from ennui to euphoria, this photographer captures the spirit of berlin
Taking cues from the work of Wolfgang Tillmans and Nan Goldin, photographer George Nebieridze has turned his lens to the serene beauty of Berlin by day and the raw energy of the city's young people by night. We met the Georgia native to discuss what...
Berlin has always been a place where one goes in search of youth — a city of endless raves and long tender sunrises promising cheap rents and freedom, a perfect escape for those making art or seeking sexual liberation. The city's appeal is shaped by its visual mythology, the works of Wolfgang Tillmans and Nan Goldin forever stamped in its cultural DNA. But Berlin is a fertile ground for new eyes and new voices, and photographer George Nebieridze is one of the brightest emerging artists capturing the city today: its wild streets and riotous house parties and uninhibited clubs, its dark nights and beautiful dawns, and the seemingly insignificant day to day details of this ever-shifting youthful paradise.
Born in Georgia, Nebieridze moved to Berlin three years ago, attracted by the promise of freedom he couldn't find in his native country. "I was born and raised in post-Soviet Georgia where sexual revolution hasn't happened yet, and society still sees some very simple signs of freedom as taboo," he explains. "There's a high level of sexism, homophobia, and discrimination towards minorities, and growing up in this environment made me question and protest these rules. Moving to Berlin was a kind of rescue." After falling in love with the city, Nebieridze started trying to make sense of it through photography. The result, soon to be published as a book titled '15, is a unique insight into Berlin's underground party scene and an intimate diary of exploring its hidden visual treasures. Nebieridze's work ranges from tranquil and serene landscapes to arousing, disturbing and confusing shots elevating youthful mess to classic beauty.
The structure of the narrative Nebieridze constructs is partly determined by his background: a self-taught photographer, he has a degree in sociology and is endlessly driven by curiosity towards his surroundings. "I developed most of my photographic skills through experience and having surrounded myself with interesting creative people since childhood, including my family. I can't stop being curious and wanting to explore the unknown," he says. "I have many semi-abstract photos that might be details from industrial design, distorted optical effects or landscapes. My biggest passion is color, and the amount of combinations one can create using different textures or surfaces."
Nebieridze's subjects are often captured in a state of physical and emotional nakedness, completely open and self-absorbed — something very rare in our age of obsessive self-editing. In exchange for this openness the photographer has to give up his control, immerse himself in whatever comes his way. "I never stage photos. That means all my photos just happen to me and I happen to be there at that moment," Nebieridze says. "I'm actively involved in all the activities and cultural happenings that are shown in my photographs, most of the people in the photos are my friends. Authenticity is an important part of my work that also means straightforward or having sense of humor."
Three years since he arrived, Berlin hasn't lost its energy and appeal to the photographer, on the contrary, it feels like it's only starting. "Berlin is so diverse. Sometimes it's hard to tell which country I'm in. I can't imagine calling some other place home now. And of course, we have the best drugs, the best parties, the friendliest people. This place is so easy to love. It's unbelievably easy to survive because it's so cheap to live here. But at the same time it doesn't motivate people to achieve more, instead people live from weekend to weekend. It gets worse when you're young, surrounded temptations." The rapidly changing cultural and economical landscape of the city also contributes to the atmosphere: "I can see the city changing every day. It's growing and progressing so rapidly that sometimes it's very hard to stay up to date. Many people come and go, each of them leaves their mark on this place and it goes like this over and over."
So where do the iconic Berlin photographers who came before him stand for Nebieridze? Has living in their shadow ever concerned him? "Someone once told me my work is where Wolfgang Tillmans meets Nan Goldin, which made me happy," he laughs. "I love Goldin as a human being, storyteller, and as a person who can teach us so much about life. I guess I borrow certain manners and components of documentary aspect from her. Tillmans' work made me reconsider how the whole mechanism of photography as a medium works in fine arts. We see each other often in Berlin, he is a very modest and casual person who knows how to hustle and I really respect that. I bet every artist is inspired and somehow mentored by someone else, and that is one of the most wonderful things in this world. But on the other hand I have my own personal intentions and style, and I try to follow that with my whole heart, I want my photography to be able to capture everything I feel".
Text Anastasiia Federova
Photography George Nebierdze