Sukhum's beach. ©Julien Pebrel


Julien Pebrel

 2022 — Abkhazia, Georgia

About this series

Located in the northwest of Georgia, at the foot of the Greater Caucasus mountains, Abkhazia is a territory with a complex history and uncertain status. Officially part of Georgia, separatist forces declared independence in 1992, triggering a brutal conflict that forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians to flee. Before the war, up to half of the population in Abkhazia was made up of ethnic Georgians. The other half were mostly Abkhazians, Armenians and Russians. Abkhazians felt they had become a minority in their own land. Georgians saw their large presence there as proof that Abkhazia was naturally part of Georgia.
Following the brief Georgian-Russian war of 2008, the “Republic of Abkhazia” was recognized as an independent state by Russia and a handful of other countries. Most other countries view it as an autonomous region that is part of Georgia. Torn between a desire to break from Georgia and a fear of being swallowed by Russia, Abkhazia has tried to chart its own path. Recent events have shown just how hard this will be. Threatening a halt to Russian investment in the region, Moscow is now pressuring the Abkhaz government to hand over land around Black Sea resort town of Pitsunda.

The old parliament building in Sukhum. Occupied by the Georgians during the war, it was taken over by the Abkhazians and burned on the last day of the war. Since then it remains as a symbolic monument of the war. The rehearsals for the parade of the 20th anniversary of the independence of Abkhazia are taking place in front of it. ©Julien Pebrel
Monastery of Novy Afone, one of the high places of the Abkhazian tourism. Russians go there to pray. ©Julien Pebrel
A wrestler in Gudauta. Wrestling is the national sport of Abkhazia, a source of pride for Abkhazians whose champions fight for Russia in international competitions. ©Julien Pebrel
In Gagra, a lioness with which tourists are photographed. She was bought from a zoo. ©Julien Pebrel
On the walls of an old sports complex that served as a training center for USSR athletes, in the suburbs of Sukhum near Samvel's house. ©Julien Pebrel
Gagra beach: a boat fetches tourists from the beach, takes them for an hour walk and brings them back. The captain of the boat used to work on big fishing boats, today he has refurbished this boat and works for the tourists. ©Julien Pebrel
At the mosque in Sukhum. The presence of Muslims a few kilometers from Sochi is a problem for Russia. The Abkhazian government, which follows the prerogatives of Moscow, had blocked the return of Abkhazians living in Syria who wanted to return to escape the war. A popular mobilization on social networks has finally allowed to lift this ban. Islam in Abkhazia is not the most radical and Abkhazians, whatever their faith, respect a daily code of conduct, the apsuara, which diminishes the importance of religion and its hold on society. ©Julien Pebrel
The statue of Lenin in the Amra sanatorium. ©Julien Pebrel
On the sidelines of the rehearsals for the parade for the 20th anniversary of the country's independence. Students of an officer training school. ©Julien Pebrel
The Sukum station where the trains from Moscow arrive is under construction. ©Julien Pebrel

Photographer: Julien Pebrel
Nationality: French
Based in: Georgia – France
Instagram: @julienpebrel

Julien Pebrel (born 1983) is a french documentary photographer living in Tbilisi and Paris member of MYOP Agency since 2011.
He has worked on Afghan migrants in France, factories recovered by their workers in Argentina, the Danube Delta in Romania, men exodus in Armenia, Abkhazia, the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, autonomous region of Gagauzia, AIDS orphans in Togo..
Today he shares his life between Paris and Tbilisi where he’s working since 2017 on a long term multimedia project about Georgia and the transition the country is living today : situation of ethnic minorities, border issues with its separatist regions, refugees, alternative youth in Tbilisi, etc
Julien Pebrel has published in the Financial Times Magazine, Sunday Times Magazine, The Washington Post, De Morgen, The Guardian, M le magazine du Monde, L’Obs, Internazionale, Géo, D la Repubblica, Revue XXI, Libération, Mare, Der Spiegel, Le Temps, Aftenposten Innsikt, Time, Newsweek Japan, Days Japan,, Huck, Le Monde, etc.
He has recently received a fellowship from University of Southern California, and grants from Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Union des Photographes Professionnels,, Société Civil des Auteurs Multimédias (SCAM), etc
His work has been exhibited and projected in personal exhibitions, collective exhibitions, and photography festivals in France, Georgia, South Korea, Germany, UK, etc.
He is currently working on his first documentary film, Kartli, co-directed with Tamar Kalandadze.