Photography – A Mirror
“Photography – a mirror” which reflects and captures everything within its frames. Its subject is “reality”, but a reality in which the camera unexpectedly finds elements both fantastical and unreal. A variety of national characteristics and individual expression are revealed through the differing viewpoints and conditions under which this “reality” is observed and captured.
The history of Georgian photography begins in the first half of the nineteenth century and is largely characterised by documentary photography. Thus this work forms a precise, richly detailed record of contemporary life, customs and fashion.
The first Georgian photographer to receive a mention – Alexander Roinischwili – put together a collection of archeological and historical works, which, besides its documentary value, is of great artistic worth. It includes contributions from other contemporary artists such as Ermakov (whose collection already included around 2500 negatives and 3000 “stereopaare” by 1901). Artists Sanis and Engels, among others, are also worthy of note.
By 1894 the “ Society for friends of photography Tbilisi” had come into existence. This society held its first independent exhibition in 1895. Later the group changed their name to the “Photographic society of the Caucasus”. This step on the part of Georgian art photography proved a great inspiration for future development (leaving aside the small steps backward occasioned by pressure from various political regimes).
In the following period the photography of Guram Tikanadse stands out, as do the numerous exhibitions and successes of the Photoclub “Georgia” in photography competitions all over the world.
The “short” but significant history of the second national photoclub “View” began in 1985. Its members Yuri Mechitov, Guram Tsibakhashvili, Dato Sulakwelidse, Boris Schawerdiani, Marian Kiladse, Dsano Demetraschwili and Gia Dschawelidse differed so sharply in their viewpoints and goals that the club broke up after a short time. Various independent groups and movements eventually emerged in its place.
The exhibition in FOTOGALERIE WIEN presents the two most important movements and groupings in contemporary Georgian photography.
Documentary Photography: Yuri Mechitov, Gogi Tsagareli, Irene Abzhandadze, Natela Grigalashvili.
Art Photography: Guram Tsibakhashvili, Georgi Sumbadze, Nikoloz Tsetskhiadze, Oleg Timchenko.
Yuri Mechitov’s work reveals that docomentary photography is fiction – that real documentary work is only ever a stimulus. The documentary aspect is inevitably influenced by the artists’ personality , “choice” and artistic interpretation.
Gogi Tsagereli camera picks out fascinating exceptional cases, unexpected truths, whose reality often breaks through the boundaries of human feeling and memory. Photographic time – the past brought into the present – and eternity are his themes.
The series of photographs by Irene Abzahandadze were taken in the refugee settlement Sabirabad; the whole settlement appears to be constructed of thin cardboard. “The Journey of a Foreign Eye” in the foreign town, presents something extraordinary, something exceptional in the life of its inhabitants. They look into the lens and seem, through it, much happier, stronger, more beautiful; but at the same time the lens reveals the pathetic hovels and hopeless living conditions – “My House is my Castle”.
The works of Natela Grigalashvili were all taken in a particular local setting. Her work could be described as studies of the existence of a small simple village. Her depictions are accordingly easily comprehensible; her photographs themselves resemble distant memories.
Art photography gives the photographer the freedom to introduce elements of illusion as well as reality. This basic truth of art is clearly shown in the contrast in the series “Explanations” by Guram Tsibakhashvili. The synthesis of text – very precise laconic dictionary definitions – and photography points out the contrast between feelings and precise explanations.
Nikoloz Tsetskhiadze works mostly with photocollage; many of his photographs resemble a coloured labyrinth – man in the labyrinth is not looking for truth, but his childhood.
In the works of Georgi Sumbadzi illusion – which only exists within the photographs themselves – is the most important component. His pictures do not depict any “full scene” but are characterised by small details. Fragments of surroundings, which, through their compositional arrangement, have the power to reveal much more.
The photographs of Oleg Timchenko are self-portraits in which the artist denies his own individuality and which also break territorial and spatial boundaries. “If paradise exists anywhere, then it is equally distant from any point in the world” is the both key message and the title of his work.