At first, I wanted to capture desolated life—and the ways in which people reflect their environments. My journey took me to the city of Tbilisi, in Georgia. There, I found traces of the USSR in the city’s architecture and in the marks that these spaces have left on their current inhabitants.

For example, inside a bath house, I made some portraits of the workers in front of their changing room. Before I took the photo, I built a relationship with the workers of the bathhouse. I also went to the tropical institute and photographed the waiting room and the people who work there. Finally, I photographed in a shelter for men and women. I photographed the men within their rooms. Ultimately, these were not just portraits of the people but, as well, of the inner architecture of the ex-Soviet Union.

My work seems to explore the relationship between spaces and humans. This series of photos explores both the subject within the space and the space as a subject itself. Sometimes, I have conveyed the personality that these spaces hold and how they contrast with that of the actual person. Though the spaces may seem empty, they are truly full of personality and history.

—Claudio Rasano

Editors’ Note: Don’t miss the work of all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Exposure Awards 2014. In total, you’ll find 31 visually inspiring works from across the world.

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