Project ArtBeat in the frameworks of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi is holding Mother Georgia, an exhibition showcasing Comme des Garçons's fashion campaign shot by Brian Griffin in Soviet Georgia in 1989.
The Collection holds 12 photographs and a VHS video and will be exhibited for the first time ever at Tbilisi MOMA. The story was shot for Six magazine - an unstapled, A3 publication by the brand, that never included any words, just striking images to bring CdG founder Rei Kawakubo’s vision to life. Remembered as Kawakubo’s all-time favourite story ever done for Six magazine, the photoshoot resurfaced and was featured in Dazed magazine almost 25 years later and since then has reached bigger audiences, particularly in now independent Georgia and its flourishing fashion and art scene.
Rei Kawakubo’s interest in Georgia started with Niko Pirosmani, a Georgian primitive painter. Griffin and Kawakubo flew in from UK and Japan respectively and shot the campaign just 20 minutes outside the capital, on top of a hill near an Orthodox church. Styled by Kawakubo and photographed by Griffin, the team worked with local peasants and did not use any professional models. Often wearing their own clothing, sometimes only supplemented by a CDG piece, the concept of the shoot was to combine and blend Comme des Garçons’s design with locals' own.
Griffin recalls the unusual setting for the photoshoot in the country on the verge of obtaining its independence from the Soviet Union (Georgia became independent in 1991). He recalls being under surveillance, while their hotel host listened in on their private phone conversations as well as witnessing people destroying statues of Stalin, animal sacrilege going on in the yard of the church while shooting the campaign and having a feast with the locals after the photoshoot was done.
The iconic photograph of the statue Mother Georgia was shot by Griffin the next day, after Kawakubo had already gone back to Japan, but became an image central to the story.
While Griffin did not identify as a fashion photographer at the time, he found an artistic connection with Kawakubo and it resulted in one of the most special campaigns done for Comme des Garçons.Brian Griffin
(b. 1948, Birmingham, England) has had a long and diverse career in photography. Proclaimed as ‘The Photographer of the Decade’ by The Guardian newspaper in 1989, he has worked as a film director making TV commercials, music videos and short films and has published several books. His works are part of collections of museums such as Victoria and Albert Museum, National Portrait Gallery in London and Art Museum Reykjavik in Iceland amongst others. He is famous for his work in portraiture and for shooting album covers. He has shot iconic artists like Kate Bush, Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney and Iggy Pop. His wide portfolio of album covers includes musicians like The Clash, Queen, Placebo, Brian Eno and Echo and the Funnymen.
Photos by Guram Kapanadze