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17 May 2018

In and Out of Reality: Three Centuries of Photographic Image in Georgia

Photography in Georgia has changed considerably since it was first introduced to the country over 160 years ago – when it was seen as the perfect documentary medium because its mechanical nature ensured unadulterated, exact replicas of subject matter.

Throughout the history of the photographic image in Georgia, photography’s admired ability to record reality has been developed by generations of artists to become a visual language –to access reality, and then to reflect on it to better understand it.

Georgia’s evolution of photography in Georgia reveals three major periods spanning three centuries. These are: The Golden Age of Georgian photography that lasted from the introduction of photography in 1840s until the end of the 19th century, the Soviet Period when the communist regime used all arts – including photography – as tool of ideological propaganda for 70 years of in 20th century; and the New Wave – a “photographic revolution” that began in the early 90s in a challenging post-Soviet period after a painful crash of the political, economic and social systems in all ex-Soviet republics.

The end of the Iron Curtain and the new acceptance towards the Occident defined the new reality of cultural and social development in post-Soviet Georgia. The artistic scene faced its own challenge: re-inventing new aesthetical conventions and new content with individuals in the center of vertiginous changes. In this period, photography revealed itself as a perfect medium to access new reality and to reflect on it – becoming so a dominant art by the beginning of the second millennium and a medium par excellence. 

“In and Out of Reality” presents artists from different generations representing the three major phases of the history of photography in Georgia. The show is not an encyclopedia of Georgian photography but attempts to present a certain way of visualizing history through the evolution of photographic images. It showcases the ways of how the reality was and is thought visually by artists in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries and how this has influenced the visions of generations of artists.


In and Out of Reality: Three Centuries of Photographic Image in Georgia from Tbilisi Photo Festival on Vimeo.

Photographic imagery has increasingly become a kind of the window to reality; one could even say that photo images have become the way in which one comes to understand what reality is.

Not forgetting to consider photography as a kind of “great mysterious experience” – referring to the idea of Walter Benjamin’s that the photographic image discloses the “optical unconscious just as psycho-analysis discloses the instinctual unconscious”. In this way, we can understand that a photograph says not only the story of what is seen in the image but also what is unseen and obscured – what lies beyond the frame, what photographs compel us to remember and forget, what photographs enable us to uncover and repress, and what they literally and metaphysically allow us to see or not to see. Simply put: all that lies in and out of reality.