Tbilisi 1991 – Walking the line

In early September 1991, I was in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, a country that had only gained independence from the Soviet Union in spring that year. My ticket there was my first overseas commission for the Guardian newspaper, to cover the inaugural International Juggling Convention. Rooming with a local family, and not understanding local drinking customs, I left my apartment each morning jacked up on ice-cold vodka and weighed down by stone-solid cheese bread. One of very few members of the foreign media in the city at that time, I shot lots of black and white images of jugglers, as well as lots of Tbilisi residents – most just living their lives, but some protesting on the streets against the new government. Political tensions quickly mounted and a state of emergency was declared. After an unscheduled second week in Tbilisi, and few scapes, I finally managed to share the fligh out with some sheep and melons.

May 2024_ Press release:

The upcoming Kolga Tbilisi Photography Festival is set for opening on the 16th May 2024, 7pm at the prestigious MoMA Tbilisi. Photographer Liam Bailey unveils a compelling exhibition featuring recently rediscovered unseen black and white street and documentary imagery captured in Tbilisi, September 1991

Liam Bailey’s lens transports viewers back to a pivotal moment in history when Zviad Gamsukhurdia clung to power as the President of Georgia. The atmospheric images vividly depict the streets of Tbilisi adorned with barricades made from builders’ rubble, broken furniture, pipes, and mangled metal, crossing Rustaveli Avenue in defiance. In front of the imposing parliament building, a horseshoe of city buses had been strategically positioned, resembling a modern-day wagon train’s defensive formation. As well as the mundane and normal lives of the citys inhabitants.