October 12, 2018

Georgia, Bettina, me and the fact we survived

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First of all, all the best to my girl, Bettina Krieg, whom´s birthday gave me a reason to finish this series, that was shot in the mountains of Georgia in march earlier this year, but that I share now for the first time.

Looking at these pictures include memories of a confrontation, the threat of violence, I remember seeing flushes of anger… I could tell a lot about this series, each concept of each picture, about my beautiful companion Bettina Krieg, who´s an amazing artist, precious friend and a true gift to the world. She puts a smile on my face right now, just thinking of her. About myself, my work as a photographer, about our 15 years of friendship. Our muse/fling love/friendship, where I photographed her so many times, I cannot count. About how this time was different conceptually, because we photographed each other as a conversation. About how exhausting it was, to do that… all at once, photograph, find spots, get dressed and pose. About how we were freezing, in march in the mountains of Georgia, Kazbegi, by the russian border.

But for all that, a few words are enough, the thing, that is most important to me, you cannot see.  I am not exaggerating, when I say, something happened that scared us to death. Shortly after we got started,  five men appeared, they must have seen us shooting from far, so they took the car to drive with high speed towards us, jumped out and threatened us with words and a body language that told us, we must have done something extremely wrong and now there are people that want to kill us. Tall, strong, furious men, screaming like crazy in russian, shouting wild, violent sounding words…  They made signs to push us to hand over the camera- to delete the pictures. Which we didn’t want do, of course, so we pretended not to understand which provoked them even more. It was frightening, we were alone surrounded by mountains and these angry angry men. We folded our hands for a prayer,  not only pretentiously, in the hope to calm them down by convincing them of our innocence, but also because I think that´s what you learn, what victims do in movies…they pray. We also took action, we apologized without even knowing exactly for what, which might have saved us, because finally one guy of this group started holding the craziest zombielike-looking guy back. We were already sure he´s gonna cost us some front teeth, but we took our chance and escaped, bare feet, tiptoe, with the equipment in our hands back to our safe haven, all down the hill. After, our hearts were beating fast for hours, our legs were shaking, but a little later, with a drink in our hands a question mark in our faces appeared… why did this just happen? That was the weirdest approach of someone to get involved in a shoot… Just a very primitiv way to flirt? Naaa, I don´t think so… but, we did provoke with being us, being women, the way we dressed, behaved… too free? Too careless? Were those guys religious fanatics? We heard of many strict christian russians in this region of Georgia. In this poor mountain region, where tourism is not welcome by everyone, economy might flourish for some,  but it also brings unwanted changes to other locals. Most likely it´s a mix of all that. Also the location was a problem, we could only see nature, but there was a cemetery close by our shooting spot, too far away to see it, but close enough to hurt unwritten rules. They might have thought we acted against their belief system, without respect to the remains of the graveyard. With or without buried ancestors… or they just used it as an excuse to interrupt, let out some of their anger like hooligans. But it could also show the path to even bigger fear. Fear of us. Tourists, woman, pagans, or whatever they saw in us, we undermined their stability, with our pure presence.

Now I wish I´d been able shoot that scenario in a picture…Five angry hillbillies, a red, still running car with smoke, two women in shiny dresses, with no shoes but with folded hands, trying to look more holy than whores, trying to find a way to escape over the mountains, with no orientation but photo gear. It´s hilarious. More a movie that a single image. A crossover between Thelma and Louise, Lord of the rings and Zombie 4-  in a french drama look, but in russian with no subtitles… Congrats!

It almost feels ridiculous now, but I´m glad nothing happened to us. It reminded me, how free I am back home, to be able to do my work wherever I want to, mostly without even thinking of those kind of possible incidents. But it taught me to research better for shootings in foreign countries, not to limit my freedom per se, but to be able to decide for risks and to respond appropriately. I don´t mind to push conservative boundaries with the person I am am, the work I do, if this is the case. But I want to do it in the right way. In the right time. Without provoking violence or anger. Honey attracts more bees than vinegar. I belief in cooperation not confrontation. So next time, I´d invite them to assist me for a shoot to have a proper conversation…ha!

So this series shows everything but this moment, that had to be written down, to complete the other strong experience: us doing our thing.

Besides that,  I captured Bettina from many angles in the next following beautiful days, but more in the resort than in nature. Also out of respect. We work with our experience, which brings us to the bondage series and some topless pics on our terrace…

Georgia is a small, but astonishing country, that had do fight a lot to defend their culture, the unique language and letters, special cuisine and its people, that were very kind to us on all our trip. Everything together was very inspiring and I am happy to share it today with you on this special day, Bettina´s b day.



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