Anne loves people. You can see the connection she builds with strangers, the trust in their eyes, the way their faces open to her camera. A genuine interest in their lives has enabled her to create a portfolio that sucked me in. I want to know their stories, see their country. Her photography has given me an interest in traveling to Georgia, a place I never really thought too much about, a place she travels to over and over again from her homebase in Dumfries, Scotland.
Read on for Anne’s stories about some of the kindness she encountered there – from farmers to priests to taxidermists. She talks about how she learned to approach strangers with the intention of photographing them and how she first started out as a young girl in her kitchen that was transformed into a dark room.
The family, Georgia
LPO: Tell us a bit about your background.
AG: My father gave me my first camera at the age of 8. He was a very keen photographer and used to use the kitchen as a darkroom where I would assist! School, marriage and family then took over until I reached my forties when I developed a renewed interest in photography. Black and white darkroom work was my main passion, and I never ceased to be amazed as the final print appeared in the dish. Now that the family are independant I love to travel whenever I can with my partner, who is also a fanatical photographer.
Piano Practice, Georgia
LPO: Do you remember when and why you first fell in love with photography?
AG: The second question is really tied in with the first. I have always been around photographers and still have all my father’s photo albums from the 20s and 30s onwards; in fact, our family photo archive goes back to the late 1800s! It has just been a natural progression to record the people I come into contact with and, hopefully, say something about them.
LPO: You seem to forge a connection with the people in your portraits. How do you approach strangers so that they are open to posing for you?
AG: Approaching strangers was not easy for me to start with – that terrible English affliction of not wanting to intrude! One year we went on holiday with another photographer who was great at putting people at their ease and getting them to sit for pictures and I learned a lot from him. If you approach in a friendly manner and take an interest in what people are doing and how they live, they are usually more than willing to let you take pictures. That way you get a connection with the subject which, hopefully, will convey something of their character to the viewer.
Priest, Sno Valley, Georgia
LPO: Tell us a story about one of the most interesting people you’ve had the privilege to photograph.
AG: On a trip to the far north of the republic of Georgia, way up in the Caucasus mountains, we visited the remote village of Ushguli. As we wandered the streets, we met a man who invited us into his house. We had a long (disjointed!) conversation with him and his wife and then he took us to see his summer house. It was perched on a large rocky outcrop at the edge of his property and just used in the summer months. The first thing we saw on entering the house was an old Gnome enlarger and, judging by the snapshots on his wall, he was a fair photographer. In the bedroom was a large stuffed (badly!) goat and on the walls were various one-legged stuffed birds and the odd small mammal. So he was also a taxidermist. In the main house, he had a collection of musical instruments all of which he could play. A surprising character to find in a far off village where the cattle and goats still roamed the muddy streets during the day!
The Taxidermist, Ushguli, Georgia
LPO: Favorite place to take your camera and why?
AG: I don’t have a particular favourite place, but I try to have it with me whenever I am out and about just in case…
LPO: Share a shot that best represents your creative vision or “eye” as a photographer and tell us why.
AG: I am not quite sure how to answer that. I always like to have an idea of how a picture will look when it is finished, and the wonderful thing about digital images as opposed to darkroom, is that you can alter the reality of your shot to accomplish that end. The farmer and the yellow bus for instance, both parts of the image taken at the same time at a market in Georgia, but the farmer was made the main subject (mainly to emphasize that hat!) and the bus (which was, in fact, his cattle transporter) sets him in context.
Azeri Farmer, Georgia
LPO: What do you hope to communicate through your images when you share them with others?
AG: I hope that people viewing my pictures will gain a sense of the places I visit, the people I meet on my travels and a little bit about me as well, judged by my subject matter.
LPO: Your travels have taken you to Georgia, Belgium, China and Turkey, among others. Which inspired you the most to take out your camera? Anywhere you wouldn’t return?
AG: I think I found Georgia and Turkey the most inspirational. We visited Georgia three years in a row and had a great reception everywhere we went. The Georgians just love to entertain visitors and we were made very welcome. Even in 2009 after the Russian incursion, we returned to the town of Gori which had been hard hit during the troubles, and the welcome was no different. We have been to Turkey every year for the past five years and I love it. The country is huge and very varied, from the seaside of the mediterranean coast to the hill villages of the far east along the Syrian border and overlooking the plains of Mesopotamia. I don’t think that there is anywhere that I would not revisit, but there are still so many countries to visit and so little time…!
Three Boys and a Dog, Turkey
LPO: Is there something you’ve learned over the years that you can share with us that you wouldn’t have known if you didn’t have a camera with you?
AG: Another difficult one to answer. There are places I would probably never have seen if it weren’t for the camera. Destinations are mainly chosen with photography in mind, and maybe I would have wandered the streets of those far flung places like any other tourist were it not for the delight in meeting new people, seeing how they live and sharing that experience through the photographs.
The Cook and his Boy, Gursu, Turkey
LPO: What is the one question you wish I would have asked you and how would you answer it?
AG: You might have asked me if there was any deeper meaning to my photographs in philosophical terms. Well, no there isn’t really. I like to record what I see, I like to show other people something about where I’ve been and who I’ve met, and that’s it folks!
Woman with Cat, Tbilisi
For more of Anne’s work, have a look at her Flickrstream.
For more interviews with photographers, have a look at the archives.