For five years, I stayed in the Caucasus mountains and documented the life of the local shepherds. These people have been cheese makers since long before Christ was born. The life that I discovered was simple and harsh.
This is a story about the life of shepherds and the route that they take in the mountains twice a year.
After the death of my companions, (the shepherds who I had accompanied for this entire period) I decided to stop.
Through his seemingly documentary photographs, Dmitry Gomberg mixes real life with dreams, in an attempt to show the varied powers of the camera. LensCulture editor Alexander Strecker reached out via email to find out his story.
I was born in the Soviet Union. For a Soviet person, the Caucasus and the area around the Black Sea is a kind of heaven. Once I had moved to New York, I met a group of amazing Georgians. As Steinbeck wrote, “If one tried to describe Georgia using a single word, the right word would definitely be hospitality.” With these words in my mind, I could not resist the repeated invitations to their country.
When I arrived, a friend’s father told me about a pass in the mountains, where the Tusheti shepherds go. I liked his story and wanted to see these people with my own eyes. I was introduced to Vazha Kaadze, the man who became my guide and mentor.
In the beginning, some of the shepherds didn’t like me taking pictures of them. But I gained their trust. They began to call me the “American Shepherd.” For five years, I traveled many miles with Vazha and his crew. I came to understand a lifestyle that I had never seen before.
The greatest challenge I faced in making this project was not to get drunk all the time. On this, I totally failed. But seriously, I didn’t miss very much when I was there. Some good coffee, a nice lady maybe? What really gave me joy was the nature: the wind, the stars and the horses. Even today, I still dream about it.
In terms of photography, this project taught me two things. First, photography is very simple; all you need is curiosity, some technical skills and good luck. Second, people believe pictures more than words. But in my pictures, I am showing both a reality and my own dreams. I hope people realize that photography is much more than an objective document of the world. I hope these pictures can help share that point.
—Dmitry Gomberg, interviewed by Alexander Strecker
Editors’ Note: See Dmitry Gomberg’s work, along with photographs from ALL 50 Emerging Talent winners here in LensCulture.