Unaffected By Mass Feedback — Sofi Mdivnishvili
Every once in a while you come across a new photographer that truly catches your attention. It is very exciting when that photographer is current, young and really just starting out, but you can see the depth of their work and its authenticity. I came across Sofi’s work on FaceBook and it definitely caught my attention. Allow me to digress for just a few minutes…
Coming from a musical background, and I’m actually more musically literate than with the visual arts, I’d like to start this review with a thought regarding music and my favorite “bands.” Many of my faves have released many records, some of which have climbed the charts and made tons of money. Often, however, my favorite work from these bands come from their early releases. While not as polished as their later “hits”, there is an authenticity, and especially potential, in their earlier records. One of my favorite bands, Genesis, is a great example of this. Very talented musicians each and every one of them, their later records especially during the Phil Collins era were blockbusters and sold millions of albums. Even during the earlier Peter Gabriel era, they music was respected and known, if not regarded as hit-makers. One of my favorite records of theirs was their first “real” release called Trespass. It’s not well produced, the songs aren’t catchy (there are only six longer pieces) and even their playing isn’t as tight as it became on later releases. Yet, it is astonishingly original. And it’s outrageously beautiful. And, coming from a group of young men at the age of 19-20, incredibly innocent in all it’s musical complexity. The true test of a band, to me, is whether they can hold onto some of that spark and originality of their early creative work and not fall prey to the pressures and feedback of the business and success. This means staying true to themselves and not becoming a parody of themselves or subscribing to the formulas of commercial success.
Sofi’s work has many of the characteristics of a wonderful artist just starting out. Most important to me, her work is authentic. Sofi is capturing what she envisions, what she imagines, and what she is able to create. Authenticity only goes so far if you don’t have the ability to communicate that authenticity. Somehow, with little experience, Sofi pulls a raw quality from a 6×6 medium format film camera that matches her original vision. While not technically perfect, she is able to guide her visions into emotional, dramatic and moving images.
As the photographer mentions in her portfolio, she works simply: with film, natural light and people that she invites to model for her. She does this in a somewhat threatening environment of a conservative community where she, and her subjects, need to be concerned about their identity. On top of that, she and her models confront what it means to be beautiful, and what it means when you have doubts about your own beauty.
Her compositions are often simple, which I like and is how I approach images usually. She bends her work to the light, which I also do, instead of imposing a light source onto a subject. It all feels real and deep.
When looking at Sofi’s images, I see a hidden story. Or a partially hidden story. As revealing as the naked bodies in her photographs are, there are mysteries. Who are they? What are their lives like? What are they trying to convey? What are they hiding? What are they feeling? These are images Unaffected by Mass Feedback.
Natural lighting against the shape and unusual crop of the legs play against a mystery of the subject in the image. Hidden secrets, both from the identity of the subject via only legs to the self-censorship of revealing body parts that are taboo.
Here, the use of directional light (probably from a window) and selective focus give this image a bold impact to its mystery. Is the subject reaching to take something or reaching to give? The awkward body form, cut-off torso and tight-cropping play against the dark/light contrast of single source directional lighting.
My one sincere hope for Sofi as she continues her path as a developing photographer, is that she maintains that sense of authenticity, simplicity, innocence and beauty. As a young female photographer she undoubtedly is attracting a diverse amount of attention—some of it good, some of it bad, yet most of it probably overwhelming. I hope Sofi can stay focused, stay true to her vision and stay honest about her work and about who she is. In that way, she has the opportunity to develop into a great photographer and not just become a commercial success without a soul.