A journalist and a photographer

Photo by Temo Bardzimashvili

I used to call myself a photojournalist. When my friends and colleagues heard the word “photojournalist,” they thought “photographer for a newspaper.” In the early 1980s, a photojournalist received an assignment from an editor or reporter, traveled to a particular place, at a particular time, and photographed whatever the journalist had requested. A photojournalist primarily worried about HOW to take a GOOD photograph.

These thoughts were stimulated by Temo Bardzimashvili identity as “a Georgian journalist and photographer.” Note that the word “journalist” precedes the word “photographer.” Indeed, Temo is a journalist who reports on social, environmental and ethnographic topics. He spends a lot of time making phone calls and traveling around to learn WHAT to photograph, WHEN to photograph, and WHY these photographs have consequence. He is a journalist who happens to use a camera to “take notes.” Temo’s printed notes (photographs) along with captions become his “story.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Temo’s journalism in a photo exhibition called “The Unpromised Land – the Meskhetians’ Long Journey Home.” Sponsored by the European Centre for Minority Issues, his photographs, accompanied by informative captions in both Georgian and English, appeared at the Literature Museum in Tbilisi. The photographs tell stories about the culture, identity, and religion of Meskhetian communities currently living in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. They also show the history of Meskhetians’ deportation.

Although the exhibition has ended, you can see examples of Temo’s work here http://agency.photographer.ru/authors/index.htm?id=102, and you can read about his work here: http://temobardzimashvili.com/.

Photo by Temo Bardzimashvili

Photo by Temo Bardzimashvili

Birds of a feather . . .

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

I had the pleasure of meeting Temo Bardzimashvili, a documentary photographer, multimedia storyteller, and videographer, who specializes in ethnographic type of photography. He likes to document minority people’s lives and social issues. For example, he leaves tomorrow for a 3-week trip to Istanbul and Kyrgyzstan in order to photograph the Meskhetian Turks.  They are the former Turkish inhabitants of Meskheti (Georgia), along the border with Turkey. They were deported to Central Asia during November 15–25, 1944, by Joseph Stalin and settled within Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Of the 120,000 forcibly deported in cattle-trucks, a total of 10,000 perished. Temo started the project two years ago, when he worked for Eurasia.net (http://www.eurasianet.org/). See his audio slideshow: Meskhetian Turks Return to Lost Homeland in Georgia (http://www.eurasianet.org/node/32776). Now he’s continuing the project with the sponsorship of the European Center for Minority Issues (ECMI), an NGO in Germany (http://www.ecmi.de/). The final product will be an exhibition in a gallery in Tbilisi, so stay tuned!

Temo graduated from CSJMM in 2009. Earlier he had gained a bachelor’s degree in physics in Russia/Georgia and a master’s degree in math from Michigan State University (where I earned my PhD). Before leaving the USA and returning to Tbilisi, Temo bought his first digital SLR. He soon realized that he’d prefer to work as a photographer than as a sedentary office worker, so he took a 4-month short course in photojournalism taught by CSJMM’s Leli Blagonravova. Leli then convinced Temo to earn a master’s degree in journalism and media management from CSJMM.

Temo said that he both enjoyed and gained a lot from the program. Before entering the program, he had been so shy that he was afraid to call potential sources, but after he felt comfortable as a reporter using words or images.

For his final project, Temo and a classmate did a multimedia story of Caucasian Sheep dogs, which with some revisions was later distributed by Eurasia.net. See his story: Two Worlds of the Caucasian Sheep Dog (http://www.eurasianet.org/node/62803).

I really like Temo and greatly admire his storytelling and images. I hope that indeed, birds of a feather will flock together and that we’ll soon begin working together on a project.