Genius of the Place. Classic Lithuanian Photography

05.02.2014 — 23.03.2014

The Lumiere presents a major exhibition project Genius loci. Classical Lithuanian photography, which featured over two hundred photographs by fifteen most prominent Lithuanian photographers of the second half of the 20th century.

Lithuania’s photographic co-ordinates of the ’60s are unique. Although being placed within the latitudes of Soviet ideology, Lithuania was detached from country’s center enough to take in the European photo trends and get in touch with world photographic community. Many Lithuanian photographers had access to foreign publications and could submit their works to international photo contests and exhibitions. Lithuania was duly regarded as “photographic republic”: in 1969 Photographic Art Society was – for the first time in the Soviet Union – officially established in Lithuania. The same year saw another landmark event: the opening of the exhibition 9 Lithuanian Photographers at the Central house of journalists, which evoked great interest and discussion in the press and became a cornerstone event in the establishment of the school.

Works of Lithuanian photographers were marked by the free choice of artistic techniques (i.e. high above or down below angles, close-up views, accentuated geometry of the image, wide lens use) combined with clear-cut national aesthetics and subject-matter. And nonetheless, distinct individuality characterized each photographer. Staying within the boundaries of individual style and genre they managed to convey the common “genius loci” (Latin for “protective spirit of a place”) through visual image, thus becoming guardians of a special spirit typical of nothing but Lithuanian land and Lithuanian culture. Unlike Soviet documentary tradition, Lithuanian photographers never sought to praise the “hero” or show life to be deliberately ostentatious. They sought to reveal the natural, the sincere and the common of the Lithuanian people.

Genius loci manifests itself in various images, i.e. in the overwhelmed with beauty and purity Blossoms among Blossoms series by R. Dichavičius, in fantastic clouds above Vilnius suburbs by A. Kunčius, in the sincere spiritual rural life shown in the series Lithuanian Pilgrimages by R. Požerskis, in the cheerful Summer by A. Macijauskas. Genius loci is in the penetrating children’s gaze in A. Sutkus’ series People of Lithuania and in A. Miežanskas’ almost pictorial nudes, where woman’s beauty merges with the beauty of the forest, in the poetic Blossoming by R. Rakauskas, in the minimalist dunes by A. Zavadskis and mystical forest landscapes by J. Kalvelis. In highly personal and existential photographs by V. Šonta and optimistic photo essays by M. Baranauskas, genre sketches by R. Augūnas and sophisticated montage photographs by V. Butyrinas. It is hard to imagine these photographs to be taken anywhere else except Lithuania. The Place is undoubtedly sensed in them. The Place is not merely a geographical or national mark, but common ground for all photographers, a position manifested openly or rooted deep down and read between the lines.

The White hall of the Center for Photography hosted a selection of photographs by Vaclovas Straukas who celebrated his 90th anniversary in November 2013. Works of this lyrical realist are inseparably associated with his native seaside Klaipeda and its people. The project, co-curated by Antanas Sutkus, will feature three significant series, each being linked to one or another period of Straukas’ life: childhood (Dunes series), youth (The Young Klaipeda series) and mature age, the time of his literature teaching at school (The Last Bell series).

In 2009 a solo exhibition of Aleksandras Macijauskas opened a series of projects Classics of Lithuanian Photography at the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography. A year later it was followed by the major exhibition The Phenomenon of Lithuanian Photography School. Western Photography in the USSR. The present project is the continuation of the series and the next step in the research of the unique phenomenon of the Lithuanian school of photography.

Participating photographers: Romualdas Augūnas, Marijonas Baranauskas, Vitalijus Butyrinas, Rimantas Dichavičius, Audrius Zavadskis, Jonas Kalvelis, Algimantas Kunčius, Vitas Luckus, Aleksandras Macijauskas, Antanas Miežanskas, Romualdas Požerskis, Romualdas Rakauskas, Vaclovas Straukas, Antanas Sutkus, Virgilijus Šonta.

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