TSV Feature 015 - Diaries from Georgia
by Jewgeni Roppel @jewro
A travel diary by Jewgeni Roppel
Interview and text by Rosa Roth
Georgia? No it’s not that province in the United States. We are talking about a country of almost 70.000 km2 between Azerbaijan and Russia, hosting long beaches at the Black Sea and the Caucasian mountains with one of top ski resorts of the eastern world in its north. You’ve never been there before? Me too.
I actually had to look it up on the map when I got the news that they invited me over as one of the jury members to judge the most prestigious photo contest in Georgia - the Kolga Photo Award 2017. During my stay in Tbilisi, Georgia’s vivid and beautiful capital, I met a lot of interesting and lovely people. One of them has been Jewgeni Roppel, photographer and winner of the Kolga Photo Award 2016 in the category ‘Mobile Series’. He showed me his Instagram and since then I’m following his ongoing travel diary about Georgia. I asked him a couple of question about his photography and am very proud to present his mobile photography on TSV for you today.
Hi Jewgeni, nice to talk to you again. Of course, the first thing I would like to know is: When did you travel to Georgia for the first time and why?
For a couple of years I had the idea to travel to Georgia. In 2016 I’ve been there for the first time. I lend a jeep for two weeks to travel around the country. I’ve been interested in the Georgian spirit and mentality, it’s different shapes of landscape and it’s history with it’s remains of the Soviet domination which gets mixed up with the advancements of the modern age. Tbilisi is a city that unites a lot of those things.
What was your first impression of Tbilisi?
It has been love at first sight! This organic, vivid and charismatic mix of now and then. It’s desire of Modernism! Something magical is in the air and a lot of it seems so familiar to me. It reminds me of my childhood in the Soviet Union. The people are very open minded, curious and hospitable, which creates immediate sympathy.
Did you travel alone? Do you speak Russian or how did you communicate with the locals?
On the first trip I’ve been around with a friend of mine, later on alone or with Georgian friends. Luckily I grew up in the Soviet Union, that’s why I still speak Russian very fluently and that helped a lot to create contact to people.
In which places have you been? Tell me about a good and a bad experience you’ve made on your trips to Georgia!
I’ve been in almost every corner of the country and experienced a lot of things. Once I’ve been tricked by some Roma women. They involved me into one of their rituals, where they got me into a state of voluntarily giving them all of my money and they just conjured it away forever. As I realized what they were doing, it has been to late. They use psychological tricks to convince you to give them everything in your pockets you have. After that I didn’t even have money to go back to the hostel. Later I got to know a taxi driver who hosted me in his flat for 8 days, because he used to live in Germany and had some nostalgic feelings coming up when I told him that I live there. Every day he used to call me to make sure that everything is okay and if I needed a taxi driver. Such things you can only experience in Georgia.
What a crazy story! But as you have been almost everywhere in Georgia, what’s your favorite place?
It’s difficult to have only one favorite place in the country, because every region has its own characteristics. I very much like the northern Caucasus with its impressive mountains the same as the southern part which is more dry and rocky. Every national park has its own charm. Apart from the nature and the national parks, I would say that Tbilisi is my favorite place. The capital of Georgia provides everything I need: Exchange, cultural events and those little unpredictable stories on a daily basis.
Mention 5 spots everyone who travels to Tbilisi shouldn’t miss to visit!
On your Instagram account @jewro we can follow your mobile photos shot on your trips. Are they more kind of snapshots for you or are they part of a bigger project?
I’m using Instagram like a visual travel diary shot with my mobile phone. I don’t take pictures of my food or myself but I very much like to capture the small oddities of each country or city. Those can be found objects, situations or people I met on my way. The stories mostly come up when I’m strolling around.
Did you shoot other projects in Georgia? Is there any project you would like to talk about?
Yes, there are some small series I shot in Georgia. Caves & Spaceships, Postcards from Georgia, Tripping in Vashlovani…just to name some of them. Then there is also a documentation of Tbilisi’s nightlife, open air festivals and a collection of travelscapes.
In May we’ve met each other at the Kolga Photo Week 2017. It hasn’t been the first time you’ve been visiting the festival. Last year your series ‘Diaries from Samar’ has been awarded with the Kolga Photo Award in the category ‘Mobile Series’. What’s the theme of ‘Diaries of Samar’?
It’s about the daily life at a Kibbutz (collective settlement) in the Israeli desert Negev. People of different origins created that compound as an alternative living space far from media, Israel’s politic and religious dogmas. For a period I’ve been part of this community and that made it possible to document daily life situations with my phone.
Why did you decide to shoot on your phone? You could have also brought another camera to shoot the project. Did you use certain apps to edit your pictures?
I also shot on medium format, but with the iPhone I could be less intrusive and catch some moments faster than with my bigger camera. I used a warm filter of the Hipstamatic App, which I thought fits very much to the atmosphere of the place.
During this year’s Kolga Photo Week 2017 you’ve also presented a small exhibition? What was the concept?
I displayed posters of my ‘Postcards from Georgia’ project in urban spaces of Tbilisi. Those are pictures from different regions of Georgia where I travelled last year. I printed the images and photographed them in combination with Georgian fabrics or material as a background. In the end I’ve printed them as poster in the sitze 100x75cm and 200x150cm and installed them amongst other places at the Fabrika and Pinn Hostel. As a quid pro quo I can stay there for a couple of days for free now.
We thought the images fitted perfectly into the hotel like they’ve been already part of its inventory. Thanks for your time Jewgeni!