Georgian Photographer David Tabagari’s Alternative Tbilisi

Exclusive Interview

New talents are emerging in various fields of art in Georgia, and photography is no exception. Photography has always been popular in Georgia, since the very introduction of the field, and the latest technological advancements and diverse opportunities are now enabling these photographers to create amazing works that go viral on social media and tell stories about people, events, and more. In this regard, the most distinguished and aspiring self-made Georgian photographer is 22-year-old David Tabagari, who has already earned fame through his impressive works on social media. The young photographer is known for telling real stories through portraits of ordinary people of different professions, such as fireman, sailors, police, miners, etc. Yet, he has also become famous for his images of night-time Tbilisi. The photographer lately held a public meeting, where he gave insight into his work and shared his experience with the audience. GEORGIA TODAY has had the pleasure of watching his career develop over the last few years, and in this interview, we explore how David started on his journey as a photographer.

How did you start your career in photography?

When I was 5-6 years old and playing with other kids, I saw everything as a scene to be captured. At the age of 12, I started taking photos with my mobile, and gradually my interest towards photography evolved. Then I bought a small digital Sybershot camera and started out on my first steps into proper photography. This camera served me two years and in this period I took my first photos in my hometown Chiatura. This is well-known town notable for its soviet architecture, cable cars and mines. Later, my parents gave me a camera with which I embarked on a photographic career more seriously and actively. Through practice and travelling a lot, I developed quick pace photography, walking the streets and capturing everything I met on my way. I can say with pride that I’m a self-made photographer and I have not attended any training or classes in this direction. I think learning through one’s practice and mistakes is the best way to perfect your skills and shape yourself as a professional in a particular field.

You regularly go out into Tbilisi and capture alternative Tbilisi at night. You managed to depict winter Tbilisi from an absolutely different perspective and elevate the New Year’s mood among the citizens. Tell us more about your night journey.

I started capturing night Tbilisi around a year ago. The work process at night is really interesting and unusual since I try to depict what is not visible to people as a rule. During the daytime, the city is familiar, yet the night city is totally different with its illuminations and buildings. I try to work almost every night, heading out at around 11-12 o’clock and getting home at 5-6 in the morning. To be honest, it is really exhausting to work at night in such circumstances, especially in winter when its freezing. The conditions for taking photos are bad and there is a high chance camera’s objective to be spoiled due to the cold; yet the riskier the process is, the more interesting and adventurous it is for me. I think the key to my success lies in thorough work and great commitment to my job.

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I work for Tbilisi City Hall, which saw my photos on social media, liked them and made me an offer to work for them. I have been employed for two months now and I’m honored to work with the team.

Name some key moments in your career to date.

My portfolio includes several projects for National Geographic, namely a reportage about the Borjomi forest fire, how firemen worked to extinguish it, the results, its present state and what is planned for the future. Additionally, I won the National Geographic project named ‘Nature around us’ – my photo was published in the magazine. My image depicted an abandoned factory in the city of Kutaisi occupied by moss and plants, demonstrating that nothing can withstand the power of nature. Right now, I’m trying to focus on discovering and depicting alternative Tbilisi at night by photographing buildings and people.

What interests you most about photography?

Although I’m working towards a Bachelor’s in Law at the Technical University, photography will remain my primary occupation. I’m particularly interested in working in hot spots, and I like urban and street photography, since you can capture and transfer real emotions into an image. It is very emotional to work with ordinary people: I try to photograph real faces and retain the authenticity of their emotions. For me, photography is not solely a field of art, but part of my life and the best way to reflect reality and communicate with people. What I like most about photography is how my camera has allowed me access to places, people and situations I would never otherwise be around. I remember the photo I took on December 28, 2015, that received a massive outcry among the public. I captured an old lady freezing in the street and selling herbs, she was covered in snow and you could barely see her face. As I said, I always try to catch and picture real human emotions, and this poor saleswoman is a clear example of it. When I woke up in the morning, I had a feeling I’d take an important picture that day. The photo went viral on social media and was published by many media publications. The image received positive feedback among the public, and some people even started searching for that woman to help her.

By Lika Chigladze

17 January 2019 18:39