Top: World's first 360-degree Panorama of Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia, Feb 24/2009, from 12 separate photos...

Saturday, 28 April 2007


[Typo of the day] Beauty Saloon - a unique merging of 2 very different establishments: Get yer beer or whiskey AND a manicure or touch up that hair colour all at the same time. A worryingly more common sign than it should be around town, likely more frequent than the correct spelling
Relaaaax, Miette, BC, Canada, June 2006

Put your feet up,
chill out
Shuswap Lake, BC, Canada, August 2006

A family reunion on this magnificent lake. Perfect weather all week - I slept on a mattress on the beach every night. Catching up with relatives, some of whom I hadn't seen in many years. One morning I woke up early and, with my brother-in-law rowing beside me for safety's sake, swam across the 2.6 km of the lake's width. What a great feeling.

This shot of the lake is simply the result of moving the camera during an exposure of about 1/8 second.
Closeups, Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada, June-July 2006

Flowers (G&L, more of yours) and a sweetpea tendril (TV).

Pilgrimage, Lac Ste Anne, Alberta, Canada, July 2006

Every summer this large lake holds an enormous Catholic pilgrimage, mostly attended by natives, who come in thousands. There are processions, church services and lake baptisms, and the permanent church there has a wall of crutches discarded after healings. I was there for one of the evenings, and then raced back to another part of the lake as I saw the sunset developing.

Friday, 27 April 2007


Welcome to my new blog entry category: TOTD = Typo of the Day, words & phrases I've seen around Tbilisi/Georgia as it struggles to throw off Russian & jump into the world of English as a second language... I'll try to add a new one every day.

The first discovery:

$EXCHANGE$ - all it needs is an extra space after the X to make it perfect
It's Retro Graphics Day 1 on the Blog.

I was seriously into photocopying as an art form for a while in the late 1980s. From bottom to top: first, a copy of one of my portraits, followed by a copied-until-toneless closeup.

Next, putting my own face on the photocopier, moving it while the copy was being made! I actually used this as my artist's photo for an exhibition in about 1989.

Finally, Terry's and my hands on the photocopier; the black spaces cried out for eyes to be added; the whole thing called "Save Me", which I screen printed poster-size in about 1988, in an edition of seven.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Daytona Beach, Florida, USA, October 1997

The water was warm enough for a visitor from St Petersburg, *Russia*, to swim in. And there was time as well to notice the ordered chaos of wave patterns on sand.
Komyati, Ukraine, April 1992

I'm sure it looks much different now, 15 years later.
Arriving by bus at about 4 am with a group from Austria, all we desperately wanted to do was crawl into bed, any kind of bed. But a large meal awaited us, and how could we refuse or even grumble at such humbling hospitality?
Old steam locomotive, Urals, April 1993

These beauties dot the Russian railway landscape, some (like Lenin's arrival vehicle from Finland) well preserved, others slowly rusting away.
Urals railway station, April 1993

One of my fond memories of these stations is the way that people (usually women) in buildings far apart would chat using the PA system, their conversations as public indeed as a postcard, blaring out for all to enjoy.
Nationalist demonstration, Palace Square, St Petersburg, May 1993

Held on the site of the original October [Socialist] Revolution of 1917, this fairly extreme demonstration was, as I recall, a portent of the increasing nationalism and anti-non-Russian feeling which have tended to characterise Russia since the USSR broke up.
"Ironweed", St Petersburg, October 1993

The ground of Russia does seem to produce an abundance of metal forms. I even wrote a song about them, wondering what they will grow into - lampposts, for example?
Docks, St Petersburg, February 1993

Judging by their clothing, it was well below freezing, as typical for this time of year.
Daghestani sailors, St Petersburg, April 1993

Daghestan is a mountainous republic on Chechnya's eastern border, a small province with about 40 of the 50 languages of the Caucasus. The name of the ship looks like a pun on the phrase "We are searching".

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

A Spring Observation

New leaves on chestnut trees, just opening, still hanging down, so much resemble sleeping green bats that one must look again. Nature laughs, with her Maker.

(I'll try to remember in six months to post my Autumn Observation on the same leaves.)
Prison entrance, Murmansk, October 1993

Having been drawn to the USSR by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's shattering trilogy The Gulag Archipelago, a grim documentary of the deadly Soviet prison camp system, it was with very mixed feelings that I visited this prison. Would we be shown the truth, or a hastily assembled improvement, prisoners warned not to tell the truth on pain of death? Likely things were already changing for the better. I certainly hoped so, as I hoped that the Orthodox church at lower right was real.
Kindergarten, Murmansk, July 1994

Although Murmansk is above the Arctic Circle, it is also a city of well over half a million, the largest city this far north in the world. 28 hours by train gets you there from St Petersburg. And because it is so far north, while its winters are sunless for 2 months, its summers have endless sunshine for the same duration. (Emerging from a banya, a Russian sauna, at 1 am one night, I saw the sun high in the sky, obviously not intending to get anywhere near the horizon.)

I broke a rule here, photographing my young subjects squinting into the sun; but I still like the shot.
Filming at VDNKh, Moscow, August 1991

VDNKh was a huge exhibition ground showcasing all of the USSR. There happened to be a film being shot when I visited it, in front of a fountain representing all of the republics of the Soviet Union.
Train from the Urals to Moscow, September 1993

This well-decorated WWII veteran was one of my companions in the train's 4-berth cabin.
Back to early 1900s Russia for a bit.

First day of school, Birsk, Bashkiria, Russia, September 1, 1993

I had not seen this event until holidaying in the Ural mountains, visiting a friend who lives in Birsk. All the children and their parents arrive in their best clothes; there are speeches and flowers. The boy winking makes the shot.

Cracked paint, Etseri, August 2004

Just part of a door on the second floor of Nodar's village house. But there's a world of rich detail in such glimpses, if you slow down and notice.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Cloud shawl, Etseri, August 2004

We had at last been allowed to drive down to Nodar's home village - the first time I had descended to it instead of driving up. Here, as in Lentekhi, the cloudy weather gave some interest to what were becoming familiar landscapes.
The twins, Ushguli, August 2004

This pair reveal what true Svans look like, Georgian highlanders unmixed with the ancient invaders from Persia or Turkey. I have photographed them on all three visits, but sadly they are now at school in Tbilisi. I hope they will return to the mountains eventually, but more, I hope that they will WANT to, encouraged by improved conditions and a hope and a future.

Here end the Ushguli shots for now - we move on.
Rooftop art, Ushguli, August 2004

Plenty of nice symbolism and folklore gracing a humble sheet of metal holding up TV antennae.
Natural frame, Ushguli, August 2004

What tortures this scene conceals, only hinting at them! For the nettles assailing me were waist-high, the thistles higher still. But the photographer achieved his envisioned picture.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Top tower climb, Ushguli, August 2004

Nodar, his late-teenage children, several local youngsters and I determined to visit the highest watchtower in Europe, Queen Tamar's tower, high above Ushguli. It is part of a ruined fortress complex. Two views from the way up; two from the ruins, looking out and then down over Ushguli; and one of the tower itself, not a typical Svan design.

House museum interior, Ushguli, August 2004

Some of the fantastically detailed carved wood items which are practically the only thing one can buy at all in the village. Not cheap, but each a masterpiece. The chair, bottom picture, at left, is the traditional seat of the male head of a Svan household.

Salt, Ushguli, August 2004

A black-and-white silent film made in Ushguli in 1929 reveals one of the village's biggest weaknesses, a need which the communists exploited in their hurrahed road-building marathon. Salt for Svanetia, it's called, still available on VHS with simultaneous subtitles in Russian and English. Much worth seeing as an introduction to the village as it was at the dawn of its Soviet period. (The music is a much later addition, but never mind.)

Apparently most of the customs the film depicts were real at the time, though Ushguli has modernized somewhat since then and some of the events depicted were acted out. One thing which hasn't changed at all, however, is the lack of local salt. In the film, cows are showing licking each other's mouths in desperation, and also slurping up just-deposited human urine, all for its salt. These scenes of mine are the current vogue among goats: find an abandoned building, and lick its walls every evening for the precious substance.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Hay hay hay, above Ushguli, August 2004 (bottom 2 shots: Mt. Ailama in background)

It's a delightful feeling to move past the "hounoured male guest" phase and be allowed to participate in doing something useful. Besides, we were going to be more of a drain on resources than any had ancitipated, waiting for the roadwork.

A cow needs ten stacks of hay to get thrugh the winter. The family owns ten cows, therefore a hundred haystacks. Did I mention that the scythed grass was on the side of a mountain?

Most of us raked the dried grass together in a first step, while the more experienced piled it up into the stacks, a bent sapling trunk running through each one. I was finding it hard to keep my balance on the same horizontal line, but what came next took my breath away. Dato would grasp each sapling as a handle, and RUN straight down the mountain to the road far below, dragging the entire haystack behind him! This can only be summed up on video - still frames simply don't do it justice.

More Ushguli views, August 2004

Revelling in the gift of this place.

In the end we were a captive audience of the incomparable Ushguli for five whole days, waiting for the clearing of our road. I could hardly have wished for better.

Outdoor lunch, Ushguli, August 2004

A familiar event, but set in what must be one of the most exotic locations in the world.