The works of Lithuanian photographers of the 1960s, having barely become known, were so highly appreciated by the professionals all over the world that this seemed to question the very just idea that it’s only with the course of time that an oeuvre can receive the status of classics.

The Lithuanian masters announced themselves neither by social protest nor by negation of communist ideology, or by use of avant-garde artistic language, although their creations obviously did not belong to the regulatory aesthetics of social realism.

In the world of day-to-day spaces and objects, the new generation of Lithuanian photographers managed to reveal the ever elusive features of life that open only to a keen and purely individual mind.

The so-called Khrushev thaw in the late 1950s – early 1960s was marked by a certain let-down of totalitarian press, but the vision of an artist as a functional element of the ideology machine, customary to the authorities and the society, was still to change. That is why the intentions of Antanas Sutkus and photographers of his circle, their search for the new plastics of imagery and for a more complex dialogue with the audience, were received both with interest and suspicion.

It was not just one person but a whole art group that concentrated on the new experience implementing subjects seemingly naive and assimilated to a certain extent not only by photography but also by traditional genre painting. Nevertheless, whether it be a stranger’s gesture in the huddle of Sunday market, or the atmosphere of a large farmer’s family joined at a table, there was no theme where Lithuanian photographers allowed repetition or banality.

Antanas Sutkus, Aleksandras Matsiyauskas, Algimantas Kunchus, Romualdas Rakauskas, Vitas Lutskus, Vatslovas Straukas: should these artists represented at the St.-Petersburg exhibition (organized by the National Centre of Photography together with the Lithuanian Union of Art Photographers) have any secrets, those would be equally simple and impossible to borrow.  It is known that a truly alive culture is established not apart from the rest of the world but through interaction and dialogue with other cultures. It is hardly doubtful that the uniqueness of inner world is essential for an artist, in order for his adherence to humanistic values to be more than a mere declaration.

These old formulas are obviously true if Antanas Sutkus, Lithuanian photography master, working on his lifelong project, People of Lithuania, turns his characters – strangers he met accidentally in the streets of Vilnius – into the viewer’s confidential companions

Vitas Lutskus’s stories about Georgia, Azerbaijan, Siberia are no less full of emotion, unpredictable and ironic than the ones about his fellow countrymen’s life. A relaxed feeling and even a certain carelessness (that should not be confused with the inaccuracy of an amateur) gives these works a charming veracity reminding of the sources of ‘Lithuanian school’ in photography (first registered existing by Henri Vartanov) that descends from photo reportage and documental photography.

The common roots, however, by no means suggest sameness or dictation of a certain method, something that ruined enough bright art groups and projects in the course of XX century.

Algimintas Kunchus manages to communicate the inconstancy and whimisicality of emotion in his lively, populous compositions.

Romualdas Rakauskas, following the traditions and metaphorical language of Lithuanian poetry and theatre, is philosophical and unhurried as an artist should be in his exploration of the eternal contradictions of existence.

Vatslovas Straukas’s naïve stories about the schoolchildren of the 70s are full of completely unexpected energy and value and free of forged sentimentality. 

Markets of Lithuania, a series by Aleksandras Matsiyauskas, proves that the opposition of ‘up-to-date’ and ‘old-fashioned’ photography is merely conventional.  Should ethnographical content of works be mentioned here, it only concerns the understanding of ethnos as a living and dynamical organism. 

The organizers believe that the exhibition in 2007 will become as important a milestone in the history of Lithuanian photography as the 1968 show in Lithuanian Art Museum or the Moscow exhibition in 1969. We hope that the study and archival research of the history of Lithuanian photography that has become a positive tendency in the recent years, continues in the discovery of the world of six outstanding Lithuanian photography masters by the St.-Petersburg audience.

Based on the article by Margarita Matulite

Organizers: ROSPHOTO, Lithuanian Union of Art Photographers

Supported by the Consulate General of Lithuania in Saint-Petersburg