“I commend this photo to my dear mother in memory of myself, so that she may have a picture of me, because I am far away. Look at it often, and do not forget me. Keep it until your death. Alexandre Ghoghoberidze. 21 February 1915”
Together with Jacopo and Eka, we sit in a kitchen in Mestia, beneath the mountains of Svaneti, and we pore over the Georgian inscriptions on old photos. It is not easy: in a hundred years the Georgian language has changed a lot: old dialectal forms are gone, courtesy formulas have been forgotten, the alphabet was reformed, even handwriting has changed.
“I commend this in memory of myself to my sweet mother and father, and my dear brothers. […] Tabidze. These two boys are my really good friends, Ivane and […] Mamaladze. 29 February 1904.”
The photos, by Georgian boys leaving for the Great War, were left to their parents and brothers, so they would remember them after they died somewhere in Galicia, the Hungarian Carpathians, or under Przemyśl. On them, the authors pay respectful thanks to an editor for having published their articles in the journal of the cultural association of the small town. Officers, citizens dressed in Georgian folk costume, ladies, fathers of families stand for the last time before the photographer, and bear witness, a hundred years later, to a vanished Kutaisi.
“Ekaterina Eristavi, founder of the library of Medjuriskhevi, sister of Kita Abashidze. Shalva Eristavi, from Medjuriskhevi. [… illegible] With thanks to Ekaterina, for having so willingly published my work in the journal Iveria, thereby also enriching the readers of the reading room.”
I found these photos in the cabinet of a small antique shop on the street behind the bazaar of Kutaisi, where we went with Eti to peruse old jewelry. They permit me to take photos of them. Many of them are as if they had been taken by Ermakov, it seems that his successful photos made a school among the Georgian photographers at the turn of the century. I hope to find a photo by him, too, but then I find out that the original photos by Ermakov are kept at home by their owner, the young historian and renowned collector Ramaz Obuladze. He has already published his second book on old Georgian photographs, entitled The Georgian Attire, in which he illustrates traditional clothing kept in museums with the pre-war photographs of mountain dwellers in their traditional costumes and patriotic urban citizens dressed in folk costume. Soon I will write about this, too.