Natela Grigalashvili is a freelance documentary photographer based in Tbilisi, Georgia.
First of all, I have to say your photos are very amazingly good! How do you get to do that?
Thank you. For me it’s is very important to spend as much time as possible with the community that I’m photographing. I do a lot of research before starting a project and then go and live with them as long and as often as possible. Most of my projects are long term – for example I’ve been working on my “Final Days of Georgian Nomads” and “The Doukhobors’ Land” projects since 2013 and more than 30 years on my “Village of the Mice” project. I think this is noticeable for the viewer when they see my photos.
What would you call your style of photography?
It’s very difficult for me to describe my photography. When somebody asks me what I do I just tell them I’m a documentary photographer and that’s it.
Do you live in the city or village where all your photos were taken? What relationships do you have with the people in your photos?
I was born and raised in a small mountainous village and moved to the capital Tbilisi after finishing the school to continue studying there. I’ve lived in Tbilisi since then but I still consider my home to be my home village Tagveti where I grew up. I still visit my village as often as I can. I think this love and melancholy that I have towards my home has influenced me throughout these years. Nowadays Tagveti is almost empty. Like for many other villages in Georgia 90’s was a very difficult period for this place, lots of people moved in the cities or abroad.
This is why I mainly focus on rural areas of Georgia when I’m doing my projects. I travel in the different regions of Georgia to find stories and start working on them. My projects mainly focus on the issues that these places are facing – depopulation, harsh living conditions, economic issues and etc. As I mentioned above I try to spend as much time as possible with the people I’m photographing. Spending time with them is not only a work but a joy for me.
Two of my long term projects “Village of the Mice” and “The Book of my Mother” are photographed in my home village and I’ve been working on them for around 30 years now.
What exactly do you want to say through your photos?
I want to bring attention to the issues that the rural areas of Georgia are facing so they won’t become empty in the future and don’t share the faith of my home village.
What photographic gear do you use to stay focused on what you do best?
I only carry my camera with me. I prefer small sized cameras. It’s easier to work with them. People don’t really notice it when you’re working with it.
When was your first picture taken?
It’s difficult to remember the exact date now. I started photography in the second half of the 80’s so probably that time.