Georgia Melancolia
Project info

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Georgia suffered a severe economic downturn which has left over half the population unemployed. Georgia, Melancolia is a series of atmospherical photographs that describe a feeling. The pictures were taken while I was on assignment for a Swiss NGO in 2010. I found a country in a state of melancholy. It was not long after the war. The economy was still low, and unemployment a big problem. In Mirashkani, a remote village where I stayed almost two weeks for my assignment, people were really struggling to survive. Even small kids had to work after school to help their parents to bring some food on the table. I visited the country twice – once in March and then again in May. I ended up staying longer then expected because of the volcano eruption of that year. Wanting to use the time wisely and continue exploring the country, I hired a fixer to show me to places I would not otherwise see. I found walls adorned with pictures of Stalin and a lot of people referred to the Soviet era as the ‘good old times’. It was clear that a collective nostalgia for the country’s soviet past was still beating strong. Economically, the country was in a very difficult state. Depression seemed to have oozed across the country like an epidemic. A lot of people were spending their days hanging around, especially in the cities. Some old parts of Tbilisi, the capital reminded me of Havana – the buildings crumbling because there was simply no money to restore them. It is clear the city had had better times. I traveled across the country by car. Close to the Armenian border, we passed big, empty areas – ruins of collective farms (called ‘kolkhoz’ in Russian). Along the way, I witnessed villages like Gorelovka, where most of the young people had left to look for a better life. Many cars had crosses hanging from the rear-view mirrors, a symbol of the religious significance in Georgian society. Beyond the windows, the landscape was wet and grey, all gun-metal skies and skeletal trees, and the people we passed by on our way were often sitting round waiting, perhaps for a light to pierce the clouds and offer some long-awaited miracle.