Loud cry out “The light is back!” has a special meaning for Georgia that passed the 90s. Since 2015, these words have acquired different meanings – there has been developed a project with this name, which aims to introduce people with disabilities, living in our country, to the public, as well as to retell their stories. Authors of the project hope that by looking closely at the lives of these people we will have answers to more questions, better understand their needs and be collectively able to say: “The light is back” - now we see better!
Today, you can read 176 stories from 11 regions of Georgia on the website of the project, visit these people, look them into the eyes... You really can, just like you would do it at a face-to-face meeting because photos for this project are taken by Natela Grigalashvili. Authors of the project state that the success of the stories they retell is mostly due to these photos. Natela, however, says it just briefly that she joined this activity with great pleasure. She is like that, she does not like to talk much and expresses herself with things she does and photos she takes.
She chose photography years ago to express her position, what she wanted to say. Prior to that, she studied at an art school, worked as an artist-decorator in a theater. As a photographer she started to work at the “Dvrita” newspaper, then she worked at other magazines and newspapers too. Currently, she is an independent photographer, projects, within the framework of which she takes photos, touches upon social themes - religious and ethnic minorities, women, the life of humans, and are always designed for regions. Georgian village and its life is a place where muses of Natela Grigalashvili live.
Natela now shares her knowledge and experience with students of several universities, there have been held a number of exhibitions with her participation, she even made several personal exhibitions. No matter what she does, she always spares time to go to a village road and take photos. As she says, support from various foundations and organizations also helps her implement her ideas. More specifically that from the Open Society Georgia Foundation, Atinati Foundation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, etc. She introduced Dukhobors, IDPs, and others to the public together with them.
One of the similar projects is “Rural Photo Clubs”. “I grew up in a village and I have never lost links with it, I am well aware of problems that exist in villages and regions. This is how I came up with an idea to help them, teach them photography so as to let them discover another world around them, find the extraordinary in the ordinary, enjoy photography as an art”, - says Natela, - “I think this is a successful project because they write to me from a lot of villages, regions and request to implement this project there”.
The first club was established in Gorelovka. The duration of the project was ten months and every month Natela lived in Gorelovka for 10 days. She taught photography to 15 people of different ethnicities from 15 to 62 years of age, the first exhibition was held at the House of Culture also in Gorelovka, the second - in Tbilisi, while the third - in Batumi. Apart from Gorelovka, photo clubs were established in the Pankisi Valley and high mountainous Adjara. These projects were funded by the Open Society Georgia Foundation, the Fund of the President, and the Ministry of Culture. However, Natela Grigalashvili works on projects even without funding.
"Currently, there are several projects like these”, - says Natela, - “I take photos of how people live in high mountainous Adjara, it is where different lifestyle is preserved the most of all, traditions and customs are maintained, however, at the same time, changes take place rapidly. Another project is about young people - while traveling in regions, I shoot photos of how they live there, what they are happy about, what they are worried about, what their hopes or despairs are. This is an observation of people who are supposed to change the reality and provide their input to the creation of a better future for the country”.