The Avlabari district of Tbilisi was the centre of the city’s sizable Armenian community though their numbers have fallen dramatically over the years. Just one street away from this building on Vakhtang VI Street is the Presidents Palace, built at considerable expense during the tenure of Mikheil Saakashvili. Aesthetically, this old sagging balcony propped up on its steel supports makes a great picture, particularly with the compression effect of a telephoto lens, but I wouldn’t like to live in it. It seems the President’s ambitions for the neighbourhood didn’t extend beyond the grounds of his palace.
I took these pictures of an impressively large collection of railway rolling stock at Tbilisi Central Railway Station almost ten years ago. Georgian Railway runs a relatively small network and judging by the variety of paint jobs and the condition of some of the carriages these were older, out-of-service units that had been lined up on the marshalling tracks at the station and abandoned. Some are clearly very old like the restaurant car in the third picture where the word ‘restaurant’ is in Cyrillic rather than Georgian script. The smoke visible from some of the carriages comes from heaters, or possibly stoves, or both, that were lit by security guards who spent their days watching over the rolling stock and who had converted some of them into guard huts.
I liked the combination of strong lines, repeated shapes and different colours. The covered walkway visible in the first, fourth and last pictures was lined with little shops and market stalls selling all kinds of food, household goods and bric-a-brac. Looking at more recent satellite images the ranks have thinned out since my time though there is still a good number left further along the tracks.
My grandparents lived in Ballyhalbert, a small village of around 300-400 people on the coast of the Ards Peninsula looking out over the Irish Sea. On a clear day Scotland and the Isle of Man are easily visible. As kids my brother and I spent a lot of time there on weekends and during the summer. When I go back to Northern Ireland I always try to spend a day or two visiting old haunts. Thanks to COVID-19 it’s been a while since I was back and I have no idea when I will get back again. So here are a few pictures from a trip I took in 2013.
This first picture in this set is a view of Ballywalter while the rest are of Ballyhalbert Harbour. The sculpture with the large ‘E’ in the second picture marks Burr Point, the most easterly part of the island of Ireland.
These next four pictures are from Portavogie, a few miles down the road from Ballyhalbert and best known as a fishing port. My grandfather would drive down to Portavogie and buy fish landed straight off the boats.
This shot was taken in the back streets of Tbilisi near the Central Railway Station. I didn’t make a note of the location at the time and I’ve never been able to find it on a map again. I was initially drawn to the wall with the gate, both for the colours and the textures, but after framing a few shots from across the street I noticed this older man walking down the street in my direction. I was behind a line of cars so he didn’t see me or perhaps he did and didn’t care. I took a few shots as he walked through the frame and this was the best. I think this picture achieves a good balance between the background and foreground. The colours, textures and patterns of the wall retain their interest despite the strong presence of the walking man who despite being relatively small in the frame retains a strong visual presence. I like the way the tip of his right foot is just separated from the long shadow cast by the afternoon sun. I also like the way his dark clothes make him stand out against the light colour of the wall. And why is he wearing those clothes, apparently dressed for cold weather while the sun is shining?
Starnbergersee, Germany / Sony A200, Tamron 17-50mm f2.8
Church of Saint Sebastian, Ramsau, Germany / Sony A200, Tamron 17-50mm f2.8