When it comes to portrait photography, there exists certain bias, even among the more discerning and self-aware photographers. The female body has been subjected to numerous and at times even impossible and unhealthy ideals. Photographer Sofi Mdivnishvili desires to change how we see the body not only as an audience, but also as artists, and it is reflected in her unadulterated, expressive body of nude work captured in analogue.
How are you lately as a photographer?
It is already 5 months we live with the pandemic in Georgia. This whole situation was very interesting for me and somehow exciting as well. I do always have a problem when I go outside because sometimes I go too far but I came across many people even in the woods. In that period it was complete freedom for me. I was sitting at home and been locked there but if I had a small chance of going out to shoot I was feeling as free as a bird. It was a long journey but also the time for some new ideas.
When did you start taking photographs with the film?
It was 4 years ago when I shot my first roll of film. In the very beginning, it was just a hobby but from time to time it gave me so much passion that today I can’t imagine myself without film rolls in my bag.
We love your take on portraiture! May you tell us more about these artistic nudes?
I have started taking nude photographs 2 years ago. It was a big challenge for me at that time. Because I had no experience with models, especially with strangers, even today I shoot strange people each time. I have always wanted to photograph people sincerely, in a way I see them. The face of a person gives you many feelings and I have to express all these on their bodies because most of my models are anonymous, without faces. At the very beginning, I was thinking not to show the face was a problem for me but now I think it is more interesting. Many people can even take a photo and remind themselves of that particular person who is pictured.
Your images cover all shapes and sizes of the female body. How do you personally feel about the industry standard of the 'ideal body'?
It has never been my intention to show that there is the standard of an ideal body in-universe. I always try to take photos of everyone who wants to be part of something I enjoy doing. I don’t have any criteria to choose someone. Accepting your body is sometimes hard, we always change shapes but it doesn’t happen without a reason, stretch marks appear on our bodies, our skin gets older and many different lines appear on it that’s why I love portraying different bodies. It is like storytelling, that I need to read on each person to talk about them with my photographs then.
What do you usually look for in a portrait shot?
Some people like to show the expression or feelings of a person when they took a portrait. In my case everything is contrary. I have to disperse these emotions on body parts. But if I find a person who wants her face to be shown I always try to show how brave and proud she is not afraid of stigmas.
Can you tell us more about the challenges you face when photographing other people? How do you get your models comfortable?
This was the biggest challenge since the first day. I am sure people who are working on nude art are connected to strangers mostly to the people who have a desire to be photographed but have no experience. At first, you need to make another person feel that there is nothing unusual for you and you are used to be in that position. I never gaze at anyone, that only happens when I look into the viewfinder and think what to take. Nowadays every time I meet another new person I make myself believe that the person I am gonna shoot feels comfortable, so I always act like I know her/them for a long time and it helps. Shooting several people together is different. You are the one who needs to connect all these people. Also, you need to share all your attention on each person equally, so besides being a photographer there are many things you need to think about.
How's the analogue scene in Georgia?
I can say that analogue scene is shining now in Georgia. Many young people are interested in the film. Everyone started searching old cameras of their grandparents’ at home. There are several film labs where you can go and get a good result. Also, everyone can get a different variety of films. I go to magnoliafilmlab because I am guaranteed high-quality service. Another side of the scene is selling old cameras. You can get them outside on open-air markets or rather online, where the price is the same or less as it is on different websites. For example, you can get cameras in a good condition that are tested, on tbilisicamerashop where you can find all types of film cameras and accessories.
Can you give us some fellow Georgian photographers whose works inspire you?
It is already 4 years I am into film photography and I still learn new things each time I am in hands with my camera. I have friends who are also film photographers, developing and printing their works by themselves. I want to introduce you to sabagorgodze0 and gela_shekeladze who are always glad to share their knowledge and experience with everyone. I like how they see small and unnoticed details of our city and show how our hometown and people look from their perspective.
Where do you generally draw inspiration from?
I am a big fan of black and white photography. I can firmly say that I am a different person when I use a roll without colors. I love watching old movies, I love how these 2 colors play and give us many different layers of tones. Every small thing around me can be an inspiration, a small breeze, or trembling leaves when the wind blows. But the main thing for me each time is a person whom I shoot, they all give me different type of energy, everything that happens on a shooting scene is spontaneously provoked by my models.
What's next for Sofi?
Except for working on nude series, I try to make different small projects that involve social, LGBTQ, and different topics related to women. I want my photography to get older with me to take photos of the same people after several years, in their middle ages, and when they get older.
For more of Sofi's works, visit her Instagram. All images reserved to Sofi Mdivnishvili.