that my grandma was also a school girl when she was kidnapped by my grandpa and they lived their whole life together. They hadn’t known each other before, he just saw her once and decided that he wanted this girl to become his future wife, it’s like we buy something in a shopping mall – we like it and we want it to be ours, and this was so common, so normal at that time, people even used to call it a beautiful tradition. I felt scared that nothing had been changed since so long, how could it still be possible that my life did not belong to me? I was asking myself, because I could be one of those girls as well. I remember how sad my grandma became every time when she was telling me this part of her story, how she wanted to continue her studies but she couldn’t because it was not allowed for her from her husband, who became her owner and then they had kids and then there was never enough time for herself, for anything of course and then her dreams just passed next to her life.
I want this terrible practice to be finally ended in Caucasus, I want young girls to enjoy their freedom and happiness when they are teens and not to become wives in the age when they should be spending time with their friends, getting crazy and be as wild as they want to be. And yes, now we have a law about it in constitution and I’m very happy because of this, at least it became officially illegal to kidnap girls.
For the last few years I’m focused on topics about occupation of my country, domestic violence and sexual harassment in Georgia, which is one of the hugest problems, not only here, but around the world as we can see the #MeToo movement and it’s still very hard for victims and survivors to talk about their harmful experience in Sakartvelo, as this is a very small country, everyone knows each other but even though it goes very slowly, we can make some changes together, it’s just important to start.
Always in Georgia, Always in Caucasus and sometimes in Ukraine as well and of course I can explain why.
I’m traveling a lot, I’ve been in so many countries and much more cities, but I’m just a tourist there. Stranger, for whom everything is interesting, because everything around is new and fresh. Of course I making photos there, but they are just for my personal memory card.
I love to remember people who I meet and places where I’ve been and keep this emotions on my films, but with projects it’s absolutely different. I want to introduce the other Georgia the country I love the most, but where we still have a lot of problems and I want to talk about them, I want to show something more than just beautiful mountains and black sea, which you can easily find in Google when searching about Sakartvelo. Of course we have this as well and you can spend beautiful summer and holidays here, but I want to show something deeper, something more invisible which you can’t see if you spend only your week-ends here, you must live here, you must feel what real Georgia is and the same about Ukraine.
I think these two countries have a lot in common, especially in the nearest past, territories of the both countries, such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia and Crimea in Ukraine are occupied by our biggest neighbor, called Russia. We have the same problems and I do believe we’ll have the same future of becoming members of the EU, because this is very important for both countries, for their safety.
I’m a photographer, I can’t change anything in politics, but as a citizen of Georgia, I will always use my voice to be heard as far as it will be possible, for changes, for better future of my country, of my region and beloved sister Ukraine.
My grandma always taught me how important mornings are in our lives and that every day brings new beginnings, so for me every day is like a journey in a new life and I try to do as much as I can, in each of them, so If not NOW, when?
I ask myself very often, if I was not a photographer what could be my profession but I never find an answer. Photography is like an air, I can’t really breathe without it. I studied economics at the University and even that time, photography was such a big part of my daily life, I knew that all my ways were leading there.
I strongly believe it’s very important to do something with your whole heart and that every person has her or his mission on this planet, doesn’t matter which form you choose, it can be photography or graffiti or anything else, you must try a lot of different things to find your own language to talk. I was very lucky to find mine in photography. When you really love something, it will always answer you with magical sounds.
I think it’s also very important to have your own opinion about the things around you and react on them and I’m trying to give a voice to people who really need it, who need to be heard by society, that’s the only thing that I can do for them.