These portraits are a window into what remains of Georgia’s Jewish community. Over the past 30 years, the number of Jews living in Georgia has dropped from 24,800 to just 4000. The people featured in this essay represent the diversity of their community. Their way of life, attitudes toward religion, and lives are uniquely personal. Together, however, they create and continue the ancient tradition of the Georgian-Jewish experience.
The face of Georgia’s Jewish community
My story "Feeling blue" is about a dystopian future, where humans live in isolation and where all social interaction is banned. Memories are the only place where physical interaction exists. The project is inspired by the ongoing pandemic of the coronavirus, which is affecting 190 countries and has already claimed over 20 000 lives. One of the measures being taken to slow the spread of the virus is isolation. Since humans are social creatures, isolation can, in the long term, affect people's mental health and even physical wellbeing. Being self-isolated for two weeks has already ruined my sleep pattern. This made me wonder how we would all cope if today's extraordinary circumstances were to become our everyday routine in the future.
Through this photo essay, I want to address the fears young people have about growing old, and their thoughts about how our society treats the elderly.
Funny how it all falls away
"Things I stole" is an on-going project dedicated to a painful dating strategy commonly known as ghosting.
Things I stole
This is a story of lost friendships, faded memories, but also broken stereotypes and new relations built on ruins. As a result of the Abkhazia and South Ossetian conflicts, thousands of people had to leave behind their lives and ended up displaced. Contacts with friends gradually faded, then died. Today, there is almost no communication between young Georgians, Abkhazians, and South Ossetians. However, a ray of light exists. A few individuals have managed to meet and realize that friendship, despite division, is possible.
In Georgia views about virginity, and its loss, are set in stone. The blessing of a man, that is the first intercourse, is relevant. Once a child enters puberty, older family members decide whether the young boy is old enough to lose his virginity. If so, they plan a visit to a sex worker - strengthening the idea of asserting men’s masculinity and their desires. A visit to a brothel is a way to assert the men’s authority and control.
The Sexual Blessing of a Georgian Man
The 1,850 residents of Akhali Samgori lack access to safe drinking water and most of them drink and cook with bottled water - at least those who can afford it. Then, there is the smell - the prickly, acrid, stinging odour that lingers in the air.
When the Wind Blows
In Georgia’s communal, interdependent culture, the concept of the family is sacred. Unless a child is moving out to create a family, there is no need for them to lead an independent life, the thinking often goes. Much of this notion dates to the Soviet era, when the right to private space simply did not exist. Those Georgians who grew up during this period frequently cannot understand young people’s need for such a space since they never had it themselves.
Georgia’s 20-Somethings: Pursuing Privacy
Men have traditionally dominated Georgia’s literary scene, and as cliches’ die hard, they still do. The reading list of the national curriculum for high schoolers features 26 writers - only one is a woman, 20th century poet Ana Kalandadze. Melashvili recalls a friend of hers being puzzled by the portrait of novelist Ekaterine Gabashvili in his classroom.
The Womanly Face of War
Whatever the difficulties, some Indian students find Georgia a welcome change from their home country. Nineteen year old Ishan comes from New Delhi, the capital of India. He was brought up in Dubai, and says the concrete buildings near Tbilisi State Medical University remind him of the area where he used to live. In comparison to his hometown, Ishan finds Tbilisi locals to be very friendly. “Where I come from capital, everyone is very rude to everyone. Here people don’t bother you. Maybe at clubs, when you go at night they have restrictions, but other than that it’s fine.”
From Delhi to Delisi
Social norms define what men and women should, or should not, do — and how they should, or should not, behave, speak, move - and dress. Growing up, men are taught to be tough and never cry; they are laughed at if they like pink over blue, dolls over cars; they are instructed not to talk about their problems. But what if your father dies and you can’t hold back your tears, if pink is your favorite color and if sharing your fears helps you confront them? Society is judgemental: deviating from socially induced norms results in a “stop acting like a woman,” or “Man up!” response; more often than not, it leads to assumptions about a person’s sexual orientation. Mano Svanidze’s photographic collage combines images which, without commentary, highlight this juxtaposition. Men portrayed in their casual, everyday “manly” clothes sit next to their same selves wearing clothes normally associated with women. “I did a little experiment,” explains the Tbilis-based photographer. “I showed just one side of the images to random people in the street and asked them to describe the guys in the shots. I showed one set at the time. To images of the guys in their usual clothes, most peoples said they were ‘students’, ‘cool’, ‘handsome’, ‘book lover’, ‘confident’, ‘smart’, ‘ugly’, ‘macho’… When they saw the ‘other side,’ 40 people out of 50 commented - ‘Gay!’” Svanidze’s project challenges deeply rooted stereotypes, highlighting what people consider “usual” or “unusual.”
Do the Clothes Make the Man?
One year ago, a car hit me. Television shows became an oasis of comfort when my real life was overrun by fears about my condition. My fear of reality became a fear of addiction, fear of losing my grip on what was real, and what wasn’t.
My story "Feeling blue" is about a dystopian future, where humans live in isolation and where all social interaction is banned. Memories are the only place where physical interaction exists. The project is inspired by the ongoing pandemic of the coronavirus, which is affecting 190 countries and has already claimed over 20 000 lives. One of the measures being taken to slow the spread of the virus is isolation.
"He can easily recognize people in masks considering he hasn't seen some of them without a mask. It is normal for him."
"We could not hide from COVID forever"
This is a story about two women in their twenties. A story about a writer and a sex worker, one a booklover, the other a culinary enthusiast. One dreams about publishing her first novel and the other—building a nursing home for the elderly.