Georgia Through the Prism of the 19th Century French Photographer
Jean Raoult, one of the top French photographers of the 19th century, remained highly productive in the 1960s-1980s. He ran his photo studio in Odessa. At international exhibitions he was awarded a number of prizes for his accomplished photos (including those captured in Georgia). In the twilight of his life he returned home and followed his career in the south of France.
Jean Raoult traveled extensively. During the Russo-Turkish war in 1877-1878 he worked as a photojournalist. He embarked on a photo-trip to Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and the Near East and captured Christian monuments during his longdistance journey. Many of these monuments have since been erased from the face of the earth or sustained severe damage which adds to the value of the photos.
Jean Raoult shot to fame with his ethnographic sketches and first-hand depiction of an ethnically diverse mix of people. Photos taken in Georgia are particularly valuable for they present the rarest views of green countryside and rural folk from different Georgian communities. Jean Raoult boasts a large number of photo albums. Photos of Georgia (28 in total) are fully featured only in one of them, an exclusive gift edition for Nasser al-Din Shah of Persia ordered by the Russian royal court. There is only one copy of this album preserved in the archive of the Golestan palace museum in Teheran. The photos are of superb quality.
The album was traced by Councilor Nikoloz Nakhutsrishvili of the Georgian embassy to the Islamic Republic of Iran. He contacted the G. Tsereteli Institute of Oriental Studies under Ilia State University and suggested developing a project aimed at obtaining copies of the photos. The project was developed with financial support from the Open Society - Georgia Foundation.
It took lengthy talks with the Iranian side in which the Georgian embassy in Iran and Ambassador Giorgi Janjgava were actively involved to make the best-quality copies of the photos and their electronic versions broadly available to the public. The photos are currently kept at the G. Tsereteli Institute of Oriental Studies in Georgia.
An exhibition of the photos was held at the Vernissage Gallery in Tbilisi as well as in Iran based on an agreement between the Georgian embassy and the Golestan Palace Museum. The exhibition also stirred up a lively interest with the French. There are plans to hold similar exhibitions at the French embassy in Iran and in France. Ilia State University is intending to hold an exhibition of Jean Raoult's photos of Georgia and to publish a photo album and a calendar.
Director of the G. Tsereteli Institute of Oriental Studies