Scene - Outside

Study Trip Photography: Tbilisi


Each year, all programmes organize a studytrip abroad. The Master programme of Photography was the first to go on a week long getaway to indulge themselves in a new environment and start working on their research projects. This year they went to Tbilisi, the largest city and capital of Georgia. 


The Candle Woman

Virtual Reality documentary, by Lou Muuse

In Tbilisi I created a Virtual Reality documentary about the homeless Marina. A 44 year old woman who’s already living on the streets of Tbilisi since 2015.

During the day she seeks warmth in the Church, where she is cleaning the candleholders and all the paintings of the holy icons. In the night she begs for money on the famous Peach bridge of Tbilisi. Around 1 am the restaurant nearby the Peace bridge, closes. Here she creates a place to sleep with two chairs, a few Coca Cola crates and a blanket. She will sleep outside on the terrace of the restaurant which she’ll leave again in the early morning, just before the owner opens his restaurant.

My interest in Marina developed itself during my stay in Georgia. I wanted to make a story about the Orthodox Church, because these is so present. Wherever you stand in Tbilisi you’ll see multiple churches.

The first day after arriving I visited different church services, with my Georgian contact / friend, Mananiko. I immediately noticed that most of the churches had a much warmer climate than the temperature outside. Before going to Georgia people already alert us for the huge amount of beggars that Tbilisi has. A lot of the beggars were sheltering in churches to keep themselves warm. After visiting several other churches and enjoying the city, I needed to find a specific aspect of Tbilisi that could tell a more universal story.

In relation to my graduation research I wanted to tell something about why people need religion and why they are devoted to religion. At the 14th of February, Valentine’s Day, all the services I went to were packed. People were lightning one candle after the other for their prayers. But at the same time, women who worked in the church, constantly removed lit candles to make space for new prayers.

That Tuesday evening I decided with Mananiko, to find a woman who wanted to share something about the work she did for the church. When Mananiko and I eventually found a “candle woman”, we started asking her questions about her situation and her past. Starting from that information I created the footage of the film in two days. This few minute long Virtual Reality documentary was shown, on the Friday of that week, at the Tbilisi Art Academy and at the Georgian Frontline Club. And last but not least on Saturday just before we left I picked up Marina at the church and showed her the video.

Scene - Candleholder
Lou Muuse Scene - Candleholder
Scene - Church
Lou Muuse Scene - Church
Scene - Outside
Lou Muuse Scene - Outside
Scene - Prayers
Lou Muuse Scene - Prayers
Scene - Hello
Lou Muuse Scene - Hello
Lou Muuse Backstage