A look at the Lithuanian photography from 1940's to 1980's 1

Astijus Krauleidis-Vermontas
www.kamane.lt, 2016-03-22

In brief: Kaunas Photography Gallery is currently hosting Šiauliai Photography Museum’s artistic photography collection exhibition Collection. The exhibition features various country's artists representing the development of Lithuanian photography starting with 1940's, until the 1980's. The exhibited photographs examine different periods - the time of Stalinism, "thaw" and Revival. The works point at how the system and time was affecting the aesthetics of the photograph, determined the different viewpoints towards a man, his environment and how it distorted the meaning of photography.

In 1940's the category of aesthetics is not that important, but socialism is - when a person is treated not as an individual but as a part of society. This is illustrated by such photographs like Michailas Rebi’s Altai's grain for Lithuania / grain for sowing in the collective farm (around 1947), Chanonas Levinas’ The welcoming of the 16th Lithuanian Division near Šiauliai (1945) or Stasys Ivanauskas’ Autumn (1947).

These works can be attributed to documentary, journalistic photography. Looking at them the viewer will recognize the collective farm images, soldiers and people gathering in the fields.

In the works of 1950's we can see the period of "thaw" that shaped a strong Lithuanian photography school style. This decade emphasizes man and labor and particularly the connection of these two categories. Of course, the censorship of the time remained active that is why some frames had to be given up. Therefore, photographers chose to depict the images of Lithuanian collective farms, its reality in a hyperbolized way (Algirdas Karosas’ Collective farm feast around 1959).

Undoubtedly the exhibition shows how consistently individual experiences the oppression of thought and how he aims to free himself. Large part of the works consist of the photographs made in the 1970's and 80's. They do not focus onto one specific idea, but aim at showing the whole: what is human and his living environment; how an individual perceives himself through others.

The large quantities of works allowed a closer look at the collections; helped construct a narrative of photographs and look for common denominators. Exhibition proves that these decades of the 20th century are still relevant in the context of today's photography; that captured images regarding time are universal, highlighting the parallels between individual, society and nature or destroying them.

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