Photographer Onnik Krikorian’s new photo series comes in two parts: the first part consisted of Krikorian investigating the Cross Riders motorcycle club the second part, on the punk and goth scene of the Georgian capital Tbilisi. Krikorian wanted to explore the emergent subcultures of Tbilisi, which he saw as “a reflection on the level of democracy and room for carving out an alternative path in life. Even so, interestingly enough, even those among the subcultures I photograph consider that the environment around them is not open, diverse, or tolerant enough.”
It’s an attempt to expand the common understanding of Georgia as “picture-postcard perfect,” says Krikorian. Georgia has long been considered pro-West he explains, but there’s still a strong influence from the Georgian Orthodox Church, which has strong ties to the Russian Orthodox church. Georgia is hardly the static, backwoods nation it’s made out to be.
“Whenever you see ‘positive’ photographs of Georgia, and also Armenia and Azerbaijan, it’s generally either of historical and cultural monuments or the residents of scenic but poverty-stricken villages. That’s fine, and I’ve done that too, but in Georgia especially there’s also the tendency for photographers to present an image of a sophisticated Georgian-culture centric population which clearly represents only a small section of a population struggling to get by. And the guys and girls hanging out in the punk or biker scene can hardly be considered upwardly mobile. Some of them don’t even have money for beer priced 3 GEL ($1.20).”
Krikorian has been covering the South Caucasus since 1994: he’s covered psychiatric hospitals, conflicts in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region, the Russian invasion of Georgia, the precarious condition of the Kurds in Turkey, and widespread poverty in Armenia.
“My main influences are British war photographer Don McCullin and Dorothea Lange, who documented the hardship during the Dust Bowl,” says Krikorian. “The work of Clay Enos in documenting night life in the United States was also something that made me think there was something similar that could be done here.”
Check out some of his photos from the series (first published by Radio Free Europe) below: