(osgf.ge) The idea of establishing rural photo club came to Georgian photographer Natela Grigalashvili in 2013 when she was working on photography project ‘Doukhobors in Georgia'. Later the same year, she approached the Open Society-Georgia Foundation with a project proposal to establish a photo club in village Gorelovka of Ninotsminda Region.
The village Gorelovka, in Samtskhe-Javakheti Region of Georgia, was founded by a Doukhobor (Spirit Wrestlers) religious group exiled from Russia in the mid-nineteenth century. Today, along with the original settlers, Doukhobors, Gorelovka is a home to Armenians and ethnic Georgian Muslims resettled from Ajara.
There are no major conflicts between the village residents of various ethnic and religious backgrounds, nevertheless they are alienated and lack affinity towards each other. As the prospect of growing tension is high, creation of examples of durable cooperation and collaboration among the members of diverse community is a challenge.
Community engagement through arts is an effective way of addressing the issue of isolation. The idea behind the establishment of a photo club was to introduce the residents of Gorelovka to the art of photography while drawing closer people of ethnically and religiously diverse community and building stronger relationships between them.
The implementation of the project supported by the Foundation started with the selection of volunteers. Twelve Georgian, Russian, and Armenian amateur photographers aged fifteen to sixty-two joined the club. Once they received cameras, photographers Dea Soselia and Natela Grigalashvili conducted photography courses for them. They started with the introduction to the theory, practice and philosophy of photography, and then moved to more practical skill building on composition, lighting, focus modes and camera functions. The training included photo tours and on-location assignments among others. While traveling to the neighboring villages as a group for assignments, the members of the club got to know each other better and establish relationships. After the assignments were completed, the best images were selected for inclusion into the photobook titled Gorelovka and for printing as postcards.
The exhibition of works by the photo club members took place at the Gorelovka House of Culture on August 4, 2014. In their pictures the members of the club told their story in their own way: overlooked countryside, idyllic rural landscapes, everyday life of the villagers, portraits- provided an insight into this peculiar rural world.