Social issues and human stories, mostly in my country where so many topics remain undocumented.
I left Georgia for the U.S. when I was nine years old, and English became my first language. When I returned to Georgia with my family in the 1990s, many people could not speak English, and Russian was still a dominant second language after Georgian. Stuck in between languages, taking pictures was a way to express my emotions and speak without having to talk. Learning came from experience.
My very first photo story was about Chechen refugees. Back in 2008, the word Chechen was synonymous with terrorism, especially in my country. I wanted to destroy this stereotype and show their life in a different perspective, and how they too were ordinary people struggling for survival. After the story was published, I got emails from people saying, ‘Thank you for showing Chechens in different light.’ From there, I realised that photos could change the consciousness of people and let them think differently. That was the turning point of my life. I could then understand what power photography had and what role I had as a photographer.
Photojournalism will always be important. It is a medium—in some cases the only medium—that can open our eyes and let us see differently.
Advice I would give to photojournalists starting out now is to understand your topic well. Respect who you are photographing, be truthful and have faith in what you do.