Photographer Francis Prymerski on Georgia: Criticism & Recommendations


French Photograph Francis Prymerski has worked with world famous stars Joe Cocker, James Brown, Scorpions and Rammstein just to name a few, but has had his life firmly tied to Georgia for the past 10 years. He was a member of the filming/photo crew that created “Georgian Legend,” a clip that catapulted Erisioni song and dance group to global fame. Since then, Francis spends at least six months in Georgia every year. And despite amassing a considerable following of admirers for his work, it was a different reason altogether that brought him minor social media star status: the footage where he implores each and every one of us to “do something and help” an almost ruined village in Svaneti which went viral and has had over 260,000 views to date. GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV Show paid Francis a visit, whereupon he imparted on us his views of Georgia’s current predicaments. And be warned, these are some of the more hardline (although justifiable) criticisms that any foreigner has given since the famed soviet writer Viktor Astafyev wrote his infamous “The Catching of Gudgeons in Georgia,” comfortably alienating himself from the whole nation. Much like Astafyev, Prymerski’s criticisms are laced with admiration and sympathy towards the country and its people, or rather to “what both of them could, and should, be like.”

On Pollution

“Georgia is a country that has been progressing for 10 years. And that progress brought with it both good and bad. First, I’d like to speak about the bad side. Last month, I went to Kutaisi. It was a shock. Plastic bags and packets everywhere, even entwined in tree branches. The picture I saw there hurt me profoundly because I respect this country. One should respect his /her country, and should try to resolve this problem. For example, in Europe, its banned for stores and hypermarkets to give out small plastic bags. This solution should be applied here too. One should respect the nature. The same applies to the level of pollution in Tbilisi. There are more and more cars, and each passing week, it becomes more and more difficult to breathe. When I stay in Tbilisi, I consider myself Georgian and all this stuff concerns me.”

On the Svanetian village of Adishi, on the brink of ruin

“I’m going to go back to Adishi to see what the situation is like there, whether anything has changed since I made that clip. The situation I saw there means only this: history has been abandoned. I discussed the situation with the local population. Steps should be taken to bring [tourists] there. This situation cannot be left as it is now. I’m not just a tourist, I’m a Tbiliseli. This city adopted me, and I’m begging you: please, do something. Tourism is both the heritage and the driving force for this country. In Georgia, there are a lot of things that do not exist in other countries. One should take care of this. There’s this huge tourism boom and the situation in this field should be improved: roads, pollution... Steps should be taken in this regard. Georgia is a country where they know how to host. People who come here, come back for more. It’s a country where you feel the culture through the supra and it makes people happy.”

On the importance of Authentic Architecture and urbanization

“I saw pics and videos of the Tbilisi of the past. It was a green city, with trees, unique houses, and special unique features. Today, it’s starting to look like any other European city. I fell in love with Georgia because when I arrived here, I turned up right in the past. Here, you have practices that do not exist in Europe. That’s the appeal of Georgia. I see Georgia progressing, but you should find the right place between the historic and the emotional. The way things are going, Tbilisi will end up looking like any other city.

I respect the futuristic-looking architecture of recent times. But one thing that shocked me was the casino beside the Patriarch’s residence, permanently illuminated in ugly colors. Is this modernism? I don’t think so. I’m all for modernism but one should know where to place it. Building a 200-meter hotel? OK, might look good in Dubai, but it’s harder to pull it off in Tbilisi. Modernism should not compete with the old architecture.

Over the last 10 years, Georgia has progressed in developing modernism and I say: well done. But one should know where to put it. Look at the photo of Tbilisi, at the place named Maidan, in the old days, and compare it with today’s version. One should also stop allowing random construction. As for the pollution, you know that in Paris the circulation of cars in the center is restricted. The Tbilisi authorities could introduce electric streetcars. Once upon a time, there were streetcars in Tbilisi. This would serve as a good solution for the mix between modernism and the old époque. This would also contribute to solving the pollution problem.”

Vazha Tavberidze

11 January 2018 19:08