beso darchia – stigma

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Beso Darchia


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The dire economic situation in Georgia has left the population of the country without any protection that would be provided by Government. Socially unprotected groups of society were among the ones most affected, their survival left to the mercy of foreign donors and the kindness of random people.

We live by the side of people who suffer from mental illnesses. Due to the lack of understanding of such illnesses, large parts of society have developed a sense of alienation towards the people who suffer from those illnesses. The social stigma remorselessly relieves mental patients of all their constitutional rights.  Abandoned by the friends and family, the “lucky” ones among them spend all their time at the deteriorating post-Soviet mental institutions; the rest may often not even have a roof over their heads.

There’s no official statistic regarding the number of people suffering from mental illness in Georgia. According to unofficial studies conducted by different research groups, there are about 400 thousand people suffering from different kinds and degrees of psychiatric disorder, about 10% of those in need of immediate medical care.

In Soviet Georgia (population: 5 million), the official number of people in psychiatric institutions was around 74 thousand. A study, conducted in year 2000, recorded 98 thousand of them. Current statistics shows that around 13 thousand people seek medical care in psychiatric institutions every month. Despite this statistic, latest polls in Georgia show that a visit to the psychiatrist is still perceived as a negative and derogatory act: 90% of the respondents would never recommend their friend or relative to visit a psychiatrist. Due to the lack of awareness among the parents, 99% percent of children with a mental illness never receive any medical care.

People with psychiatric disorders are a part of our society. Society should accept and accommodate them.

My goal and hope is to raise awareness about mental disorders in society. I hope to show that mental patients are regular human beings, who deserve to be treated with respect and care; that the society should not make them feel inferior, just because they suffer from an illness….



My name is Besik Darchia. I was born on 24th of September 1982, in Georgia, Tbilisi. I’m postgrad dentist, but have never been working by profession. By chance, three years ago photography became the main interest in my life: I accidentally found one of the photo sites and focused on portraits and photos on social life. I was inspired, that was stimulus to follow through and reflect the life surrounding me through photography.


Editor’s note:

Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey


24 Responses to “beso darchia – stigma”

  • Not sure exactly why this essay was published on Burn. It says little about the mentally ill, and isn’t particularly good photography. It is not just incomplete, it never got started. Wasn’t there anything of higher quality from an emerging photographer to publish?

  • mentally ill?
    i agree…”it never got started”…

  • “I accidentally found one of the photo sites and focused on portraits and photos on social life. I was inspired, that was stimulus to follow through and reflect the life surrounding me through photography.”


  • Besik, congratulations on having your essay published on Burn. The subject you have chosen is one that is terribly important but very often photographed. It is hard to come at it from a new perspective. Most of the photos in this essay seem all too familiar, but there is one that stopped me in my tracks. #9 says it all. Bravo to you for seeing and capturing this moment. Keep searching. I look forward to seeing where you go from here.


  • mental ‘institution’ AND former Soviet bloc! in one essay!
    c’mon Burn.

  • Photographing something like this is going to be hard, how you go about it will allow you to grow as a photographer. I don’t think you’ve been successful, the first 3 images I guessed were from a domestic story about the economy (I don’t read the introductions until I’ve viewed the essay). Only 3 images were to do directly with mental issues, only 1 of them being an interesting portrait (no5).

    I was thinking as well that this was a nice tight edit (a welcome change), it is but it isn’t about what you’ve wrote beneath. This clearly needs so much work, now how I can point you in a useful direction I don’t know, but this draft isn’t it.

  • Photographing something like this is going to be hard, how you go about it will allow you to grow as a photographer. I don’t think you’ve been successful, the first 3 images I guessed were from a domestic story about the economy (I don’t read the introductions until I’ve viewed the essay). Only 3 images were to do directly with mental issues, only 1 of them being an interesting portrait (no5).

    I was thinking as well that this was a nice tight edit (a welcome change), it is but it isn’t about what you’ve wrote beneath. This clearly needs so much work, now how I can point you in a useful direction I don’t know, but this draft isn’t it.

  • I agree with Patricia, ahd what was unspoken in her post: You need to find a much more personal angle, photographically.

    As I am reminded of this little video on youtube, where the Magnum guys (Koudelka, actually) are a bit daunted by having to see the same subjects and same treatments year after year in the submissions for one to be considered into the agency.

    The mental asylums are probably one of the most common coverage by now, it is not original but that doesn’t have to be an hindrance, only it makes it harder for people like you to make a difference with it.

  • The last photo with the statue reminds me of Cartier-Bresson’s photo of the sculptor Giacometti.

  • Besik,

    Way to go there you – A dentist who never worked in the profession but three years ago was seduced by THIS beautiful art and now you are finding your way documenting societal issues. Wow. I’m so glad that you stumbled upon that portrait site… Not unlike the others my viewing (before i read the artist statement – which is the way I usually view burn essays) led me to a puzzled experience. Thus for me, it doesn’t speak what you intended without reading the essay. So step forward and with the essay read, I thus viewed the images in a different light.

    Knowing the intent made the second viewing a different experience. It reminded me of images which many years ago I would have seen of my own country and mental health, and while my own country has probably moved forward somewhat, over the Christmas period there was reports of 5 (I think) mental health institutions which are to be closed due to deplorable conditions. Such conditions I expect are way ahead of your experiences which you recount so I can only wish you well.

    It is a NOBLE cause. A noble cause is something that fits very well with your medium and the beautiful art of photography and hence your efforts are to be commended. Pursue it. Live it. Love it. Share it and find your way. If you pursue it, it will not evade you. Your efforts displayed in the essay are commendable, but more to do (in my humble opinion).

    There are many questions with your photographic style – why black and white, why the technical imperfections. Is it cool to do (which it is) or is it soul and heartfelt (which it needs to be). Whilst b/w with technical ‘from the heart’ imperfections make for excellent compositions, (and often are a favourite of mine); sometimes I think you need to clarify the need and value achieved by that particular medium and format displayed.

    With all that been said (and hopefully you will find something in the view expressed which is, I think, reasonable in it’s approach), again can I offer you congrats on your publication here. It is a step forward for you. Burn can be profound and your medium can be profound.

    You may already be familiar but if not, look up Jenn Ackerman’s work (which also features mental illness).

    As a final thought offering – get up close. Your work will soar beyond where it presently is and do your cause justice.

    Best wishes of the season and kind regards. I look forward to more of your work in the future with this and your next cause.


  • Beso

    Congratulations. Firstly for being published here, and also for taking on this difficult subject.

    Mental illness is one of those subjects that yes, have become almost a cliche’. I have to agree with some of the comments here. If it weren’t for the text, it might not be obvious what your message was. Number 3,4,and 5 are the most successful from where I stand. You clearly have talent for making images.

    I hope you persist with this. Hopefully, as you work with it, a more coherent theme will evolve.

  • I wish you all the luck in this Beso.

    Yes, its sad thing to realize that we as understanding social creatures ostrasize other human beings, even people we know, because we feel this vulnerability, this reminder, that our consciousness can be such a delicate and precarious thing. Yet, with the understandings of science, we know that brain chemistry is no different from any other biological interactions, and in the same way, can be put back in balance. And ironically, neglect itself, often is, and certainly can be a contributing factor to the condition.

    I feel, without doubt in my mind, education is the key.

    Again I wish you well in educating the people you can reach.

    thanks for bringing it to our attention. Easy to forget how many people in our shared world live.

  • I neglected to comment about your images and essay.

    I thought the way, it seemed to me, you contrasted the warmth of community, and the coldness of institutionalization, was driven home in this essay by the contrast with the middle bunch of images. I also felt that starting with a domestic focus, only to become aware that we’re looking at people with a mental illness worked for me, in that it reminded me very starkly that these are people just like me and you, not someone other..

  • I don’t quite no how to respond. I kind of hate to talk like I’m some kind of damned expert that actually knows anything and is qualified to give you any advice.

    I do find some good images in here, but, like others who have commented, I might not have figured out that this was an essay on mental illness – random pictures of some troubled people, yes, some with disabilities, but not necessarily mental illness.

    Some caption information might be helpful.

    But be assured, there are some strong images here, such as #1, 2, 3… well, hell. I find them all strong.

    One thing the essay does remind me of right away and that is how grim and miserable this life is for so many.

  • Besik, this is such a hard subject to explore or record and one that really needs more coverage.
    I believe we’re all on a sliding rule with our mental health, that it changes all the time and we all have times when things are difficult yet we still shy away from admitting it or dealing with it whether it’s with ourselves or with others.

    Though you’ve barely started with this project I like your pictures, you have a gentle approach and I really hope you continue with it.

  • thanks for showing to us, Beso.
    It is a very difficult subject, and I fear that a short essay cannot really show your intentions.
    There are so many topics inside the theme itself. Focussing on the institution, focussion on the people (do they really “suffer”? .. or is it just our perception?).
    I think your pictures are a good start. Think what you want to express and go there again and find the pictures supporting that to make the essay and your story complete.

    Little story about me:
    One of my sons has the Asperger syndrome ( – he enjoys his life, has his strong interests and lives his life. He is special in his way and I want to show this by taking pictures. My challenge now is to show more of his context – at his work, and the home he lives in.
    Currently I’m a bit hesitant, because of the other people living together with him. – My plan is: I want to live together with them for a few weeks .. to become a part of that group, to become a part of his work environment, too. By doing so, I think the pictures become how I want to show them. Before I can do that, I have to ask for permission: The people in Lars’ group, their carers and their legal guardians. Convincing them that my documentation is honest, and that I am not harming their personal rights.

  • Another (rather short) point of view to add to Georgian Spring from Magnum.

  • Beso,

    Congrats on being published on Burn. Interesting photos, speak to me more about poverty than suffering of mental illness. Maybe that is an angle you can pursue further, the connection between poverty and mental health. From your statistics it seems that there is an 8% prevalence of mental health in Georgia. It is quite interesting that is pretty close to the international median, while the US has the highest rate at 26.4% ( I have lots of theories as to why that is but won’t proselytize here.

    All the best,


  • while the US has the highest rate at 26.4% (

    If this is to advance that 1 out of 4 US resident/nationals are mentally unstable, this is erroneous. I challenge anyone to make sense of the section in your link where that figure of 26,4% is mentionned.

  • i just want to reiterate
    what erica said……

  • Hello everyone! Thanks a lot for the comments!

  • Beso

    Your essay was like an appetizer at a very good restaurant. Devilishly small, delicious and leaves me wanting more. I read your text and my first thought was that this problem doesn’t exist only in Georgia unfortunately. But somehow the people in your photographs pick up where your text leaves off. They do speak to their ethnic Baltic roots and in that way they are different for me. And i found myself studying their faces and their activities for clues as to how and why they are unique from the mentally ill let’s say in Peru or Ontario. How they are different and how they are the same. And how does the community respond to these people and about people close to me who share a problem with mental illness. I guess i have not seen so many essays on the mentally ill that i have become calloused to the suffering of these individuals who are, dare i say it, still unique individuals who should not be lumped into one pile; the crazies. Considered separately, each one is a special human being on a unique continuum that is their life, having the right to treatment, love, empathy and good care. And hopefully, as some do, there will be healing, renewal and a return to the mainstream of their family and community. It does happen.

    What i find fascinating about these 9 photos is the connection with the land. Clearing brush, raking, planting, feeding chickens, glowering skies overhead, cold, stark, the land so ruggedly beautiful in ways that it isn’t let’s say, in Arizona or Vermont. Look at the drawings and paintings in #9, horses, a little cottage with snow on the roof, a sculpture made of clay. I wonder, what is it like to be mentally ill in a Baltic country that ius still so connected to its rugged, earthy, agrarian past? You make me wonder, ponder, search for information that is slow to come, but i think shall come as you continue your project.

    I do not think a sensitive portrayal of the mentally ill is ever cliche. These people need all the understanding and compassion they can get. They are not freaks. And i think there is not one of us that has not been affected by mental illness in someone close to us in our lives. And i think we have all wanted understanding and a benevolent community acceptance for these people. I know i have. I see your subjects. I love what i see, their faces, their terrible sensitivity that has wrought so much pain and their inability to be the tough, strong agrarian descendant of those that came before. I’,m a bit sorry..i am in a very noisy place as i type this and it’s difficult to express myself but i hope you will continue to capture that which moves you so much. Be true to your vision. Your photos are beautiful. Don’t listen when they say your subject matter is cliche. You MUST shoot what you MUST shoot. Keep going. Good luck to you.



  • Hello Kathleen, glad to see your comment, thanks!

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