Chris Boot, , 2009. Hardbound. 240 pp., 170 color and 70 duotone illustrations, 10x11-1/2".
Georgian Spring Magnum Photos. Text by Wendell Steavenson. Published by Chris Boot, 2009.
Photographer Thomas Dworzak first went to Georgia to cover the civil war in 1993. Several years later after becoming a member of Magnum, he returned to make Tbilisi his home. He lived in Tbilisi during what he admits were “bad years,” years when strangers seated side by side in an airport could recognized their common home city by the smell of kerosene on one another. But in the new century, Georgia, and particularly the capital city of Tbilisi, have been among the success stories of the post-Soviet world. Certain manifestations of such success, internet cafes, designer clothes, coffee shops, and the like have been relentlessly chronicled wherever they occur, but in 2008 Dworzak approached Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili with a proposal to bring in a group of Magnum photographers to carry out a quick but incisive survey of the country between February and April of 2009.
Georgian Spring; A Magnum Journal features work by eleven photographers, some of whom entered the country with very specific topics for exploration while others worked on more open-ended projects. Martine Franck traveled within a compact circle of artists, writers, and performers who represent several generations of Georgian culture. Jonas Bendiksen focused on the westernized youth culture of the nation’s capital, while Paolo Pelligrin searched out the diverse religious communities throughout the country. Alex Majoli worked near the Russian border and South Ossetia, and comments, “I decided that my work …should be a bit bucolic…But [it] can’t. The signs of war are everywhere.”
While he photographed in the outdoor markets, Martin Parr, not surprisingly, was also checking antiquarian bookshops for photo books on the area. He comments, “Each decade Georgia seems to have had a different propaganda book made to sing its praises. In a way the book I am photographing for is the latest!” The Georgian Ministry of culture sponsored Georgian Spring, and in his introduction Dworzak mentions that he has no problem with possible charges of propaganda. This book is clearly not propaganda. Earlier photographs from the Magnum archives contextualize the very personal photo essays provided by the eleven participants. If these photographs blatantly propagandize anything, it is Georgian cuisine, food that the locals, every chance they get, pile onto tables for visitors. Almost every participant includes at least one such image. These feasts could be one reason why whatever angle they took toward in what is a complex, evolving culture, each photographer in his or her own way seems to have fallen in love with the place.
—Charles Dee Mitchell