After logging in, you'll be able to save your favorite works of art in this section. Read more about “My Collection” in the “Project” section.
Push slider to the right
Registration successful.
Username already exists!
Passwords do not match!
Slider error
You are almost done. To activate your account, please click the link in the activation email which has been sent to your email address ( )
A new password has been sent.
1970–1979: The Phenomenon of the “Lithuanian School of Photography”
The flourishing of photography in the 1970s is closely linked to the phenomenon of the so-called “Lithuanian School of Photography.” The term was coined by two Moscow art critics, Anri Vartanov and Konstantin Vishnevsky, in their Sovetskoye foto review of the 9 Lithuanian Photographers exhibit. Since we already know that no institution for the training of photographers existed at that time in Lithuania, why did these critics choose to use the word “school” at all?
The first reason was that the Moscow critics understood perfectly well that the hints of Lithuanian national character revealed in their photography could easily be branded as “nationalism”, which would have closed every door to the further development of this photographic movement. Thus, the critics cleverly neutralized the situation by simply referring to it as the phenomenon of the Lithuanian School of Photography. The Moscow Institute of Art Criticism and Moscow-based critics were the only ones at the time who could properly judge photography, since Lithuania not only had no degreed photography specialists, it also had no art critics with any knowledge of the field. Because of the weight of their authority, the name the Moscow critics gave to the movement was soon adopted not only by Lithuanians writing on the subject, but also by critics in neighboring countries and, later, in the West.
Another reason was the value system shared by the work of the Lithuanian artists. Though the individual work of Antanas Sutkus, Romualdas Rakauskas, Aleksandras Macijauskas, Liudvikas Ruikas,Marius Baranauskas, Vitalijus Butryinas, Vitas Luckus and others was distinguished by each photographer’s unique outlook on the world and the people within it, their photographs embraced a common thread of a humanistic perspective.
The humanistic photography movement that developed in the West following World War II had an impact on Lithuanian artists. Like Western humanists such as France’s Henri Cartier-Bresson, Austria’s Ernst Haas, Hungary’s Robert Capa, and America’s Russell Lee, they were drawn to themes and motifs which revealed metaphoric images about human life: childhood, youth, old age, love, beauty, transcience. Sutkus’ photograph Motinos ranka (Mother’s Hand, 1966), for example, in which a girl is pictured hugging her mother’s hand, became a metaphor for a mother’s love. Rakauskas’ image of an old woman among tree blossoms, from his series Žydėjimas (Flowering), captures the beauty and fragility of human life. The very titles given to Rakauskas’ series of photographs (Flowering, Gentleness, etc.) serve as metaphors in themselves.
The introductory text to the album published for the Moscow exhibition 9 Lithuanian Photographers testifies to the affiliation of Lithuanian photographers with the humanistic photography movement. The author of the introduction was artist and art critic Vincas Kisarauskas, one of the few critics of the time who had any expertise in photography and who maintained close ties with the community of Lithuanian photographers. Interestingly, Kisarauskas paraphrased texts contained in the catalog published for Edward Steichen’s The Family of Man. In the latter, the authors wrote about how people “get married, labor, fish, argue, sing, fight, and pray similarly across the width and breadth of the world”, while the Lithuanian catalogue mentioned how “a person from the opposite side of the world also cries and laughs; terror, like joy, has no boundaries; and the most subtle of spiritual shifts is reflected in the faces and movements of strangers. Tomas Pabedinskas, Žmogus Lietuvos fotografijoje: požiūrių kaita XX ir XXI a. sandūroje, Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2010, p. 61. Steichen asserted that photography, seeing similarities between people, “explains one person to another”, while Kisarauskas noted that someone looking at the images taken by Lithuanian photographers can see himself in other people. Tomas Pabedinskas, Žmogus Lietuvos fotografijoje: požiūrių kaita XX ir XXI a. sandūroje, Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2010, p. 61.
Nevertheless, Lithuanian photographers were separated from their Western humanist colleagues by the circumstances dictated by the political context. Against the background of Soviet ideology of the 1960s, both literature and art were forced to master an Aesopian language: the ability to express an idea without attracting the attention of a censor’s eye so that a work of art could actually reach the public. Thus, various visual metaphors became extremely useful. According to Kunčius, “there was no strict control—one could create whatever one wanted and place it away in a drawer. But if you wanted to show something publicly, you had to adjust. We were careful. As we photographed, we had to think and be cautious. Tomas Pabedinskas, Žmogus Lietuvos fotografijoje: požiūrių kaita XX ir XXI a. sandūroje, Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2010, p. 9.
Another difference was that Lithuanian photographers were more concerned than their Western colleagues with village life. The reason for the interest in provincial life in the 1960s can be explained by the overall political and cultural context: the government sought to reduce the disparity between cities and villages, so it supported the exploration of this subject in literature, art, and photography. Many photographers also felt a close kinship with the villages in which they had been raised, so they had an increased sense of the cyclical nature of the seasons, a knowledge of the psychology of the average villager, and they knew how to approach villagers and convince them to pose for the camera. Kunčius wrote:
We were raised in the village, and I would go back there every summer to work. That worldview, that relationship with and sense of nature, was a part of our lives. „Trumpa istorija, kaip fotografija tapo savimi“, Fotografija, 2009, Nr. 1, p. 9.
Seeing the consequences of Soviet-era collectivization and industrialization and the rise of urban culture, photographers felt that capturing the traditional Lithuanian way of life was very important, since it might soon disappear entirely. Tomas Pabedinskas, „Modernus žvilgsnis į amžinąjį gyvenimo ratą“, in: Aleksandras Macijauskas, Ratas, Kaunas: Lietuvos fotomenininkų sąjungos Kauno skyrius, 2010, p. 9. But the main motivation (and one which was impossible to utter aloud) was patriotism. By recording the vestiges of their vanishing culture, the photographers tried to discern the roots of the Lithuanian national character and quietly rebel against the consequences of Sovietization. The multifaceted content of their images allowed the photographers to balance between the “permissable” and the “prohibited.” The national component contained in the photographs, meanwhile, could be justified by invoking the “humanistic perspective” still permitted by the regime. According to photography researcher Tomas Pabedinskas, “nationality reveals itself in their work as a natural, innate human characteristic—one that is independent of any specific period or set of circumstances. Here it is associated with man’s inner, spiritual world, and not with the socio-cultural realm or historical conditions.  This is precisely why A. Šliogeris was able to assert that the central focus of the Lithuanian School of Photography’s representatives was the non-historical, timeless […] Eternal Man. Tomas Pabedinskas, Žmogus Lietuvos fotografijoje: požiūrių kaita XX ir XXI a. sandūroje, Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2010, p. 64.


Write a comment
No comments.

Sources and links

„Trumpa istorija, kaip fotografija tapo savimi“
Fotografija, 2009, Nr. 1
Tomas Pabedinskas
„Modernus žvilgsnis į amžinąjį gyvenimo ratą“
Aleksandras Macijauskas, Ratas, Kaunas: Lietuvos fotomenininkų sąjungos Kauno skyrius, 2010
Tomas Pabedinskas
Žmogus Lietuvos fotografijoje: požiūrių kaita XX ir XXI a. sandūroje
Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2010
[[item.description]] [[item.details]]
You have subscribed successfully.
Patikrinkite savo pašto dėžutę ir paspauskite nat gautos nuorods norėdami patvirtinti užsakymą.