Saturday, 24 December 2016 15:59

Memories of travelling with an open heart

I love travelling. I love immersing myself into cultures, no matter how different, and try to ‘feel’ the people. And I love how my photography allows me to return to those places, to continue musing over what it must feel like to actually live in a certain country.

I have only recently mustered up the courage to do portraits and find that the faces of old people in particular always touch me - their humbleness, their kindness and smiles, that hint of sadness that hides behind those many wrinkles, the often dimmed sparkle in their eyes. I look at those faces and wonder what their homes might look like (most people I photograph I meet out in the street). How do they spend their days? Do they have family? Do they have enough food to eat? Did their lives use to be better?

One particular encounter in Georgia, was made even more touching by my local hostess’s thoughts on my ‘subject’. 

A walk to the lake and into other people’s lives

It was a blustery, freezing cold but sunny day, so she had decided to take me to the lake only a few minutes from her flat on the outskirts of Tbilisi. We walked around, I took pictures of the dark blue lake and the snow covered mountains all around.

Near the water I saw some pretty, very high reeds but when we got closer, we noticed two men there, crouching near a little fire. “Oh there are people there, maybe better not disturb them?” I said. But my friend insisted that it would be okay and greeted them in Georgian as we approached, supposedly telling them that I just wanted to photograph those reeds.

The men invited us to their little enclave by the water like into their living room. They were smiling, courteous and respectful as they talked to us. There were junks for Georgian bread leaning around the stones of their makeshift fireplace and they were drinking clear alcohol, most likely ‘Chacha’, Georgia’s traditional pomace brandy, out of small glasses tuned milky and scratched from use. There was more of it in a clear plastic bottle nearby.

Be our guest

One man immediately refilled his glass, handing it to me with an inviting gesture. I thanked him, refusing his kind offer bending forward slightly, almost bowing, with my hand on my heart which was at this point melting and breaking at the same time. There is something so touching about people who have so little offering to share so openly.

As our eyes met, I whispered to my friend in awe “Oh my, he is beautiful! Ask if I can take his picture?” He happily obliged, telling us that he had actually been on television once. I took several pictures and as we got ready to leave them, they invited us once more to drink with them.

Confusion and humbleness

Once we had walked for a bit, my friend said “You know, this makes me feel so confused. I really want to run back to my house and at least get them something to have with their bread. But I don’t know... would they feel insulted? Embarrassed?”

And we continued wondering as we walked back to her flat in the sharp, icy wind. Most likely they were unemployed.  Maybe their home was too small? Too uncomfortable? Maybe they had told their wives they would go look for work, but knowing there was none, came to this little refuge? Maybe they came there regularly?

May there be warmth

And today, almost two months later, as much of the world celebrates Christmas, I wonder if the two men are there again, by the lake, in their coats and hats, in their little enclave protected from the cold wind and the harsh reality of their lives, with a little fire and a few shots of alcohol. I can only hope that today they are in some warm and cozy place, eating a little more than bread roasted by the open fire.





Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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