In his latest book published by KAHL, the German photographer Patrick Bienert explores the weight of the former USSR on Georgian society. An invitation to discover this little-known country in full mutation but which seems as if suspended in time.
You are publishing a book entitled "East End of Europe" by KAHL Editions, can you explain us what this photographic project is?
The book is about Georgia a country situated in the transition zone between Europe and Asia. I came to Georgia the first time in 2014. The photographs where taken over the years from 2015 - 2018 in a dialogue with the younger generations about their perspectives, dreams and the daily life in the country.
In the introduction to the book, it says that you only visited Georgia. Why did you choose this destination specifically?
I spent the last ten years photographing and traveling for my personal work in the countries around the black sea on the boarders of eastern Europe. When I came to Georgia for the first time it felt different to the other countries that I had visited and who have been under soviet occupation.
Is this country characteristic of Eastern Europe in your opinion? If so, are there, according to you, any features common to the peoples of Eastern Europe?
I think there is a big difference between the cultures of the countries in Eastern Europe. Georgia is a special place it is often referred as the Italy of the east for its beautiful landscapes, food and wine. The most visible thing the countries in Eastern Europe have in common are the remnants of the soviet occupation and its architecture.
Your book includes a lot of portraits. What do you think these faces tell us about their country?
The book portrays a pro western generation in Georgia, a country in transition between Soviet heritage and Western modernism.While many of the younger generations are drawn to Europe the country is still shaped by the conservatism of the Georgian orthodox church and the remnants of the past.
You seem to photograph mostly women. Do they occupy a special place in Georgian society?
In the patriarchal society of Georgia, most of the women are still expected to submit to the conventions. Love relationships without being married are unacceptable, sex is taboo and traditional gender roles are still very marked. Almost all of the people portrayed were married and had children early, because this is often the easiest way to get out of the conservative, church-oriented family structures, since many families only allow their daughters to move out when they are married.
Why alternate between black and white and colour? Is there a meaning in the choice of each of them?
You can find many places in Georgia where you feel drawn back in time. The black and white images are associated with the past and show the weight of the Georgian identity.
Do you have any special memories of your long stay in Georgia?
I learned how much the hope of belonging to the European Union and the value of the European Thought means for a country like Georgia. The importance to stand up for your wishes and dreams since there is a possibility to overcome the shadows of the past.
Interview by Coline Olsina
164 pages, 40€