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Tuesday, 15 May 2007

A Modern Svan Icon

Only one picture today. This is because it's such an important one that it deserves its own space. It will also be duplicated in the column to the right of my regular posts, thus remaining always in view regardless of which page you are on.

On a recent visit to Etseri, Svaneti, in the late winter of March 2007, I noticed a new thing about the watchtowers. There was a short local television feature about Svaneti, and one of its shots was of a tower with two windows on the top of each side instead of the usual three or four. Immediately this picture impressed itself upon me as a helmeted face, with the windows only needing eyes in them to complete it.

A few days later, on a day trip to Mestia, Svaneti's capital town, I was able to find and photograph one of the watchtowers which has these two windows on each side, among the nearly 70 towers in the town. Adding a faint face (that of Nodar, my closest Svan friend), gradually I built up the image my imagination held already, using photo editing software on my computer. A new friend, visiting from the UK and much more knowledgeable in layering photographs by computer, gave me much invaluable help, without which I might not have succeeded.

Svaneti was the repository of Georgia's royal treasure in the centuries of warfare and invasion the country experienced, this remote, inacessible corner being an ideal location to send such wealth to for protection. Many of its villages still each have their fabulous chased gold or silver or painted icon tucked away in the local church, under lock and key. Some of these items are among the most important in the entire Orthodox world. The Svan and Georgian languages diverged a number of millennia ago, and Svan may also be considered the "treasure house" of the Old Georgian language. All of this is somehow important to the image.

The photographic composition born out of the vision I received is something I call a modern "Svan icon". Nodar's reaction? He laughed hard for five minutes or so upon first seeing it on the screen, and then he sobered up and said to me, "Tony, you've got something here. Part of the spirit of the watchtowers."

This will be the cover of a book on Svaneti someday.


BrownEyedGirl said...

Hey! I didn't know you had a blog. What a great way to keep in touch, see what you are doing and offer up prayers for you and your ministry. I'll be stopping by.
Carole Bate

jsi said...

Hi my name is Jessie and I followed Carole's suggestion to find your blog. I think your photo looks so much like a face, too. With eyes that can perceive. What an amazing realization about your watchtower, with such a prominant spiritual parallel. Your photos show an eye which sees art all around you and they are exceptional. I'm going to keep an eye on your site and follow what you post best I can.

Tony Hanmer said...

Greetings Carole - great to hear from you. The blog is now my main way of displaying what I see and photograph. Not much of the obviously spiritual here, the watchtower picture excepted - but it's a joy to present anyway.

Jessie - nice to meet you, glad you enjoy the work. This is a special photo, with lots of story behind it. I'm usually not so... surrealist, but this one cried out for such an approach. As for the rest of the photos... it has been written, "Beauty is in the eye which sees". I'm blessed to be in such a gorgeous country, but also I look for beauty wherever I am. God's signature.

Tony Hanmer said...

Ps Carole, love the photo of you reflected! That's my kind of thing! Cool!