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Svaneti Project: Republic of Georgia // 06/29/2015

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I guess its better late than never as they say. This spring and early summer has been BUSY working on various projects. I’ve found myself super fulfilled this season working on some really interesting projects. Projects that have been both creative and with amazing people and they pay! Creativity, Cool People, and Pay. Three things that I always try to shoot for when deciding to take on projects. Two out of three is a must. Three out of three is sweet! Finally, I’ve carved out a moment to share some thoughts and imagery from a ski trip to the Republic of Georgia this past April. This was as much a personal project as it was a job. Best of both worlds.

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For those of you who aren’t exactly sure where the Republic of Georgia is (I didn’t, when I first looked into going there). Georgia’s west coast, runs along the NE shores of the Black Sea. Turkey and Armenia to the South. Azerbaijan to the east and Russia to the north. The Caucasus mountains create the boarder between Georgia and Russia. Flying into Tbilisi, the capitol city (1 million + people), we then drove for a solid day to the Svaneti Region, located in the NW area of Georgia, to the small village of Ushguli to be specific.

Besides the skiing and climbing,  I am so drawn to experiencing new cultures and seeing different places on our mother earth, meeting new people in my travels gives my life balance. Myself, along with my two good friends, Tyler Jones and Seth Waterfall decided to check out Georgia in the spring of 2008 for some skiing adventures. Looking back over the years I realized not to long ago that, that trip shaped me in ways I wasn’t aware of back then. It was my first, what I would call, BIG photography trip. In many ways it set the stage for what and how I wanted to pursue my craft.

Georgia and Russia obviously have a very interesting history between them. Georgia, at one time, part of the USSR is comprised of history that dates well into BC times. Georgia received its independents in 1991. Civil unrest lasted until 2003 at which point  the Rose Revolution occurred and the Government placed welcomed economic and democratic reforms. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are two de facto independent states that lie within Georgia. Flare ups have occurred between Georgia and these states, as they are backed by Russia. The skirmish of 2008 happened 2 weeks after we had left the country.

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Georgians are very welcoming and friendly. You can however look deep into the eyes of the people that lived during the USSR days and gain a very small idea of what they lived through and how much happier they appear to be now. Life still has its challenges as even recent economic struggles continue but for the most part hopeful opportunities exist for those willing to work towards them.

Since that first trip a desire to return has always been simmering. For one reason or another it just never seemed to work out. Personally, I had three reasons to return. The main ski objective we chose on that first trip snuffed us. A stunning coulior on Mt Shkhara, a 17, 040 ft peak wouldn’t let her guard down stiff arming us with some blue ice conditions near the top. Although we were able to ski several quality lines, this one was a gem. I wanted to go back and send this rig and take care of unfinished business. I also wanted to return and see our friends that we had made. See what their lives were like now. I find it amazing to have formed relationships around the world that skiing and climbing can provide. The third reason that drew me back was a desire to improve upon my photography work since that first trip. Over the years I looked back, as my craft continued to improve, and felt that so much of the imagery I had taken was shit. I wanted to do better.

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After nearly a year planting seeds and planning.  Myself and Tyler Jones returned along with friends, Forrest Coots and Chad Sayers. Super big thanks to Dynastar Skis for making the trip happen, without their support it wouldn’t have been a reality. This most recent trip was a success on many levels. Although we found that gem line in more icy conditions than the first time. We were able to leave ski tracks on some pretty cool terrain. Revisiting old friends, once again, provided a chance to witness other peoples lives and add balance to my own life. I shot video and stills again during this trip, just as I had the first time. The content I shot was by far of much higher quality and work that I am proud of. But the lesson I learned was that my craft will always be a work in progress. There is no perfect. Continually striving to pursue my craft with passion will raise my quality of work. It requires a lifetime. I have an opportunity to start each day working to be a better photographer and person than I was the day before.

I am humbled by the idea that I can pursue my craft and create work that continues to grow in quality but yet there is no end.

Several different media pieces will be coming out from this trip throughout the winter, including a short video. Stay tuned.

For now, here are a few images that I found myself gravitating towards.

Enjoy.

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