Kaunas Photography Club: group of enthusiasts that created history 0

Tomas Pabedinskas
www.kamane.lt, 2013-10-28
Logo of Kaunas Photography Club

In brief: The seventh decade of the 20th century has become legendary in history of Lithuanian photography – albums predicting the rebirth of art photography were published then (joint work of Antanas Sutkus and Romualdas Rakauskas “Daily Life of Vilnius”, book of Algimantas Kunčius “Views of Old Vilnius”), important exhibitions of Lithuanian photography were organised in our country and on the international level (exhibition of A. Kunčius, Vilius Naujikas, R. Rakauskas and A. Sutkus at Vilnius Art Museum in 1968, exhibition of nine Lithuanian authors in Moscow in 1969). However, beside the big events that create the story of the so-called Lithuanian school of photography there is place for less known facts and memories of photographers.

One of the roads that lead to the original Lithuanian school of photography started in Kaunas five decades ago. When the photo section that operated at the editors’ office of Kauno Tiesa newspaper stopped functioning, photographers of the city formed a Photography Club at Kaunas Culture Centre of Professional Unions. The history of this club is mostly related with the personality of Vilius Jasinevičius, who headed the organisation from 1964 to 1978. In this period Kaunas Photography Club and art photography lived through a dynamic period of development which had an impact on the further development of Lithuanian photography.

Regulations of the Photography Club were accepted at the beginning of heading of V. Jasinevičius, soon representatives of photography clubs of Šiauliai, Panevėžys, Klaipėda and Kaunas decided to form a joint Council of Lithuanian Photography Clubs with a centre based in Kaunas. The number of the club members increased rapidly – 65 photographers in 1966 and about 150 artists in 1969 already.

The exhibition activity of Kaunas Photography Club seems impressive even today. The first exhibition of the club members was opened at Kaunas Historical Museum in 1965 and the club organised 53 exhibitions with accompanying illustrated catalogues until 1969, when the Art Association of Lithuanian Photography was established.

However, the controversial relation of the photographer’s organisation with the authorities of that time showed in the first exhibition organised by the club already. It was evident that some of the works did not correspond to the ideological requirements of that time. Looking at the catalogues of the organised exhibitions, it is evident that some of the displayed works were a tribute to ideological requirements of authorities of those days. Such a photographs with views of construction sites, sports competitions, other plots with extremely elevated mood.

Nonetheless, in addition to such “mandatory” works, examples of more liberal works were showcased. Kaunas photographers valued experiments with technologies of analogue photography, they often made the view captured in photographs close to aesthetics of graphic works while making prints. The most famous Lithuanian photo-graphic artists R. Maleckas and Vitalijus Butyrinas made the debut at Kaunas Photography Club.

Also, many features that prevailed in Lithuanian photography of later decades became prominent in works of the club members: humanistic outlook, aim to reveal the human psychology in photographs, attention to country-side people and their traditional life-style, sensitivity to beauty of nature.

The establishment of Kaunas Photography Club became the ground for the further development of Lithuanian photography from the institutional and creative point of view. The Art Association of Lithuanian Photographers was established in 1969 (from 1989 it is the Union of Lithuanian Art Photographers), and the Kaunas Branch of Art Association of Lithuanian Photographers was established in 1974. Although Kaunas Photography Club continued its existence, these years may be considered a kind of landmark that end the most important stage of activity of Kaunas Photography Club and open a new page in history of Lithuanian photography.

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