Georgian photographer wins Portraits of Strength Competition

On Friday 17 January 2020, the “Portraits of Strength” jury unanimously chose Georgian photographer Salome Sagaradze’s photograph of Baia Pataraia of Human Rights House Tbilisi as the competition’s winner.

Baia’s goal is somewhere in the future. In this picture, you can see her looking there, to this future, where she is headed consciously. That is what I wanted to capture that day at the protest.

Salome Sagaradze, “Portraits of Strength” winner giving an insight into her process

Photographer Salome Sagaradze (pictured) took the winning photograph during a demonstration on 18 November 2019 in front of the parliament during which water cannons were used against demonstrators.

Salome Sagaradze is a freelance photographer/professional filmmaker from Georgia. She is a graduate of the Shota Rustaveli Theater and Film Georgia State University, as well as the Batumi Institute of Arts. Sagaradze has extensive experience of working on projects related to human rights and women’s rights in particular. In the past, she has previously collaborated with Human Rights House Tbilisi on “Women Fighting for Change”, an IREX-EU project where she made short films about Georgian women working on advancing rights.

The winning photograph was selected by an independent and international jury comprised of three photography industry professional; chair of the jury Maria Fuglevaag Warsinska-Varsi, Norwegian photographer and filmmaker; Daro Sulakauri, Georgian photographer; and Christine Tolpinrud, Gallery manager at Fotografiens Hus in Oslo, Norway.

Their statement continued: “The winning portrait of Baia Pataraia by Salome Sagaradze stood out with its strong visual language portraying a woman human rights defender in action during a demonstration.”

“Baia Pataraia, whose poise, presence and defiant gaze into the camera, immediately captures your attention. She is the embodiment of feminism, strength, confidence and determination.”

“This powerful presence, along with absolutely magical lighting which backlights hair with an almost halo-like effect, lends itself to a composition that is reminiscent of classical paintings. There is a lasting quality to this image, a feeling of eternity. All of the great images in history have an air of intrigue – an atmosphere that this photograph has no shortage of.”

 “The photograph has a documentary quality, there are imperfections in the composition, but these imperfections communicate the credibility and the reality of the situation that the photograph takes place.”

“Taken during a moment in time in Georgia where protesters have been seriously injured, some losing eyes due to rubber bullets being used against them, Salome Sagaradze has captured an important moment in history. At this particular protest, water cannons were used against the crowd. The protests, the smoke, the people, this photograph is an action-reportage and a portrait combine into one. In this setting, both women, Baia Pataraia and photographer Salome Sagaradze, were under pressures of this environment, both at risk for doing their job.”

The photographs

Human Rights House Foundation’s “Portraits of Strength” photography exhibition honours and celebrates eight independent women human rights defenders from the network of Human Rights Houses. It highlights the vital role that women play locally, nationally and internationally in protecting and advancing human rights.

The photographs were taken by local female photographers and portray and share the stories of strong, inspirational and determined defenders from around the network of Human Rights Houses.

It was inspiring and uplifting to see photographs of such a variety of brave women human rights defenders fighting for their causes across so many countries, each expertly captured by a local female photographer.

Jury joint statement, “Portraits of Strength”

In Autumn 2019, Human Rights House Foundation launched its second “Portraits of Strength” photography competition, aiming to highlight the crucial work of women human rights defenders, and to shed light on the unique challenges that they face.

We thank the eight talented female photographers who have utilised their unique perspectives and individual styles to visually honour and celebrate these Women Human Rights Defenders and their work.

Maria Dahle, Director, Human Rights House Foundation

Women human rights defenders work to protect and advance freedoms, while facing discrimination and stereotypes, based on their gender, about their role and participation in society. In civil society, women often face additional threats, violations, and abuse – from smear campaigns to sexual and gender-based violence.


HUMAN International Documentary Festival

24 February – 1 March

Cinemateket, Oslo, Norway

Portraits of Strength: Women Defending Human Rights will be exhibited for the first time in the last week of February during the HUMAN International Documentary Festival at Cinemateket in Oslo.


Top photo: Salome Sagaradze’s photograph of Baia Pataraia of Human Rights House Tbilisi.

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