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Bridge Over the Ocean

 

 


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Bridge Over the Ocean


...Georgians struggle to survive in the turbulent transition period from the Soviet Union to independence, from traditional ways of life to modern, from the East to the West. These photographs speak volumes of the history, culture, and contemporary life shared by all the people of Georgia ."

Rowena Cross Najafi,
United States Embassy , Georgia


Paul Calhoun

Gia Chkhatarashvili 


Deep Purple Dreams

Georgia, a former Republic of the Soviet Union declared its independence in 1991. Located on the east shore Black Sea, it is the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, a land where religious and cultural traditions date back centuries, and since independence has entered a period of difficult economic and social transition. Once considered an industrial center, and the "breadbasket" of the Soviet Union, Georgia's manufacturing and agricultural bases have for the most part disappeared, and unemployment estimates range from 40 to 70 percent. With the embrace of western values and market economic theories, social supports such as guaranteed healthcare, pensions, and education, taken as facts of life during the Soviet period, have come under extreme pressure and with that, long cherished ways of life and cultural values have begun to shift. As one Georgian historian put it, "Many thought independence would mean the freedom to listen to Deep Purple, few had any idea what was in store for them."

I traveled to Georgia in September of 2004 for a retrospective exhibit of my work, to exhibit the photographs of disadvantaged young people I work with in the United States, and to teach photography to Georgian "street children". During that time I formed a friendship and professional relationship with Gia Chkhatarashvili, an accomplished Georgian photographer. Mr. Chkhatarashvili has since been awarded a Fifty Crows/Soros Foundation fellowship, and in May of 2005 he and I, with the sponsorship of the United States Embassy in Georgia among others, had joint exhibitions at the Goethe Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia, and the State Museum of Art in Batumi Georgia. We continue to produce photographs focused on the transition of Georgian life, and future exhibitions are being planned in Moscow, Toronto, and other cities in Europe and the United States.