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100 Doors of Tbilisi



weathered plasterwork on a turn-of-the-century building facade
Door #16, Tbilisi, Georgia

Many years ago, shortly after I graduated from art school, I was hired to photograph what should have been the most boring assignment of my career. The Soviet Union had just collapsed, and some company hired me to take photos of a conference where ministers from the new Georgian government were meeting with American businessmen to discuss investment in the country.


There’s a certain style of pictures that photographers call the “grip and grin,” where two people stare into the camera with uncomfortable smiles, shaking hands. There were a lot of grip and grins during the opening reception of the conference.


About an hour into the reception, one of the translators approached me and discreetly said, “Don’t tell any of the other Americans, but you’re invited to a party upstairs after the reception.

 


The Georgian delegation had brought cases, and I mean cases, of Georgian wine and cha cha, the country’s clear brandy. The after party was a far cry from the earlier boring, stilted grip and grin fest. I found the Georgian government ministers to be quite warm, hospitable and funny.


A few nights into the conference, we went to Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing Company, one of the city’s original brewpubs owned by a geologist, John Hickenlooper, who later became Denver’s mayor, Colorado’s governor, and a presidential candidate.


The Georgian delegation was enjoying mugs of great beer and rounds of pool as the jukebox blasted out classic rock. A few beers into the evening, the Doors’ song “Roadhouse Blues” played on the jukebox, getting the Georgian Minister of Finance’s attention.


To understand why this scene is still in my head nearly thirty years later, I have to digress and describe the Minister of Finance. He was a round man; a round face and a belly that looked like a man who has had his fair share of Georgia’s infamous khachapuri, or cheese bread. His style and personality advertised the fact he was a man who was used to pushing numbers. During the entire conference, he never smiled, maintaining a serious air.


His suit and muted ties, which he wore long after the rest of the delegation shed theirs, matched his personality: gray. So it surprised me, as Jim Morrison’s voice filled the room, to turn and see the finance minister excitedly jumping with his pool cue, using it to play air guitar along with Robby Krieger.


“I love Doors!” he excitedly and repeatedly exclaimed through the duration of the song.


Little did I know at that time that three decades later, I would regularly wander through the streets of Tbilisi with the same excited voice in my head, “I love doors!”


a carved wood door inset into a brightly colored but weathered facade in Tbilisi, Georgia
Door #3, Tbilisi, Georgia

If you’ve followed my newsletter for a while, you know about my project, 100 Doors of Tbilisi. My original thought was to find doors with addresses that correspond to the page numbers on a future book I would like to publish; door address number twenty-five would be on page 25, address number eighty-three would be on page eighty-three and so on.


I didn’t take into account that street addresses in Tbilisi aren’t like most U.S. cities where the low numbers extend from some downtown intersection and increase the farther one goes from the city’s center. In Tbilisi, I quickly discovered, an address on one side of the street could be thirty-five and on the other side of the street it’s fifty-one. Then, at any random bend in a street, the numbers will reset.


Sigh.


Instead of keeping my door photos locked away in one of my computer folders waiting for a future book, I decided to include them in a new gallery on my revamped website so you can enjoy a photo walk around Tbilisi admiring some of the amazing entryways around town.


If you enjoy them, drop me a line and let me know if you too love doors.


cracked plasterwork and blue paint on a turn-of-the-century building facade
Door #79, Tbilisi, Georgia

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