Friday, September 04, 2009
EXHIBITION: Georgia through the lens of Magnum photographers. By Anna Chichinadze. (georgiatoday.ge)
Georgia through the lens of Magnum photographers
Starting Sept. 5, Berlin will host the presentation of a newly published book about Georgia.
"Georgian Spring" is the name of a photo album in which 10 Magnum photographers collaborated over their three-month stay in the country. The Culture Ministry initiated the project to “demonstrate Georgia as a European country,” according to Culture Minister Nikoloz Rurua.
Rurua said he gave full freedom to the photographers to decide how to depict Georgia.
“Honesty is the main value of the book,” Rurua told Georgia Today. Indeed, the album is too realistic to serve as a traditional tourist book.
Beautiful postcards depicting typical sightseeing photos of the country are used only as the opening and closing details of the book.
Thomas Dworzak, one of the Magnum photographers who also wrote the forward for “Georgian Springs,” said the book portrays a new, contemporary image of Georgia after the Soviet Union crackdown.
“I think the book will raise awareness of Georgia,” Dworzak told Georgia Today. “European society has stereotypes toward the country, they know nothing about contemporary Georgia, but those old-fashioned pictures and images, churches, funerals, all those photographs have already been photographed and that was biggest attraction for all of us for some time.”
Dworzak said he has a 17-year-old “love-story” with Georgia that started in the early 1990s. He worked in the first Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and lived in Georgia for six years. Today he said he notices numerous changes in the country and thinks the new reality should be delivered to the international community.
Together with Dworzak, Jonas Bendiksen, Antoine D’Agata, Martine Franck, Alex Majoli, Martin Parr, Paolo Pellegrin, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Mark Power and Alec Soth worked on the 264 page travel journal. Each photographer was responsible for 20 pages of the book, which includes photographs and texts that each photographer wrote about their works and journey within Georgia.
Wendell Steavenson, a journalist and writer, also wrote about her own experience of living and working in Georgia. Chris Boot, a well-known photo publisher, coordinated and organized the project.
Each of the photographers chose their field of interest. New generation, luxury, consumer and gambling, family portraits, construction and industry, minorities and other angles of ordinary Georgian life are showcased in the album together with photos from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The album is realistic. The pictures capture ugly Soviet blocks and suburbs and women in the markets and streets who do not look happy or comfortable. The modest feasts in ordinary families look too vital among the everyday routine of sadness.
The texts under the photos, which are written in a diary-like manner, express the bare feelings of the photographers. D’agata worked on the Industry and the Economy section of the book and after visiting Kutaisi he wrote about what he saw.
“In Kutaisi, I photographed the renovation of the old town. To be fair, it was not finished and some businesses had moved back in, but the face felt like an enormous film set, strangely soulless and phoney,” he wrote. “Meanwhile on the other side of the town, the municipal market was dominated by huge (and astonishingly beautiful) Soviet frieze, which was crumbling in disrepair.”
President Mikheil Saakashvili is also featured in the book. Dworzak decided to take photographs of the president that are a mix of official visits and some unofficial moments caught in various circumstances, like sitting at the UN assembly listening to world leaders.
“He liked the idea and helped me a lot,” Dworzak said. “He even gave me a chance to enter places I was not allowed. When other photographers stayed behind the closed doors he managed to take me inside.”
The last section of the book is reserved for the Magnum Agency archive. Among other photographs it consists of Robert Capa’s photo essay, which he made during his visit to the Soviet Union and Georgia together with John Steinbeck in 1947. There are also photos by the famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Saakashvili was the first to promote the book when he publicly presented it to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during his visit to Georgia in July.
Soon after its tour through Germany the book will be showcased in Spain and be on sale across the globe. To date, the book has been published in many languages including Georgian, English, Spanish, German and French.
photos by Ralph Hälbig