I was hitching a ride on Border Police helicopter, which until spring was the only way to get to my destination - Tusheti, high in the Caucasus Mountains in the Republic of Georgia. I clambered aboard at an airbase in Tbilisi with a cohort of camouflaged border guards, expecting a direct flight towards the east. But we seemed to be heading in a different direction. Eventually we dropped into a sweeping valley. A lone nun emerged from a tiny abbey, as in a scene from a fairytale. We were on the ground for no more than a few minutes as a pile of building supplies was offloaded to her. I was able to establish her name - Mariami - mime permission to make a photo, and then we were airborne again. Who was she? Where were we? Why did she live there? So many questions. But between my lack of Georgian and the engine noise I learned little else. The vision of her framed by the helicopter’s rotors against mountains and sky would not leave me.
It took me ages to figure out where we had landed on that day, poring over my photos out of the helicopter portholes, satellite images and trekking websites. Months later, on another trip to Georgia, I took a ‘marshrutka’ up the Military Highway, spent a night in my tent beside the roadside, and then hiked up the valley armed with a message in a translation app on my phone: “Hello.My name is Nyani. I am a photographer…”

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