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Photography in (former Soviet) Georgia and the Peace Corps

Mark Hedges , Jan 29, 2001; 03:42 p.m.

I did some searching and couldn't find anything on this here so I thought I would ask. Does anybody know anything about the availability of film and developing in the country (not the state) of Georgia?

The reason I ask is that my brother is going into the Peace Corps and will be stationed there. I think he will be in the capital (Tblisi). I am going to get him a camera and film before he goes but I was wondering what would be the best solution for developing. I am thinking of getting him a Stylus Epic and a brick of Supra 400. How long do the batteries last in a Stylus epic? Can he get the film developed there or should he ship it out? And will he be able to get more when he runs out?

Thanks a lot!



Ed Baumeister , Jan 30, 2001; 02:40 a.m.

It's hard to say prrecisely what the situation is in Tblisi at the moment. The problem is more likely to be the availability of electricity rather than film. A colleague of my wife has two hour's worth a day. In general, the former Soviet republics are well supplied with film and processing. When I was in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, last October, a place that if anything is poorer than Georgia, the main deopartment store had six minilabs. The film was Kodak and Fuji. One minilab had a scanner into which you would stick your negatives and see them , polarity reversed (as positives) on a TV screen. Haven't seen that here in London yet. The U.S. State Department may be able to help, even the Peace Corps, for the specifics on Georgia.

Rana Dayal , Jan 30, 2001; 09:32 a.m.

This answer may not be exactly photography related but tell him/her to watch out. The place is completely lawless. Tbilisi, once a picture perfect city, has been completely bombed out. There are marauding bands of thugs roaming the streets after dark. The likelyhood of getting robbed or worse it pretty high and the chance of getting justice is non-existent. Bribery and corruption is rampant and when you pay for stuff in stores don't expect to get your loose change back.(in fact don't ask for it). I travelled to Tblisi, Georgia (or Gruziya as the proper name is) both during and after the Soviet times and I could not believe the changes I saw. I was expecting to see something that was even better than during Soviet times, but I was sadly mistaken - the place has gone down the toilet. In fact I got held up, robbed (wallet, camera, lenses) and mildly beaten (bruised badly but no broken bones) in broad daylight on Rustaveli (the main thoroughfare). when I finally found a bored looking cop he refused to even listen to me and was more interested in whether I still had any money left for him to pocket! Also avoid the regions outside Tbilisi, they are ruled by local warlords and the government has no control over them. You cannot be helped if you are captured/kidnapped <p> To get back to photography and answer your question, I would check the rating of the Epic (how many rolls per battery) and halve it for safety. ie. twice as many batteries. Film can be purchased and developed there...quality is spotty as film is left to bake of shelves. <p> But if you are a photo-nut you can check the center of town or the park on top of the hill with the cable car, and see if there are some old Jewish photographers still there. The last time I was there I saw some excellent B & W work from their view cameras. You can pick up some great B & W prints at a bargain.

Vadim Makarov , Jan 30, 2001; 03:14 p.m.

Well, I can't help you with Tbilisi, but if you asked me what I'd do in St. Petersburg or Moscow, I'd advise you to ship it out for developing via Peace Corps mail connections. That's the only sensible answer if you want to get quality processing without spending weeks trying to locate a decent local lab (if at all available). Yes, I'm speaking from experience.

Vadim Makarov , Jan 30, 2001; 03:25 p.m.

Not that I want Peace Corps stationed in these cities, of course!

Paul Gittins , Feb 03, 2001; 01:35 p.m.

If its any help, general travel advice can be found at: http://www.fco.gov.uk/travel/

Always handy, if only British biased!

kaethe ko , Feb 04, 2001; 11:16 p.m.

my son is in the peace corps, albeit a bit warmer climate (mauritania, west africa). when his assignment is finalized, your brother will be given the names of former pc volunteers from that assignment and they should be able to give him some ideas. the peace corps will also provide a list. in addition to film, they will recommend that he packs padded mailers and us postage to send the film home. mail is often hand-carried back to the states by someone coming back and the pcvs are usually alerted when that will be happening. once the traveler lands in the us he usually dumps everything in the first mail box available. fyi, my son has a yashica t4 and the photos are incredible, even the ones taken quietly with the camera at his side. we chose that camera for its weatherproofness, which means sandproofness, as well as the zeiss lens. hope this helps. kaethe ko

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