Levan Kherkheulidze – City Of Winds
I’ve always believed that it is possible to fall in love with someone at first glance. And one day I realized this is true for places as well.
I visited Baku for the first time in the spring of 2009, a bit by chance. I went along with a friend who needed some help to carry out some business there. I had arranged for a relation of mine to pick us up at the railway station. He drove us around Baku in his car for the whole day, but my friend was very unlucky in his business undertakings. The day was complete chaos and we grew more and more frustrated. Finally, we decided to go back to Tbilisi on the very same evening.
I went alone to buy our train tickets and, on the way back to meet my friend, I stopped in a tea room. The place was empty. I ordered tea and baklava, and soon after a waiter brought my order along with white cherry jam. I can’t say in detail what happened during those few minutes, but the whole experience – the room, the aromatic clove infusion, the fragrant jam, the crispy baklava – made me feel suddenly at home. Yes, at home. More precisely, I felt that I was visiting a district of Tbilisi that I had never seen before but where everything was familiar. I fell in love with Baku on the spot, and this love story continues to this day.
Baku as I see it at the same time does and doesn’t resemble Tbilisi. The alikeness brings a coziness that is very dear to me; the differences – the modernity, the oddity – surprise and captivate me. I am charmed in particularly by areas of Baku that look like old neighborhoods of Tbilisi, like Sololaki, Vera, or Ortachala: warm and narrow cobblestone streets; cracked and faded facades full of life; hanging balconies providing shade to backgammon players and chatting neighbors; and then, at dusk, warm lights, hums and voices pouring from open windows; and one more thing – the silence. I need spaces in a city where to get lost and escape the everyday chaos.
I’ve been to Baku many times ever since and I wanted to express my love for it, hence the idea to present my perception of the city in a book. My purpose is to stress what makes it important and dear to my heart, but also to highlight its fragility.
I’m upset to see substantial changes from one visit to another and to witness the disappearance of places so precious to me. Baku is changing rapidly. Soon and sadly new developments will take in its local flavors – time and tide wait for no man.
I am a person obsessed with photography and this assessment is not exaggerated because it is not only a part of my life but also one of the meanings of my life. I do not think that life itself has any meaning, I think that each person acquires a certain meaning in his life based on specific goals, aspirations, or choices. For me, one of such choices is photography, or more precisely, to be the photographer. For me, being a photographer primarily means being an observer – interesting, attentive, passionate, and empathetic. As far as I can remember, I have always been observant, so this innate quality was further enhanced by photography and took its role to a different degree.