Photography by Claudio Rasano, Interview by Matthieu Lunard.
ML: What attracted you to Georgia?
CR: I had the wonderful chance to get to know Georgia under the programme of a residency exchange programme of the Christoph Merian Foundation, Basel. I must admit that I applied for a residency in South Africa and was then selected for Georgia. The jury thought that my approach would be perfect for a stay there. This was my first «prize»! So my journey took me to the city of Tbilisi. I was completely overwhelmed by the recognition - and then by the country and its people.
ML: Were you there with a special concept in your mind?
CR: I wanted to capture the ways in which people reflect their environments. For example inside a bath house, or the tropical institute.
ML: Nurses, bus drivers, firemen, butcher, workers, your subjects seem to be all all belonging to the people. Did you deliberately choose your subjects from this kind of background? Why?
CR: I don’t choose the people for my pictures, I meet them. And they catch my attention by little things like an expression on their faces, or a gesture, a word. It’s these little things that open up backgrounds and lead me to body of works about nurses, bus drivers, firemen, butcher, workers.
ML: How did you find them and convince them to pose for you?
CR: As I mentioned, I did not find them, they kind of found me. Most of the times, I don’t have to convince them, they genuinely want to pose for me. Before I take a photo, I build a relationship with the person by telling about my work and listening to their state of mind. I think, that approach comes through in my pictures.
ML: Can you please explain what kind place is the dormitory?, It seems to be a nursing home for poor old people, is that so? Are the nurses photographed working there?
CR: The place you are referring to is a shelter for men and women. I photographed the men within their rooms.
ML: You mix Portraits of people mostly alone with empty run down spaces. did you want to convey a feeling of loneliness?
CR: It is important to me to show the subject authentic and in its habitual environment. Only selectively, I extract the subject out of its environment, and I use no background in order to beware context or embellishment.
Besides the portraits, landscapes also form part of my series, as a reversed situation: the landscape emptied of the subject.
ML: What did you find there that was still visually present from the former USSR period and what would you say was the most Georgian thing you have shot? How would you describe their cultural identity? Are the people you met nostalgic of those times?
CR: This is a very difficult, also very politically loaded question, and I prefer not to answer it.
ML: Is there a caucasian identity that you wanted to express via your photos?
CR: Absolutely not, I don’t see people within the frame of a specific nationality. For me it is really more about exploring the relationship between spaces and humans. The Georgian series explores both the subject within the space and the space as a subject itself. Sometimes, I have conveyed the personality that these spaces hold and how they contrast with that of the actual person. Though the spaces may seem empty, they are truly full of personality and history. The interpretation is open to the beholder.
ML: Have you travelled to the other countries of the Caucasus? (Armenia & Azerbaijan) If so did you find a real Caucasian identity that link these countries together? How is it expressed?
CR: I prefer not to talk about cultural identities, I find to be the wrong person for that.