Coming from a country where analog photography services are not easily found, I was expecting to arrive in Georgia and find myself in a similar situation. What happened is exactly the opposite.
Taken aside our big cities, like São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, it is not easy to find developing and printing services in Brazil. Even the film rolls are not easy to come by and when you find stores selling them you will always face high prices. This happens because of the country’s protectionist import policy (very high taxes) and because film in Brazil have not yet seen it’s glorious return like it is happening in European countries.
In the end of July a plane landed in Tbilisi and inside it was I. The view from the plane window already promised great landscapes. What an amazing place. I confess coming to Georgia without researching too much online about anything but even so I had great expectations. Aside some questions asked online to some random Georgian photographers (how many and how good they are), I didn’t know anything about labs and other analog services in Tbilisi.
In my second day in Tbilisi I went to visit the Brazilian embassy and discovered this neighbouring small gallery. It was called Fotografia (or ფოტოგრაფია). In my first day there I met two people, Nino-Ana and Jörg. NinoAna is the gallery manager (and also photographer) and Jörg a German photographer that would become a good friend. I would discover later that this is the standard of Tbilisi: going to places and meeting interesting people is a rule here and it can happen in a daily basis if you go outside your home.
Not only did the gallery have amazing prints, mainly from native photographers, they also had B&W lab service and film rolls for sale at a fairly good price. That was a good sign. By talking to Nino-Ana I also discovered that analog photography is a big thing in Georgia. Since digital cameras tend to have a high price and most people can’t afford them, many elect analog cameras as the tools to create their images. It’s fairly common to see people holding their analog equipment while walking on the streets in Tbilisi
Aside from Fotografia, I also tried two labs in the city: Laboratory 25 and another one in Liberty Square (this last one couldn’t help me, because they could not accept 120 film rolls). In Laboratory 25 Gigi provided me with very good color film development services and scanning. I was surprised how fast he was able to deliver the rolls (always in 24hr in my case) since he does it manually and not in a minilab machine.
As someone who’s gotten used to brewing his own chemicals, developing and scanning the films, everything in home, I was really happy to see how easy it was here in Tbilisi for me to get everything done.
Tbilisi itself is a spectacular place. Every corner you turn seems like a good location for photos. For a portrait photographer like me, each street visited is a new inspiration, a new place to fit someone to portray. I have this feeling that this town suits analog photography. The colors and the architecture have this nostalgic vibe that brings you back to old times. It doesn’t mean the city is not modern though. The culture is vibrant, full of young people, and you can find all of the things you have in any other city. But the nostalgia feeling is always present, even if you’re not from here.