Letters from the Caucasus
6/11/2013 - 5/01/2014

In French


Philippe Herbet, Around Jvaris pass, Georgia, 2012.

A few years ago, during one of my return trips to Minsk, I read “A Hero Of Our Time” by Lermontov. The train made its way across a landscape of plains and the Caucasus mountains appeared as if they had been superimposed, like in the cinematic “dissolve” process. Petchorin is the central protagonist of this novel and he wanders through the Caucasus, without ever departing from a “dazzling white line” under a dusty velvet jacket. Naturally, I became attached to this tragic, ambiguous character, to his Romanticism, his elegance, his quest and to the Caucasus mountains. In 2010, a set of particular circumstances (the unhappy end of a love affair) drove me to wander through these mountains.

The Caucasus stand on the tense border between the complex world of the Russian Federation and the West, and the region is highly geo-strategic, due to its oil reserves and attempts by radical Islamists to take power in the mosaic of small republics in the North. Nothing seemed to have fundamentally changed in this region: the astonishingly beautiful countryside seemed to hold within it some sort of imminent drama, the frontiers were fascinating, the different peoples had strong identities, there was a constant military presence, kidnapping was an everyday commercial practice, and armed attacks were frequent... all this led to adrenaline rushes, just like those Petchorin must have experienced in the nineteenth century.

Adygea, Karachay-Cherkessia, Abkhasia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, South Ossetia, Georgia, Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan are the names of the various republics I visited on six occasions in two years. I had no particular objective, just to live, to try to get lost, to wander, to write letters, to ask myself questions about Romanticism in the twenty-first century, to spend time contemplating the landscapes, to taste the rarified air on the mountain tops, to make links between these republics beyond the frontiers created by power and religions and to be open to the beauty of encounters with my brother humans who had made a huge impression on me.

Yes, as Lermontov says in one of his poems: "I love the Caucasus".

Philippe Herbet

For this exhibition, Philippe Herbet benefited from the support of Rhizome ASBL, from the Province of Liège, from K-echo-photo, from Jacques Cerami and from Europe House Georgia.

Philippe Herbet is represented in Belgium by Jacques Cerami Gallery, Couillet.


Philippe Herbet is born in Belgium in 1964.

In 1966, his parents settle down to Seraing (suburb of Liège), then rapidly expanding. He follows boring studies of accounting and ten years later dedicates himself to photography.

From 1989 till 1991, he follows photography courses at Saint Luc's School of Fine Arts, Liège.

The photography, the writing and the journeys towards the East occupy the major part of his time.

Philippe Herbet exhibitions organised by Contretype:

Propositions d’artistes (collective), at Espace Photographique Contretype, Brussels, 1998

Rhizome, at Espace Photographique Contretype, 2000

Pays Sages (collective), at Raffinerie du Plan K, Brussels, 2002

Pays Sages (collective), Mai Mano, Budapest, Hungary, 2003

Pays Sages (collective), Museu da Imagem, Braga, Portugal, 2003

Pays Sages (collective), Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles, Prague, Czech Republic, 2004

Pays Sages (collective), Saint-Hubert, Belgium, 2004

Bruxelles-Europe, at Espace Photographique Contretype, 2004

Pays Sages (collective), Zamek Cultural Center, Poznan, Poland, 2005

Mar Mater Materia (collective), at Espace Photographique Contretype, 2006

Rhizome oriental, at Espace Photographique Contretype, 2008

Human Landscapes (collective, initiated by EU within Cultural Bridges Program), at Espace Photographique Contretype, 2010

Bruxelles-Europe, at BIP (Brussels Info point), 2010

Miroirs de l’intime (collective), at Espace Photographique Contretype, 2011

Rhizome oriental, MuBE, Museu Brasileiro ad Escultura, Sao-Paulo, Brazil, 2011

Errance romantique. Lettre du Caucase, at Espace Photographique Contretype, 2013

Within the travelling exhibition (collective)
Co2-Bruxelles à l'infini: Cracow (2006), Sao Paulo (2007), Paris (2007), Bucharest (2008)

Philippe Herbet Web Site