KAUNAS PHOTO RECYCLED: Nine Lessons of Photography
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You have heard it many times – “Photography is dead!” .
In the crosswinds of technological revolutions, consumer behaviour, our efforts to protect our image, our identities, our dignity, and other trends and fashions, the art of photography has become different from what it was ten years ago.
Having melted into the multimedia it gave a par to of itself to computer art, installation, performance etc. I would still say that it is rather recycled than dead. Or, in other words we could say that many spheres of life and communication are recycled into photography. As we know it, everything related to recycling, changement of substance, reusing of the consumed, is the key idea of the sustainable development. It is the remedy against the global catastrophes and the pathway to survival.
Half a century ago, re-usage of the used in the arts was called post-modernism. Now that the re-usage has become a norm, photography started to fit everything in its territory: mixed techniques, disputed points of views result in images that attracts the eyes and conquer the minds. We could deduce, that recycling is part of the survival of photography, which re-adjusts its modes to contemporary society.
If all of the today’s photographs are vivid and colourful, let’s recycle images into blurry and monochrome ones. If a century ago, a photograph was a triumph of truth and facts, documents, now let us create doubt, illusion, deception. When no-one on the street wants to become an immediate model for a picture, let us do anonymous photos. Or, if an object, monument, building, landscape is a property of someone not wanting us to photograph, come on and create our own landscapes, interiors, objects, models and invent our own photographic reality. If hundreds of thousands photographers – pros and amateurs use virtually same cameras, an artist will still distinguish himself by choosing detours. Why not remake a digital camera into analog? Since the dawn of centuries, artists have been creating their own rules and transforming the life experience into artistic reflections. Of course, quality recycling is never cheap nor it is easy. It risks not to be profitable neither. But the idea of recycled photography, after straight & street photography goes well beyond “fashionable”. It is as positive as the green colour, and its spaces are vast.
Now time to get some green colour into KAUNAS PHOTO art festival. Maybe it is an occasion for the festival to be fashionable and follow the trend of recycling. Let us paint in KAUNAS PHOTO in green and be green. Let the sixth program of KAUNAS PHOTO (program of the small anniversary 2004-2009) be the one designed not only for the “intellectuals” of photography, but also for those whose interest in photography is still about to ripe.
I was often asked, what was making photography of our age “good”, “strong”, “interesting”, I used to have troubles answering briefly. Oceans of time was wasted for discussions and disputes. Now the moment of truth has come. This time I can promise to no longer waste words. A lot of work was necessary to make up this KAUNAS PHOTO program which will provide several simple answers. I am happy to say that now everything regarding contemporary photography will be clear. Just come ans see!
KAUNAS PHOTO Recycled is about several different cycles. First, the festival is returning to the Kaunas Town Hall square, where all exhibitions will be placed next to each other. The opening of the festival at Kaunas Town Hall on September 2, 2009, will remind of the launch of the first photo festival in the Baltic States, that happened there in September 2004. This year, all the three open-air Nights of Photography will invite everyone to the Town hall square on the evenings of Sep 2, 3 and 4, 2009. Visitors will be able to do an easy cycle of Town hall square and see all the exhibitions, everyone of which will give a different hint to what is good, strong, interesting photography. Yes, you got it. Nine exhibitions will be like 9 lessons of recycling of photography, easily learn able lessons of green photography. When you come, you will see. If any questions left, maybe the Nights of Photography will give the answers.
The lessons will be thought by most different photographers – stars and beginners, local photographers and those of distant lands. Recycling motive is also about the five years history of KAUNAS PHOTO festival, since the exhibitions and Nights of Photography will host works, shown in previous programs and allow to admire them in different, green light.
9 lessons – 9 exhibitions
1. Lesson – Be a Hero. Picture yourself
In today’s globalized society, almost everyone possess a camera and takes pictures. At the same time almost nobody wants to be a model in pictures. It is even become usual to ask for money once you’re photographed. Sometimes people ask for money before they are photographed, but in other cases, they do it after seeing their pictures published or just shown in public. The second type of the case, as usual, is a lot more costly for the photographer…Here comes the question: is it possible to easily photograph people? The way out is simpler than you imagined. Photography yourself and be the action hero !
An exhibition at Lithuanian sports museum, presents works by these authors: Kazimieras Linkevičius (Lithuania), Michael Gray (Australia), Katarija Radovic (Serbia), Wilma Hurskainen (Finland), Marius Aksijonaitis (Lithuania), Michelle Lord (UK).
2. Lesson – Otherwise, hide faces!
Quite naturally , if you found yourself stuck in self-portraiture, sooner or later you will ask yourself, how much longer it can last. Most of us are not the type of Dorian Gray. If you are fed up with your own picture, it is probably time to start photographing other people. This second lesson might be useful if you decided to shoot a portrait. Do you remember the classical portraits of the previous century, loaded with psychology and theater? Well, now this type of portraiture is outdated, lost in the past. Today’s portraiture is linked to sociology, focusing on types of persons, their belonging to social groups, status, signs of power rather than on personal features, such as character, or some kind of internal life or internal beauty. Nowadays in photography, all beauty is externally visible. If you photograph people, try to make them unrecognizable by their faces or other individualities. In such a way they will look somewhat strange and maybe even tragicomic. Also, they will most probably not claim any rights to their image, even if they recognize themselves. But from viewer’s point of view, only famous face has point to be visible. Reality is that if the face is of a well-known person, it is OK, but if not – no need to include the face in the picture at all… Welcome to the recycled portraiture, anonymous portraiture!
An exhibition at Maironis Lithuanian Literature museum, presents works by these authors: Pekka Niittyvirta (Finland), Grzegorz Dąbrowski (Poland), Maria Platero (Spain), Gediminas Klezys (LIGHT.LT workshop).
3. Lesson – Create a world of your own
Now we are done with the ways how to photograph people. The problem is that photographing people can get you down too. Landscape would be an option, including nature, architecture, interior, social landscape. If you have not tired to photograph these before, it might look that it is a lot easier than to do portraiture. After trying, though, it may look the opposite way. In order to photograph landscape, you’d need to wake up before sunrise, travel far, wot before the sun turns to the needed angle, bear cold or heat, carry lots of heavy equipment. Moreover, sometimes, you would need to get permissions from landlords, local authorities etc. A contemporary way out would be to work in the studio, create your own world and transfer it into pictures. Landscape and social views, recycled!
An exhibition at Maironis Lithuanian Literature museum, presents works by these authors: Alison Carey (USA), Manuel Nunes de Almeida (Portugal), Michelle Lord (UK), Donatas Stankevičius (Lithuania).
4. Lesson – (Do not) Let believe
Long time ago, the value of photography was proportional to its objectiveness, factual information or simply “truth” that it was conveying. Now, photography is re-adapting to the needs of the society ruled by public relations, where the listed qualities are far less important than impression or image. Often the mission of photography is not showing, but concealing something. Therefore, we can bury the factual, documentary photography in favour of illusion, fakedness. Behind this change stands not only the society that prefers substitutes and disposables, but also creators of photography, who are a lot more refined, and the fact that the questioning photography is valued more than that providing answers. Mystification, on its turn, allows to avoid personalization and namely exactness, and helps to create generalization, rather than focus on particularities. In other words, you take pictures of real life, and it is up to the viewer to decide whether it was real or handmade…Today we discuss a lot about authenticity, simulacra and fakes. Photography is an active medium in this discussion.
An exhibition at “Gildija” presents works by these authors: Marc Berghaus (USA), Thomas Zika (Germany), Ivo Mayr (Germany), Paula Muhr (Germany), Esteban Pastorino Diaz (Argentina).
5. Lesson – Picture animals
In the first lesson we said, that self-portraiture was a cheaper way that photographing others. But there are other cheap way how to let photographs speak about life. One of them is photographing animals. Why? Long time ago laws and acts were protecting only humans, now they are more and more animal – focused. So the first argument is that you are not distanced from the societal tendencies: loving animals ins not only noble, but also trendy. Wildlife?.. OK, but why travel far, wait in cold or heat, when we are virtually surrounded by domestic animals, pets, stuffed animals. When photographing animals you will most likely never encounter problems related to the right to the image. Most people will be happy that their care, efforts and money become visible to other people. Moreover, the pets and domestic animals are good reflections of lifestyle, aesthetic values, fantasies of their owners, so you can make much more than image of pets. Summing it up: “why bother photographing people, if you can picture animals?..” Well, it will not be a lot easier, because not always you can tell orders to a dog, cat, mouse, snake, by saying “Don’t move, turn a bit left, etc.” It will surely be interesting both, you and a viewer, when everyone will have his or her own interpretation of the images.
An exhibition at Museum of the History of Lithuania Medicine and Pharmacy, presents works by these authors: Natalie Young (USA), Filippo del Vita (Italy), My Hellsten (Sweden), Amy Stein (USA), Daniel Muchiut (Argentina).
6. Lesson – Don’t forget still life
In lesson 3 we spoke about possibilities to construct the environments with the purpose of photographing them. Here, prohibitions and limitations were helpless. But these limitations were the factors, that have chased the photographers out of the streets to their studios and have directed the lenses of photographers from faces to objects. This lead to the rediscovery of one of the oldest genres in visual arts, still life. Having heard this word, you might immediately think of representations of flowers, meals or trophies of hunt, but the terrains of still life are much vaster than that. New capabilities of photography allow to apply new strategies of freshly seeing usual things: compositions of objects, flora, food. Contemporary still life can range from the above mentioned to chaotic heaps of things, to an insightful fragment of everyday life with images within images, or to creations of inspiration, described in Lessons 3 and 4, which play with scales of objects. Long live still life, the new king of genres of contemporary photography !
An exhibition at restaurant “Sadutė“ presents works by these authors: Jeffu Warmouth (USA), Ernie Button (USA), Luzia Simons (Germany).
7. Lesson – Decorate
In the lessons on constructed environments and on still life, you have noticed that a great amount of photographer’s work is done before pressing the button. It involves planning, arranging compositions. When saying this I almost hear my fellow photographers whispering behind me: “But is it photography?”. I will respond simply. If the final result of an artistic action is photography, then how can you call it in another way? So, try drawing, composing, staging, decorating and end up creating photography, without looking back at what someone might think of it. Photography will not suffer. On the contrary, it will be inviting, and the 2-dimensional views will be enriched by an unlimited number of artistic techniques and practices. Do not seek to be logical, nor try to follow traditions. Let it be beautiful, strange, unbelievable, unforgettable!
An exhibition at Art Gallery MJ Studio presents works by these authors: Marco Ambrosi (Italy), Fred Lebain (France), Miren Doiz (Spain), Angela Glass (USA).
8. Lesson – Be inventive, enlarge your field
We are used to a way of rating photographs, like saying “nicely shot frame”. When it comes to most of contemporary photography, this phrases is no longer exact. Nowadays, less and less of photography is created by selecting that “one good frame” among thousands of accidental pictures. And this actually implies, that the rest of pictures were just not good enough. To achieve better results, it is a good idea to look beyond, that means to combine a variety of concepts listed in our previous lessons, and those of the history and of the present progress in photography. Deployment of cameras, scanners, x-ray machines, web cams must be grounded on a firm idea, the content, the chosen form and method. The freshness of your creative idea, the long-running experience of photography combined or contradicted with help pf today’s experiments. Go, where photography of modern aesthetics or reportage photography has not been before. Cross the barriers of the usual photography.
An exhibition at Povilas Stulga’s Museum of Lithuanian Folk Instruments presents works by these authors: Peter Tonningsen (USA), Sean Justice (USA), Alison Carey (USA), Jens Sundheim (Germany), Darius Kuzmickas (Lithuania/USA), Mindaugas Kavaliauskas (Lithuania).
9. Lesson – Forget the camera!
In the previous lesson, it was made clear that if you want to be original, you need to apply unconventional thinking. This lesson is even more radical. The progress of photography until now was grounded on the advancement of new cameras, but suggestion of this lesson is that you actually put the camera aside. Take a look at the menu of tools, which you can enrich by creating ones of your own. Haven’t you heard about the all-mighty photo editing software? Sure, but I would say that all-mighty is your fantasy. The tools you will choose will only be your choice. Take a look around. You noticed that almost everything is a repetition, imitation, copying and cloning of something already existing. Nobody told you that you cannot transform the existing imagery into something that the primary author would never suspect the change. Of course, be ready to get smart in issues of author’s rights. Otherwise, you can forget about any ready-made pictures as source and focus on copying, stamping objects, bodies, silhouettes, directly on the final print, eliminating the need of film or matrix. Cut, paste, draw with light, use pre-produced images, recycle it all in a way that the artwork becomes purely made by you. Let the camera rest in peace, while you work on your virtual or actual desktop, on the ground, on an old roll of photographic paper etc.
An exhibition at Povilas Stulga’s Museum of Lithuanian Folk Instruments presents works by these authors: Sean Hillen (Ireland), Pavel M. Smejkal (Slovakia), Ludmila Steckelberg (Brazil), Paula Muhr (Germany) , Elijah Gowin (USA).
Post-Scriptum Lesson – Think and feel.
An exhibition at “F Galerija” presents works by Isabel Tallos (Spain).
KAUNAS PHOTO RECYCLED final event on November 21, 2009
KAUNAS PHOTO festival and the dance theater “Aura” invite to BLC – business leader center for the final event which based on three parts. At the first part will be presented a social-documentary project “Savanoriai”. The second part will describe the 9th lessons of photography form another side. And the last part – “performance of body and light” will invite to forget cameras and to create a photography with light and dance.
Social-documentary project “Savanoriai”
In this year festival we will not just watch and learn. Also will enjoy various photography, created by our hands, eyes, hearts. The theme of the festival is clearly formulated, but also full of creative freedom.
Most sporty, inventive and tough photo-enthusiasts are invited in photo-marathon, others, who minded to concentrate, to fathom into work, could do it not so quickly.
The theme of this year social-documentary project – „Savanoriai“. Do you remember project „Laisvę fotografijai“, when we photographed Laisvė avenue in Kaunas? We published the catalog, arranged huge exhibition in Kaunas Picture Gallery. Great version of this exhibition this summer cheers visitors of Kaunas airport.
So, this year social-documentary project will invite to photograph Savanoriai prospectus – the longest street in Vilnius and Kaunas (including highway between them). Why namely this street was chosen? Likely it‘s because this street is reflection of dynamics and contrasts. Lets‘s photograph – life in the street, shop, office, school, stadium, beauty salon, at home in the Savanoriai and it‘s environment.
Somebody will say that is it crisis now, but this street is a face of our prosperity as well as the mops and mows of difficult time. Crisis is just in economy, art ignores crisis and pauses. During difficult times most of the masterpieces of photography arose. Maybe it is time for new masterpieces to born on Savanoriai prospectas.
So where are you, volunteers, who wants to create masterpieces about real Lithuania?…
KAUNAS PHOTO 2009 Polska
More about KAUNAS PHOTO Polska 2009 here >>
Catalog: “Nine Lessons of Photography” here >>
Web site of KAUNAS PHOTO festival 2009 here >>
KAUNAS PHOTO 2009 festival team:
Festival director & curator Mindaugas Kavaliauskas
Coordinator Ieva Kubiliūtė
Technical implementation Donatas Stankevičius, Erlendas Bartulis