“When working for the editorial office it was essential to have your own camera. That was more important than the quality of photos you made,” Marika Amurvelashvili recollects some stories from the past. We used to work together for the Georgian daily 24 Saati (24 Hours) when the print edition was taking its first steps. “In the past I used to go for shooting as of assigned,” says Marika, “Maybe two or seven times a day and of different duration. I always used to work at my option. Same way now. Of course, I try take customer’s opinion into account, but my freedom should not be restricted, unless otherwise I might refuse to work further.”
Now Marika is an independent photographer and co-operates with different organizations. From time to time publishes photos in magazines, they are photo stories, as a rule. In general she loves working on long-term projects since she thinks they produce more in-depth and interesting results compared with the short-term reports. “A part of the income from private orders I spent on funding this kind of projects,” says Marika, “Remuneration in Georgia is so little and so inadequate that it’s impossible for a documentary photographer to exist. Therefore, I try to provide material to foreign editions too and co-operate with international organizations. Hopefully, with time, Georgian media will be paying more attention to documentary photography and I our work will be deeper appreciated.”
Gogita Bukhaidze, a highly experienced photographer and a participant of numerous exhibitions is cooperating with several editions. “In Georgian media remuneration is very low, therefore I collaborate with several editions,” says Gogita, “In the main I am occupied in the field of sport and, hence I work in normal conditions, unlike those photographers who got to work on politics. I work with my own camera. Unless there are holidays in sport I am busy with shooting 3-4 days a week. I have got enough of time and freedom.”
One of the main reasons professional photographers do not fully cooperate with the Georgian media is low payment. As a result the national press is increasingly re-using published photo material and applying search engines, or hiring experienced staff, hence the visual quality vividly goes down. While a magazine or a newspaper is not just a good article, a good photo is the best “fishing rod” to attract readers. But Kakha Pkhakadze, the Chair of the Association of Photographers of Georgia thinks a good photo is not just a “fishing rod.”
“Same photo material circulating in newspapers and magazines causes readers’ inner protest. One thinks the editorial staff does not care about the photo the news is delivered with, consequently the reader’s attitude to the edition changes. Since photo is the mean of visual perception the reader seeing the same photo might feel s/he had already read the material and put the edition away. Let alone the loss of interest good and fresh photos is a matter of prestige for the edition,” says Kakha Pkhakadze, “Now have a look through the newspapers and you will see that the articles about recent flood are attached with the photos portraying the flood of the past year. How can one talk about prestige and editorial policy after that?”
The process of photo shooting is a philosophy to Kakha Pkhakadze. Georgian newspapers and magazines are mainly content with having a shot, but something else is the main thing – how expressive and informative the photo is,” the chair of the Association of Photographers of Georgia clarifies. It’s enough to see the photos of the same event made by two photographers of different proficiency you will immediately notice the difference. The photo made by the first one is eye-catching, the second one is just ordinary, that speaks of nothing. The first is achievable through talent and hard work.”
There is another thing Kakha Pkhakadze considers as the sign of professionalism – that’s the ability to hide own stance. “Many people lacking awareness cannot understand how the photo can portray one’s approach, it’s just a photo and nothing else, they think. But it is not like that, there are a lot of examples to cite to prove that,” he says, “A good photographer can manage to conceal his/her attitude, despite his/her sympathy or antipathy to a certain event. This kind of photo is of interest to the media that maintains objectivity. These kinds of professionals mainly work for foreign editions.”
Photo editor Levan Kherkehulidze is pleased to recollect the times the Liberal magazine used to be prepared for publication. He used to be happy not only with the works done but the photographers’ attitude to work. “Each of them was a professional fulfilling the assignment with proficiency. Everyone enjoyed freedom in work since understanding between us was always in place. I used to trust them and they never suffered from my pressure,” says Levani, “The liberal has got a huge photo archive. Whenever I did not have a relevant material I used to apply to InterPressNews or Reuters. A photo was not just an addendum to the text, it was a valuable visual accent. And nowadays the Tabula magazine is the only exception.
One of the main reasons for the lack of high-quality photos in the Georgian media, according to the chair of the Association of Photographers of Georgia, is the absence of a relevant market in the country. “The editorial office might prefer buying a photo on a certain event to employing a photographer and especially of low proficiency. Where to do that and how?” asks Kakha Pkhakadze, “Photojournalism is going to develop when there is a real competitive photo market in place. As soon as there is one and a particular newspaper starts hiring a highly proficient photo reporter, another newspaper will start fixing failed sales through high quality photos.”
A short while ago Media.ge reported on the photo agency www.georgianphotographers.com launched by Georgian photographers hoping to make it into the first agency of photographers. Another website too http://www.photostock.ge, launched with the support of IT incubator, is taking its first steps. It will be an international online counter for any photographer or customer. Currently the website portrays some trial photos but in the nearest future the web portal will start registering authors and uploading photos.
The web portal will include the photos of any size, topic, price. The prices will be set by the authors. This issue will be arranged in a legal way,” says Khakha Pkhakadze, “There are many foreign websites but it will be ours, a Georgian portal to embrace Black Seacountries. It’s quite possible to start accepting advance orders, we are going to make a special announcement for that purpose. I am dead sure all the aforementioned – the creation of photo market - will fundamentally change the attitude to photography in Georgia.”