Ostblick: George Nebieridze

The Youth in the East Struggles Way More

Der Ostblock war der jahrelange Gegenspieler zur westlichen Welt auf der anderen Seite des Eisernen Vorhangs. Durch die Linse unserer Ostfotograf*innen werfen wir einen Blick auf ihre Heimatorte, alte Jugendzimmer und neue Idole, alles östlich der deutsch-polnischen Grenze – ein Ostblick.

Fotografie ist das Instrument des Konservierens: flüchtige Momente auf Negativen verewigt, fein säuberlich abgelegt wie Akten der Fehlbarkeit, des Bedauerns, der Ekstase und Verwundbarkeit. Genau das ist auch George Nebieridzes Anspruch, der mit seiner Fotografie „einen Beweis für das Jetzt und ein visuelles Manifest für das Morgen“ schaffen will. Nebieridze ist in Tiflis, Georgien, geboren und aufgewachsen. Mit seiner Kamera begleitete er dort eine Jugendkultur, die das Konzept der Zugehörigkeit und der nationalen Identität infrage stellt und die letztlich zeigt, dass Schwierigkeiten und Leiden durch Optimismus besiegt werden können. Und hier scheint sich der äußerliche Widerspruch aufzudrängen: Nebieridze zeigte diese neue Generation kreativer Köpfe, die gegen den Konservatismus ankämpfen und konserviert als Zeitzeuge und Fotograf selbst diesen flüchtigen Moment, als sei es urmenschlich, zu wollen, dass etwas von der Gegenwart überdauert. Nebieridze, der heute in Berlin lebt, steht mit seiner Fotografie für eine radikale Jugend, echte Erfahrungen und ehrliche Verbindungen zwischen Freund*innen, für Kontrollverlust und Zärtlichkeit.

Carmen Maiwald: Since the first issue of Achtung we have looked to the East. We feel that should be done more often. What can the West learn from the East?

George Nebieridze: Many things on many levels, the first thing that comes to my mind from my personal experience is the awareness of privilege of the west. Understanding that youth in the east has to struggle way more and be a lot luckier to have access to some very simple things that are so overlooked in the west. It was more noticeable in the 90s, but is still existent today, despite the current technology and rapid ways of communications. Second important thing is the understanding of how rich, deep and ancient the eastern cultures are, places like the Middle East and the Caucasus, where I’m from, have millenniums of a creative past with exceptional artistry and craftsmanship.

CM: What is the first image that comes to your mind when you think about your country?

GN: It has to be one of these two photos I took during my visit in 2018. The first one shows a moment in an old part of Tbilisi, an elderly couple loading groceries out of a car with a very characteristic old building behind it. The second photo is taken in the neighborhood I grew up in called Saburtalo. It’s a bit more in the industrial part of Tbilisi with a lot of Soviet block buildings, however this one is a particularly significant example. The original structure is supposed to be this four or five storey building in white. However having non-existing regulations and corruption in the 90s resulted in such sceneries, people would just build over and on the sides of their apartment buildings all by themselves to extend their living space. Very few things describe Georgia and my childhood better than this photograph.

CM: What is the biggest difference you notice when you travel from Eastern to Western Europe?

GN: I remember my very first time landing at Tegel Airport. I was very young so I kind of have to describe the experience in a childish way. I remember seeing many bright colors, billboards, stickers, uniforms of airport workers and other details. It was very different from Georgia where most things seemed so lifeless at the time. Now it’s actually easier to think of the differences going from West to the East, to be honest. I travel to Georgia once every two years and notice things getting better in a very fast pace. Especially the youth, brighter and brighter every time. It’s hard to say Tbilisi is becoming a new Berlin, as some may speculate, but it certainly is getting somewhere.

CM: What opportunities does your home country offer you in photography?

GN: It definitely helps me with my character and creativity. In a material way, there are several institutions and events that help young and talented artists to achieve something, but definitely not enough. Economy is very bad there, therefore Georgian magazines, galleries or bookstores can’t offer adequate funds for an artist who is based in Europe. There’s a great new space called Tbilisi Photography and Multimedia Museum, affiliated with the local Photo Festival and other events, plus the fashion scene is on the rise, but it would be impossible to put these things on the map with the current political or economic situation.

CM: If you had not become a photographer, what would you be now?

GN: I actually have a degree in sociology and political science and as a kid I dreamed of becoming an ambassador in a foreign country, so I guess I’d be something like that, a political activist fighting for the human rights, which I kind of am, but from an angle of a photographer and an artist.

CM: Which photographer from your home country inspires you the most?

GN: Photographers rarely inspire me to be honest, but I can give you some names whose work really makes me happy. I’m lucky to also be friends with all of them, but I’m not naming them because of our friendship, it’s just that the scene is so small that everyone knows each other in Tbilisi. Here they are: Nata Sopromadze, Levan Maisuradze, Tato Kotetishvili (he’s known to be a cinematographer, but I love his vision in his photos, too), Davit Giorgadze and of course my favorite cabaret singer who also happens to be a photographer: David Meskhi.

CM: Black and white or color?

GN: I admire a lot of black and white photos, but it’s not my thing to shoot.

CM: Your favorite place in your hometown?

GN: My brother’s terrace, I guess.

CM: Which posters used to hang on the walls in your teen bedroom?

GN: I didn’t have my own bedroom growing up.

CM: If your city would be a piece of clothing, what would it be?

GN: A brown leather jacket with the Must Go Bag.

CM: During the Soviet Union, pictures had to be smuggled from East to West through the iron curtain. Even though this curtain has long since fallen, how difficult is it for young creatives to cross these borders and to get international attention

GN: It is still hard, but not as hard as it used to be. Even I, who doesn’t consider himself as privileged or spoiled, feel extremely lucky and grateful to be in my current position. As I mentioned, the general political and social climate in Georgia creates a big barrier for many young artists, but I’m optimistic that real talent will still be noticed and appreciated.