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Brosse Street Journal » Arts and Culture:

Tamar Japaridze: I like to see people in my photos

By By Shehla Sultanova
Brosse Street Journal
Tuesday, September 12 2006
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Tamar Japaridze, who was one of the professional photographers on the personal staff of former Georgia President Eduard Shevarnadze, started photography when she was eleven. While in the president's office, she hated to take pictures of the Shevarnadze, because she did not consider him a good politician. However, in that house Japaridze got acquainted with a man who fell in love with her and became her husband.
She puts a cup of tea and chopped oranges on a small glass table. In her blue jacket she looks like a model, thin and tall with delicate facial features. Sunlight from the window shines in her light brown hair. Japaridze leans back to the armchair and lights a cigarette.
The house where she lives with her husband, husband's parents and two children has an atmosphere of relaxation. Huge bookshelves with lots of books, pictures and photos on the wall and some old furniture reveal that this is a house for artistic people.
She remembers that she bought an old, second-hand camera with the mark "FED" (after Soviet reformer Fredrick Engel Djerjinski ) and started to walk around Tbilisi.
"My mother liked that I took pictures, but she was against my walking alone. It was a quite dangerous time in 1991 in Tbilisi for an 11-year-old girl to walk around Tbilisi and take pictures," she says.
Guram Sibakhashvili, a well-known photographer in Georgia, was her first teacher in photography. He taught her how to take different kinds of pictures, develop film and produce a picture herself at home.
"I had a corner in the basement of our house. I created my own small studio where I worked on my photos and spent most of my time. I took a picture of everything, absolutely everything. But mostly I preferred people. I like to see people in my photos," she says.
Japaridze's one and half year old daughter, Elene, comes in from a walk with her nurse and runs to her mother, hugs her and in her childish language tries to explain something.
"My children are funny," Japaridze says and kisses her "They take after their father…now go, Elene" she says, and sends her daughter to her nurse, lights next cigarette and continues.
In 1997, she started to learn photography from Dato Skhatadze, in the school of photographers at his studio, Sepia.
" I studied there for two years. And I loved the school. But I learned not only the skills of photography, but also how to analyze photos taken by different professional photographers in different times. We met with professional photographers from other countries and it helped a lot to learn more professional skills," says Japaridze.
Today, Skhatadze remembers her as one of his best and most energetic students.
"She was very young when studied in my studio and was always full of ideas which she tried to realize. I admired her plans, but I knew that in most cases it was not possible to realize them in Georgia," says Skhatadze
In 1999, Japaridze left the studio. "At that time I lost my grandfather who was the best friend I ever had in my life." Her eyes fill with tears when she talks about her grandfather and she tries to hide it. "He was a support in our family. That was a financially difficult period in my life and I had to find a job.
"When I told Skhatadze about my going to president's office, he told me I will get a big school of photographers there. And actually it was so, but not as I understood it."
In 1999, Japaridze was admitted to work in president's post office "Photo chronic" as one of the personal photographers of Shevarnadze. But gradually she became dissatisfied with her work.
"I hated taking photos of Shevarnadze. I saw nothing interesting there. I saw no history in his photos. He was in the same suit, in the same pose crossing his hands, in most cases in the same room. What was the use of taking his pictures? Shevarnadze did not think about Georgian people and was a very passive politician," she says.
Japaridze's close friend, Leila Blagonravova, who worked with her as a photographer in the president's office, says, "Tamar did not like to work there. When you work in such kind of place you should devote yourself to your work and put aside some principles. But she had strong principles and she did not like to do what was beyond her principles"
"First principle of photographer for me is that he or she should love this work and it second it should be interesting for them," says Japaridze. She adds that on the other hand, it was actually a great experience for her. As she points "I could separate professionally taken picture from unprofessionally taken picture," she says.
Japaridze doesn't regret that she worked in presidential office. Even if it was not a chance for her to develop herself as a photographer, there she met Dmitriy Chikvaidze, who later became her husband.
" I met Dima there and we have good family now. I love him and his family. He wanted us to live separately, but I chose to live with his parents. When I first came to this house as a guest, I liked them and the house so much. You see, lots of things are old here. I am fond of old things. Each of them has its history, even a spoon. They tell you that people gathered all this drop by drop, with each salary. You can see their labor," she says.
She dedicated herself to her family and children for some years and it detached her from photography, but she did not stop. Japaridze learned the history of photography and became a photo critic.
Now, she works in the Institute of Culture, where she teaches history of photography in the art department. She also works as a photo editor in an agricultural magazine, the forthcoming Nakveti (field of land) and a trainer in short photojournalism courses in GIPA (Georgian Institute of Public Affairs). Sometimes she takes photos for clients.
She wants to take photos of some people whose names she thinks will be in history. These include Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, Minister of Education Kakha Lomaia, present deputy in Georgian parliament Giga Bokeria, filmmakers Eldar Shengilayi and Godezi Choxeli.
"I also wanted to take picture of late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania. I don't think all of them are favorites of the public. But they are people who are making reforms and doing something for Georgia and make history," says Japaridze.

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