About

First-ever joint Baltic art project in Japan. It presents more than 200 photographs by 17 authors of the golden age humanist photography of 1960-1990 and The Baltic Way in one of the most prestigious galleries of Tokyo - Spiral Garden.

What is Humanist Photography?

The humanist photography movement, born from the aftermath of World War II, highlights the importance of individual humanity over war's anonymous horrors, aiming to foster peace. Baltic humanist photographers, working under severe state censorship and a backdrop of hostility to their global perspective, employed visual metaphors, hidden messages, and "Aesopian language" to navigate and challenge these constraints. The exhibition focuses on the importance of everyday human life, freedom of expression and social responsibility of art. With the spread of fake news and the ongoing war in Ukraine, these topics are relevant and resonating with audiences.

Algirdas Šeškus

(

b. 1945

)
(

Lithuania

)

likes to say: 'but the impression that an image is not necessary for a photograph is completely accurate.' When Šeškus started participating in exhibitions in the late 1970s, few understood his works. It was difficult to justify their obvious banality, monotony, and fake amateurism: incorrect composition, overexposure, scratched negatives, crooked frames, or in other words, 'the aesthetics of boredom.' For Šeškus, a photograph is a membrane between the one who perceives and the reality: one should listen to its vibrations, instead of naming what they see. Šeškus worked as a cameraman in Lithuanian television, filming the 'correct' version of reality from 1975 to 1985. Meanwhile, he also photographed people getting ready for their performances. We see the presenters, the gymnasts, or the dancers, caught in the artificial space-time of the studio, radiating their longing for a different life. Šeškus also had a different life as a painter and participated in the avant-garde art movement. In the early 1990s, he withdrew from art until 2010, when he started publishing photobooks. In 2017, he participated in the exhibition documenta14 in Kassel and Athens. His work is included in important public collections, including the MoMA at New York and the Museo Nacional Reina Sofía in Madrid.

Aleksandras Macijauskas

(

b. 1938

)
(

Lithuania

)

prefers to get as close as possible to his subjects and capture the rough texture of their skin. 'A work of art, like a person, must contain everything – from swear words to the subtlest notes,' he says. His father was executed by the German army in 1944, and his mother was deported to Siberia by the Russians. Thus, Macijauskas was raised by his grandparents. He started his career as a reportage photographer working from 1967 to 1973, and soon became the leader of the Photographers’ Society in his hometown, Kaunas. His first photographic series 'Rural Markets' (1968–1980) documented the disappearing trade culture. Macijauskas then focused on the treatment of animals in 'Veterinary Clinics' (1977–1984). Despite the Iron Curtain, Macijauskas became known abroad, where his series would be exhibited alongside works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brassaï, Robert Doisneau, and others. Back home, the authorities often ordered the removal of his works from exhibitions because he depicted somewhat startling content, like people in their mundane clothes, a cow’s body covered with manure, or dirty wrinkled faces. The authorities blamed Macijauskas for 'deforming' and 'tarnishing Soviet reality.' But the photographic community appreciated his work for the expressive treatment of human-animal relationships with a touch of laughter and absurdity.

Romualdas Požerskis

(

b. 1951

)
(

Lithuania

)

and his friends liked to travel around Lithuania on motorbikes. In 1973, they stumbled upon a religious festival which felt a deep impression for Požerskis: 'a wooden church, a green meadow and trees lit up by sunshine, girls dressed in white, church flags, ribbons, a slowly moving procession, men and women in their Sunday best… It was a wonderful theater, a vision, which seemed like it had descended from another reality.' Next year, he began his series 'Lithuanian Pilgrimages' and continued this project until 2001. Photographing a forbidden religious subject was not the first time when Požerskis disobeyed the authorities. He had already been arrested for documenting the crowds after the self-immolation of Romas Kalanta, who committed this ultimate act as a sign of protest against the Soviet occupation. Požerskis was kicked out of the Kaunas Polytechnic for these photographs, but continued photographing people who gathered at church festivals all around Lithuania. He also documented the national revival movement and the restoration of independence during 1988–1991. Despite the prohibitions, 'Lithuanian Pilgrimages' were shown at The Rencontres d’Arles festival in 1977, where Požerskis won the critic’s and the audience’s awards. In 1990, his series was published as the book Pilgrimages in Chicago, USA.

Algimantas Kunčius

(

b. 1939

)
(

Lithuania

)

grew up in Kaunas and moved to Vilnius to study music and law, which he never finished because photography became his passion. He photographed portraits of artists for the cultural press and captured the newly discovered city: 'The sun was my guide – I followed it as much as I could.' During the summer, Kunčius would move to countryside and photograph people going to church for his series 'Sundays' (1963–1984). He would then find the same villagers enjoying their time on the beach by the Baltic Sea. His whole series 'By the Sea' (1965–2015) looks like a snapshot of a happy day which lasts for four decades as the culture of sunbathing and relaxation changes. The sea tosses the broken shards of the goddess Jūratė’s mythical amber castle onto the sand. And Jūratė herself emerges from the waters as a cardboard prop for the photographer. In the evening, everyone walks on the Palanga pier to bid farewell to the setting sun. The shimmering water elevates the transient human spectacle against the sky, sand, and water. The quality of the prints is irreproducible – the subtlest of undertones and its 'molecular' resolution animate distant expanses.

Violeta Bubelytė

(

b. 1965

)
(

Lithuania

)

hates it when people see her photographs of her own naked body as nudes. For her, this is theater, a mono-performance or a kind of painting: 'I cannot draw, but I can express my emotions through mimics, movement, scenography, or my relationship with things. My body is my paint brush. This way, I create a character who lives her own life.' As a child, Bubelytė dreamed of becoming an artist, but her family was too poor to let her attend art school. Thus, she became a photographer instead and portrayed horses she used to ride as a teenager. In 1982, Bubelytė started experimenting with her own body and creating her life-long mono-spectacle. She was recognized by like-minded photographers, but shunned and criticized by authorities and even ordinary citizens who thought such a practice was shameful, particularly for a woman. Unperturbed, she has continued this project all her life, especially as her body changes and reflects the passage of time. With her shrewd compositions and ironic titles, she mocks cultural stereotypes and social imperatives. These photographs express her thoughts – not only the beautiful ones, but also the inconvenient, the sad, and the painful states of her mind.

Zenta Dzividzinska

(

1944—2011

)
(

Latvia

)

is a Latvian artist and photographer. From 1961 to 1966 she studied at the Riga School of Applied Arts, which at the time was the local equivalent of the Bauhaus. In 1964 she attended a correspondence photography class taught by Gunārs Binde, one of the most prominent proponents of photographic art and one of the leading members of the Rīga photography club. The sad state of Dzividzinska’s archive stems from the fact that neither her life nor works were ever considered particularly valuable. Her series 'House by the River' depicts the everyday life of three generations of women in their small house in and around the Latvian countryside. Today, these images can be considered para-feminist, as explicitly feminist critiques of Latvian art only appeared in the 1980s.

Aivars Liepiņš

(

b. 1953

)
(

Latvia

)

started taking photographs in 1973 while studying journalism at the Latvian State University. Since 1977 he has worked as a staff photographer for numerous magazines and newspapers. He was one of the founders of the photo news agency A.F.I. His photographs have been published in Latvia and in various publications abroad. Alongside his work in the press, he has developed several series, like the 'Kundzinsala' and 'Siksala.' Liepiņš has been repeatedly recognized as the best press photographer in Latvia and in 1992 was among the 30 European photographers nominated for the Fox Talbot Award (Great Britain).

Andrejs Grants

(

b. 1955

)
(

Latvia

)

is a Latvian photographer and educator. He studied at the Latvian State University (1973–78) and later worked at the Ogre photography studio (1978–1988). Since 1979 he has been teaching at the Technical Youth House, where he has gained a reputation as an influential photography teacher of many Latvian contemporary photographers, filmmakers, and artists, such as Ritums Ivanovs, Arnis Balčums, and Gints Bērziņš. Together with photographers Inta Ruka, Valts Kleins, and Gvido Kajons, he founded the informal Group A at the Ogre photo studio. Influenced by documentary photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, Group A documented everyday life in Soviet Latvia in a reportorial style, often producing photographs that were full of critique.

Māra Brašmane

(

b. 1944

)
(

Latvia

)

is one of the best-known Latvian photographers whose work has been published in more than 50 books, albums, and catalogues. She started her photography studies in 1962 and is a self-taught photographer. She has worked as a photographer at the Rundāle Palace Museum and the National Museum of Art. Brašmane worked mainly in a black and white documentary style. In the 1970s and 1980s she photographed people in informal settings and made socially based reports.

Gvido Kajons

(

b. 1955

)
(

Latvia

)

has been described as both an exquisitely precise master of urban photography and a subjective documentarian. He admits that satirical street subjects are the most interesting for him, as he often finds himself in the middle of the situations he likes to depict. Kajons’s photographs are an apt and vivid testimony to the Soviet era in Latvia. His best-known series of black-and-white photographs, 'Tema 011,' were taken during the Soviet period, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The title is a witty reference to the use of numbers in the titles. In his work, Cajon distinguishes between the 'human period' and the 'non-human period,' during which the series 'Subject 011,' a satirical description of the socialist environment, was created. Alongside Inta Ruka, Andrejs Grants, and others, he is a co-founder of the informal Group A.

Gunārs Binde

(

b. 1933

)
(

Latvia

)

is one of the most well-known photographers of the Soviet era. He has received recognition for his work at the Rīga photography club. Binde achieved considerable international success in the 1960s and 1970s. His canonical portrait of the legendary director Eduard Smiļģas was awarded a gold medal at the 29th Argentine International Salon of Photography (XXIX Salón Internacional de Arte Fotográfico) in Buenos Aires in 1965. Binde developed an original method of staged photography in which he synthesized directing, imagery, the principles of a cinematic aesthetic, and documentation.

Peeter Tooming

(

1939—1997

)
(

Estonia

)

is an Estonian photographer, film director, and cinematographer. Founding member of the photo group STODOM. Winner of the distinction of the Artist FIAP. His work can be viewed as an illustration of the maxim that 'A picture says more than a thousand words.' It is fitting to a man who, in addition to countless photographs, has published around 1000 articles on photography. Both his documentary and staged photographs have a sense of intrigue that guides the viewer into the role of an active participant. Tooming found joy in the temporal nature of photography and its documentary nature. The series '55 Years Later' (1995), where he took the same shots taken by Carl Sarap in 1937, as well as the series called 'Photorondo' (1982), are the best testament to this. Peeter Tooming’s hugely multifaceted work shows us that, in his case, there is always one common denominator behind every good picture – joy.

Kalju Suur

(

1928—2013

)
(

Estonia

)

is an Estonian photographer and artist. Founding member of the Tallinn Photography Club (1960) and photo group STODOM (1964). Winner of the distinction of the Artist FIAP. Kalju Suur’s work was highly diverse, as he worked in different genres (portraits, reportage, nude photographs, and others). His artistic signature changed depending on the theme, but his greatest creative liberty can be seen in his candid pictures of everyday life. Suur captured the simple but charming moments where viewers can create their own stories. His documentary photographs were unconstrained and dynamic in terms of composition. Suur has written himself into the history books, as he was the first photographer to publish a nude photo in the Soviet press. The Glavlit (Russian censorship office) tried on many occasions to ban Kalju Suur from publishing nude photographs and, in some cases, succeeded.

Arno Saar

(

1953—2022

)
(

Estonia

)

took on odd jobs after graduating from secondary school, until he became a cameraman’s assistant at Tallinnfilm. This job also led him to photography. Later, he worked as a photographer for various newspapers. He is most known for his immense work on the Estonian punk scene. Those who took photos of punks would eventually have to deal with the censorship that was enforced in Soviet society. Fringe bands, music, literature, and lifestyles were banned or controlled by the Glavlit or KGB. Despite these prohibitions, Saar was fascinated by the extraordinary appearance and clothes of punks, who were visually intriguing subjects. Arno Saar was not always successful in evading the authorities; once, Soviet militiamen exposed his films to light, and on many other occasions he was questioned by the KGB or harassed by its officers. The authorities did not wish for these photographs to exist, but Arno Saar understood the importance of recording the life of this subculture in Estonia, even just by chronicling them. He believed that the existence of these images would make it impossible to distort history. In this exhibition, a selection of Saar’s photos of punks is presented.

Peeter Langovits

(

b. 1948

)
(

Estonia

)

originally majored in engineering and worked at the Hans Pöögelmann Electrical Engineering Plant, where he also began taking photographs and established a photo department and a full-scale darkroom at the factory. Since 1974, he has participated in more than 350 exhibitions or competitions and organized nearly 50 solo exhibitions at home and abroad. He has worked as a press photographer for the Estonian Telegraph Agency and at the newspaper Postimees. Peeter Langovits is renowned for capturing the everyday life of ordinary people in the city and presenting a documentary of human life in his exhibition 'Morning at the New Neighborhood' (1982–1984). A selection from the series is presented at this exhibition.

Ene Kärema

(

b. 1948

)
(

Estonia

)

is an Estonian photographer and photo artist. Kärema was a member of the photo group BEG and one of the few female photographers in Estonia who participated in international photography exhibitions in the 1970s. Kärema has focused on artistic photo-documentary in her work. Her large-format black-and-white photos mostly depict people and living conditions in rural areas of Estonia. Kärema’s most famous series 'Where Grandma Was Born' (1978) depicts children at an old and dilapidated Estonian farm. In this photo series, she directs attention to the intersections of different generations. Kärema highlights the painful reality of urbanization and the nationalization of farmland that happened after the Soviet occupation, causing many homes to be abandoned. Ene Kärema’s public works are limited to the 1970s. Her works mainly belong to private collections and the Photo Museum in Tallinn.

Tiit Veermäe

(

b. 1950

)
(

Estonia

)

is a photographer specializing in architectural and industrial photography. Veermäe was trained at the Tallinn Pedagogical Institute to become a high school teacher of art, art history, and manual work. Veermäe worked as a freelance photographer for various magazines and newspapers and as a photographer for the Estonian Telegraph Agency (ETA). His photos have been featured in major global publications through ETA and have adorned many books on Estonia’s reestablishment of independence. He was a member of the Journalists’ Union in the 1980s and a founding member of the Association of Photo Artists of Estonia in 1987. After leaving journalism when it turned 'yellow,' he focused on freelance commercial, architecture, and industrial photography. Veermäe also taught photography at the Estonian Academy of Arts until around 2018, concluding a significant chapter in his teaching career.

Introduction

Curators

Agnė Narušytė

(

Lithuania

)

is an art critic and curator, with a particular interest in contemporary photography and art as well as ideas linking photography, philosophy and psychology. She studied art history at Vytautas Magnus University (Kaunas, Lithuania), Central European University (Prague) and Vilnius Academy of Arts (Lithuania). Narušytė curated the photographic collection of the Lithuanian Art Museum, also lectured at the Vilnius Academy of Arts and Edinburgh Napier University (UK), edited the foreign culture page of the Lithuanian cultural weekly '7 meno dienos' and created programmes on culture for the Lithuanian National Television. In 2008, she published the Lithuanian version of this book, Nuobodulio estetika Lietuvos fotografijoje, based on her PhD thesis, in 2011 – a history of contemporary Lithuanian photography (Lietuvos fotografija: 1990–2010). Currently she is professor at the Art History and Theory Department, Vilnius Academy of Arts. In 2022 she was awarded the Lithuanian National Prize for a valuable reflection on contemporary culture.

PhD, chief curator

Toomas Järvet

(

Estonia

)

is a curator, filmmaker, and visual anthropologist living in Tallinn, Estonia. He studied law and cultural theory but always had a thing for visual arts, so he found his medium in photography and filmmaking. Things got more serious when he decided to pursue a Master's Degree in Visual Anthropology at Barcelona University, where he finally matched his brain's left and right sides. He has directed three documentary films, curated over forty exhibitions, and co-founded Juhan Kuus Documentary Photo Centre. In 2022, he co-curated a Japanese photo exhibition called “Sumimasen” with Kristel Laur, which opened in their photo centre in Tallinn.

Kristel Aimee Laur

(

Estonia

)

is one of the founders of the Juhan Kuus Documentary Photo Centre and its CEO, curator, and designer. Kristel’s educational background is a combination of psychology and design. She graduated from Tallinn University in 2001, majoring in psychology and social pedagogy (master's qualification). As an exchange student at the University of Helsinki, she specialised in creative thinking and innovation management. Later, she continued her studies at the Estonian Academy of Arts, graduating in interior design and decoration (Bachelor of Humanities) and studying textile design at a Master's level. She has curated and designed over 60 photo exhibitions in Estonia and abroad. In 2023, she received The Order of Arts and Letters from the French Cultural Ministry.

Iveta Gabalina

(

Latvia

)

is Latvian artist, educator and curator in the field of photography. She graduated with a Master in Photography at Aalto University of Art and Design in Helsinki in 2016. Her work "Somewhere on a disappearing path" has been selected amongst the recipients of CO Berlin Talents award 2013, Burn Magazine grant and CSD Documentary Essay Prize in Photography. Since 2008 she has been a member and educational program curator at ISSP which is an education platform for contemporary photography, based in Latvia and acting internationally. She is also one of the founding members of ISSP Gallery , the only exhibition space in Latvia dedicated to contemporary photography.

Organizers

NGO Kultūrinės ir organizacinės idėjos (KOI)

(

Lithuania

)

Main project coordinator. KOI is a Lithuanian non-profit that focuses on building cultural bridges between East Asia and the Baltics. KOI is one of the leaders (and original pioneers) of the Japanese cultural movement in Lithuania. Every year, KOI hosts nowJapan, the biggest Japanese cultural festival in the Baltic region. KOI also runs Creative リトアニア, a multi-genre festival in Japan celebrating Lithuanian creativity. Since 2008, KOI has completed over 45 projects, launched 6 ongoing initiatives, hosted 120+ international artists, and attracted 82,000+ visitors.

ISSP

(

Latvia

)

ISSP is a platform for contemporary photography, art and education. ISSP organizes local and international education and exchange programmes, produces exhibitions, publications and events and has gathered a thriving community of artists in Latvia and abroad, while exploring the connections between art and society. The ISSP Gallery is the central exhibition and events space for contemporary photography in Riga.

Juhan Kuus Documentary Photo Center

(

Estonia

)

The Juhan Kuus Documentary Photo Centre supports appreciation for and the development of documentary photography in Estonia as well as the showcasing of Estonian documentary photos around the world.

Head curator:

dr. Agnė Narušytė

Co-curators:

Toomas Järvet, Iveta Gabalina, Kristel Aimee Laur

Producer:

Sergej Grigorjev

COORDINATORS:

Ieva Meilutė-Svinkūnienė, Hiroko Harada, Yuichi Kawakami

Public relations:

Hiromi Kikuchi

SNS Manager:

Shinichiro Dodanuki

Production:

Ieva Meilutė-Svinkūnienė, Hiroko Harada, Yuichi Kawakami, Hiromi Kikuchi, Shinichiro Dodanuki

Design:

Head designer – Sergej Grigorjev

Digital designer – Justina Ogurkis

Catalogue design – Raminta Ramoškaitė

Exhibition design consultant – Vladas Suncovas

App programmer – Martynas Beržinskas

Texts:

Translations to Japanese – Ekotumi, Hiromi Kikuchi, Hisashi Shigematsu

English editing – Markas Aurelijus Piesinas

Japanese editing – Hitomi Sakamaki, Hiromi Kikuchi, Hisashi Shigematsu

About

First-ever joint Baltic art project in Japan. It presents more than 200 photographs by 17 authors of the golden age humanist photography of 1960-1990 and The Baltic Way in one of the most prestigious galleries of Tokyo - Spiral Garden.

What is Humanist Photography?

The humanist photography movement, born from the aftermath of World War II, highlights the importance of individual humanity over war's anonymous horrors, aiming to foster peace. Baltic humanist photographers, working under severe state censorship and a backdrop of hostility to their global perspective, employed visual metaphors, hidden messages, and "Aesopian language" to navigate and challenge these constraints. The exhibition focuses on the importance of everyday human life, freedom of expression and social responsibility of art. With the spread of fake news and the ongoing war in Ukraine, these topics are relevant and resonating with audiences.

Algirdas Šeškus

(

b. 1945

)
(

Lithuania

)

likes to say: 'but the impression that an image is not necessary for a photograph is completely accurate.' When Šeškus started participating in exhibitions in the late 1970s, few understood his works. It was difficult to justify their obvious banality, monotony, and fake amateurism: incorrect composition, overexposure, scratched negatives, crooked frames, or in other words, 'the aesthetics of boredom.' For Šeškus, a photograph is a membrane between the one who perceives and the reality: one should listen to its vibrations, instead of naming what they see. Šeškus worked as a cameraman in Lithuanian television, filming the 'correct' version of reality from 1975 to 1985. Meanwhile, he also photographed people getting ready for their performances. We see the presenters, the gymnasts, or the dancers, caught in the artificial space-time of the studio, radiating their longing for a different life. Šeškus also had a different life as a painter and participated in the avant-garde art movement. In the early 1990s, he withdrew from art until 2010, when he started publishing photobooks. In 2017, he participated in the exhibition documenta14 in Kassel and Athens. His work is included in important public collections, including the MoMA at New York and the Museo Nacional Reina Sofía in Madrid.

Aleksandras Macijauskas

(

b. 1938

)
(

Lithuania

)

prefers to get as close as possible to his subjects and capture the rough texture of their skin. 'A work of art, like a person, must contain everything – from swear words to the subtlest notes,' he says. His father was executed by the German army in 1944, and his mother was deported to Siberia by the Russians. Thus, Macijauskas was raised by his grandparents. He started his career as a reportage photographer working from 1967 to 1973, and soon became the leader of the Photographers’ Society in his hometown, Kaunas. His first photographic series 'Rural Markets' (1968–1980) documented the disappearing trade culture. Macijauskas then focused on the treatment of animals in 'Veterinary Clinics' (1977–1984). Despite the Iron Curtain, Macijauskas became known abroad, where his series would be exhibited alongside works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brassaï, Robert Doisneau, and others. Back home, the authorities often ordered the removal of his works from exhibitions because he depicted somewhat startling content, like people in their mundane clothes, a cow’s body covered with manure, or dirty wrinkled faces. The authorities blamed Macijauskas for 'deforming' and 'tarnishing Soviet reality.' But the photographic community appreciated his work for the expressive treatment of human-animal relationships with a touch of laughter and absurdity.

Romualdas Požerskis

(

b. 1951

)
(

Lithuania

)

and his friends liked to travel around Lithuania on motorbikes. In 1973, they stumbled upon a religious festival which felt a deep impression for Požerskis: 'a wooden church, a green meadow and trees lit up by sunshine, girls dressed in white, church flags, ribbons, a slowly moving procession, men and women in their Sunday best… It was a wonderful theater, a vision, which seemed like it had descended from another reality.' Next year, he began his series 'Lithuanian Pilgrimages' and continued this project until 2001. Photographing a forbidden religious subject was not the first time when Požerskis disobeyed the authorities. He had already been arrested for documenting the crowds after the self-immolation of Romas Kalanta, who committed this ultimate act as a sign of protest against the Soviet occupation. Požerskis was kicked out of the Kaunas Polytechnic for these photographs, but continued photographing people who gathered at church festivals all around Lithuania. He also documented the national revival movement and the restoration of independence during 1988–1991. Despite the prohibitions, 'Lithuanian Pilgrimages' were shown at The Rencontres d’Arles festival in 1977, where Požerskis won the critic’s and the audience’s awards. In 1990, his series was published as the book Pilgrimages in Chicago, USA.

Algimantas Kunčius

(

b. 1939

)
(

Lithuania

)

grew up in Kaunas and moved to Vilnius to study music and law, which he never finished because photography became his passion. He photographed portraits of artists for the cultural press and captured the newly discovered city: 'The sun was my guide – I followed it as much as I could.' During the summer, Kunčius would move to countryside and photograph people going to church for his series 'Sundays' (1963–1984). He would then find the same villagers enjoying their time on the beach by the Baltic Sea. His whole series 'By the Sea' (1965–2015) looks like a snapshot of a happy day which lasts for four decades as the culture of sunbathing and relaxation changes. The sea tosses the broken shards of the goddess Jūratė’s mythical amber castle onto the sand. And Jūratė herself emerges from the waters as a cardboard prop for the photographer. In the evening, everyone walks on the Palanga pier to bid farewell to the setting sun. The shimmering water elevates the transient human spectacle against the sky, sand, and water. The quality of the prints is irreproducible – the subtlest of undertones and its 'molecular' resolution animate distant expanses.

Violeta Bubelytė

(

b. 1965

)
(

Lithuania

)

hates it when people see her photographs of her own naked body as nudes. For her, this is theater, a mono-performance or a kind of painting: 'I cannot draw, but I can express my emotions through mimics, movement, scenography, or my relationship with things. My body is my paint brush. This way, I create a character who lives her own life.' As a child, Bubelytė dreamed of becoming an artist, but her family was too poor to let her attend art school. Thus, she became a photographer instead and portrayed horses she used to ride as a teenager. In 1982, Bubelytė started experimenting with her own body and creating her life-long mono-spectacle. She was recognized by like-minded photographers, but shunned and criticized by authorities and even ordinary citizens who thought such a practice was shameful, particularly for a woman. Unperturbed, she has continued this project all her life, especially as her body changes and reflects the passage of time. With her shrewd compositions and ironic titles, she mocks cultural stereotypes and social imperatives. These photographs express her thoughts – not only the beautiful ones, but also the inconvenient, the sad, and the painful states of her mind.

Zenta Dzividzinska

(

1944—2011

)
(

Latvia

)

is a Latvian artist and photographer. From 1961 to 1966 she studied at the Riga School of Applied Arts, which at the time was the local equivalent of the Bauhaus. In 1964 she attended a correspondence photography class taught by Gunārs Binde, one of the most prominent proponents of photographic art and one of the leading members of the Rīga photography club. The sad state of Dzividzinska’s archive stems from the fact that neither her life nor works were ever considered particularly valuable. Her series 'House by the River' depicts the everyday life of three generations of women in their small house in and around the Latvian countryside. Today, these images can be considered para-feminist, as explicitly feminist critiques of Latvian art only appeared in the 1980s.

Aivars Liepiņš

(

b. 1953

)
(

Latvia

)

started taking photographs in 1973 while studying journalism at the Latvian State University. Since 1977 he has worked as a staff photographer for numerous magazines and newspapers. He was one of the founders of the photo news agency A.F.I. His photographs have been published in Latvia and in various publications abroad. Alongside his work in the press, he has developed several series, like the 'Kundzinsala' and 'Siksala.' Liepiņš has been repeatedly recognized as the best press photographer in Latvia and in 1992 was among the 30 European photographers nominated for the Fox Talbot Award (Great Britain).

Andrejs Grants

(

b. 1955

)
(

Latvia

)

is a Latvian photographer and educator. He studied at the Latvian State University (1973–78) and later worked at the Ogre photography studio (1978–1988). Since 1979 he has been teaching at the Technical Youth House, where he has gained a reputation as an influential photography teacher of many Latvian contemporary photographers, filmmakers, and artists, such as Ritums Ivanovs, Arnis Balčums, and Gints Bērziņš. Together with photographers Inta Ruka, Valts Kleins, and Gvido Kajons, he founded the informal Group A at the Ogre photo studio. Influenced by documentary photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, Group A documented everyday life in Soviet Latvia in a reportorial style, often producing photographs that were full of critique.

Māra Brašmane

(

b. 1944

)
(

Latvia

)

is one of the best-known Latvian photographers whose work has been published in more than 50 books, albums, and catalogues. She started her photography studies in 1962 and is a self-taught photographer. She has worked as a photographer at the Rundāle Palace Museum and the National Museum of Art. Brašmane worked mainly in a black and white documentary style. In the 1970s and 1980s she photographed people in informal settings and made socially based reports.

Gvido Kajons

(

b. 1955

)
(

Latvia

)

has been described as both an exquisitely precise master of urban photography and a subjective documentarian. He admits that satirical street subjects are the most interesting for him, as he often finds himself in the middle of the situations he likes to depict. Kajons’s photographs are an apt and vivid testimony to the Soviet era in Latvia. His best-known series of black-and-white photographs, 'Tema 011,' were taken during the Soviet period, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The title is a witty reference to the use of numbers in the titles. In his work, Cajon distinguishes between the 'human period' and the 'non-human period,' during which the series 'Subject 011,' a satirical description of the socialist environment, was created. Alongside Inta Ruka, Andrejs Grants, and others, he is a co-founder of the informal Group A.

Gunārs Binde

(

b. 1933

)
(

Latvia

)

is one of the most well-known photographers of the Soviet era. He has received recognition for his work at the Rīga photography club. Binde achieved considerable international success in the 1960s and 1970s. His canonical portrait of the legendary director Eduard Smiļģas was awarded a gold medal at the 29th Argentine International Salon of Photography (XXIX Salón Internacional de Arte Fotográfico) in Buenos Aires in 1965. Binde developed an original method of staged photography in which he synthesized directing, imagery, the principles of a cinematic aesthetic, and documentation.

Peeter Tooming

(

1939—1997

)
(

Estonia

)

is an Estonian photographer, film director, and cinematographer. Founding member of the photo group STODOM. Winner of the distinction of the Artist FIAP. His work can be viewed as an illustration of the maxim that 'A picture says more than a thousand words.' It is fitting to a man who, in addition to countless photographs, has published around 1000 articles on photography. Both his documentary and staged photographs have a sense of intrigue that guides the viewer into the role of an active participant. Tooming found joy in the temporal nature of photography and its documentary nature. The series '55 Years Later' (1995), where he took the same shots taken by Carl Sarap in 1937, as well as the series called 'Photorondo' (1982), are the best testament to this. Peeter Tooming’s hugely multifaceted work shows us that, in his case, there is always one common denominator behind every good picture – joy.

Kalju Suur

(

1928—2013

)
(

Estonia

)

is an Estonian photographer and artist. Founding member of the Tallinn Photography Club (1960) and photo group STODOM (1964). Winner of the distinction of the Artist FIAP. Kalju Suur’s work was highly diverse, as he worked in different genres (portraits, reportage, nude photographs, and others). His artistic signature changed depending on the theme, but his greatest creative liberty can be seen in his candid pictures of everyday life. Suur captured the simple but charming moments where viewers can create their own stories. His documentary photographs were unconstrained and dynamic in terms of composition. Suur has written himself into the history books, as he was the first photographer to publish a nude photo in the Soviet press. The Glavlit (Russian censorship office) tried on many occasions to ban Kalju Suur from publishing nude photographs and, in some cases, succeeded.

Arno Saar

(

1953—2022

)
(

Estonia

)

took on odd jobs after graduating from secondary school, until he became a cameraman’s assistant at Tallinnfilm. This job also led him to photography. Later, he worked as a photographer for various newspapers. He is most known for his immense work on the Estonian punk scene. Those who took photos of punks would eventually have to deal with the censorship that was enforced in Soviet society. Fringe bands, music, literature, and lifestyles were banned or controlled by the Glavlit or KGB. Despite these prohibitions, Saar was fascinated by the extraordinary appearance and clothes of punks, who were visually intriguing subjects. Arno Saar was not always successful in evading the authorities; once, Soviet militiamen exposed his films to light, and on many other occasions he was questioned by the KGB or harassed by its officers. The authorities did not wish for these photographs to exist, but Arno Saar understood the importance of recording the life of this subculture in Estonia, even just by chronicling them. He believed that the existence of these images would make it impossible to distort history. In this exhibition, a selection of Saar’s photos of punks is presented.

Peeter Langovits

(

b. 1948

)
(

Estonia

)

originally majored in engineering and worked at the Hans Pöögelmann Electrical Engineering Plant, where he also began taking photographs and established a photo department and a full-scale darkroom at the factory. Since 1974, he has participated in more than 350 exhibitions or competitions and organized nearly 50 solo exhibitions at home and abroad. He has worked as a press photographer for the Estonian Telegraph Agency and at the newspaper Postimees. Peeter Langovits is renowned for capturing the everyday life of ordinary people in the city and presenting a documentary of human life in his exhibition 'Morning at the New Neighborhood' (1982–1984). A selection from the series is presented at this exhibition.

Ene Kärema

(

b. 1948

)
(

Estonia

)

is an Estonian photographer and photo artist. Kärema was a member of the photo group BEG and one of the few female photographers in Estonia who participated in international photography exhibitions in the 1970s. Kärema has focused on artistic photo-documentary in her work. Her large-format black-and-white photos mostly depict people and living conditions in rural areas of Estonia. Kärema’s most famous series 'Where Grandma Was Born' (1978) depicts children at an old and dilapidated Estonian farm. In this photo series, she directs attention to the intersections of different generations. Kärema highlights the painful reality of urbanization and the nationalization of farmland that happened after the Soviet occupation, causing many homes to be abandoned. Ene Kärema’s public works are limited to the 1970s. Her works mainly belong to private collections and the Photo Museum in Tallinn.

Tiit Veermäe

(

b. 1950

)
(

Estonia

)

is a photographer specializing in architectural and industrial photography. Veermäe was trained at the Tallinn Pedagogical Institute to become a high school teacher of art, art history, and manual work. Veermäe worked as a freelance photographer for various magazines and newspapers and as a photographer for the Estonian Telegraph Agency (ETA). His photos have been featured in major global publications through ETA and have adorned many books on Estonia’s reestablishment of independence. He was a member of the Journalists’ Union in the 1980s and a founding member of the Association of Photo Artists of Estonia in 1987. After leaving journalism when it turned 'yellow,' he focused on freelance commercial, architecture, and industrial photography. Veermäe also taught photography at the Estonian Academy of Arts until around 2018, concluding a significant chapter in his teaching career.

Introduction

Curators

Agnė Narušytė

(

Lithuania

)

is an art critic and curator, with a particular interest in contemporary photography and art as well as ideas linking photography, philosophy and psychology. She studied art history at Vytautas Magnus University (Kaunas, Lithuania), Central European University (Prague) and Vilnius Academy of Arts (Lithuania). Narušytė curated the photographic collection of the Lithuanian Art Museum, also lectured at the Vilnius Academy of Arts and Edinburgh Napier University (UK), edited the foreign culture page of the Lithuanian cultural weekly '7 meno dienos' and created programmes on culture for the Lithuanian National Television. In 2008, she published the Lithuanian version of this book, Nuobodulio estetika Lietuvos fotografijoje, based on her PhD thesis, in 2011 – a history of contemporary Lithuanian photography (Lietuvos fotografija: 1990–2010). Currently she is professor at the Art History and Theory Department, Vilnius Academy of Arts. In 2022 she was awarded the Lithuanian National Prize for a valuable reflection on contemporary culture.

PhD, chief curator

Toomas Järvet

(

Estonia

)

is a curator, filmmaker, and visual anthropologist living in Tallinn, Estonia. He studied law and cultural theory but always had a thing for visual arts, so he found his medium in photography and filmmaking. Things got more serious when he decided to pursue a Master's Degree in Visual Anthropology at Barcelona University, where he finally matched his brain's left and right sides. He has directed three documentary films, curated over forty exhibitions, and co-founded Juhan Kuus Documentary Photo Centre. In 2022, he co-curated a Japanese photo exhibition called “Sumimasen” with Kristel Laur, which opened in their photo centre in Tallinn.

Kristel Aimee Laur

(

Estonia

)

is one of the founders of the Juhan Kuus Documentary Photo Centre and its CEO, curator, and designer. Kristel’s educational background is a combination of psychology and design. She graduated from Tallinn University in 2001, majoring in psychology and social pedagogy (master's qualification). As an exchange student at the University of Helsinki, she specialised in creative thinking and innovation management. Later, she continued her studies at the Estonian Academy of Arts, graduating in interior design and decoration (Bachelor of Humanities) and studying textile design at a Master's level. She has curated and designed over 60 photo exhibitions in Estonia and abroad. In 2023, she received The Order of Arts and Letters from the French Cultural Ministry.

Iveta Gabalina

(

Latvia

)

is Latvian artist, educator and curator in the field of photography. She graduated with a Master in Photography at Aalto University of Art and Design in Helsinki in 2016. Her work "Somewhere on a disappearing path" has been selected amongst the recipients of CO Berlin Talents award 2013, Burn Magazine grant and CSD Documentary Essay Prize in Photography. Since 2008 she has been a member and educational program curator at ISSP which is an education platform for contemporary photography, based in Latvia and acting internationally. She is also one of the founding members of ISSP Gallery , the only exhibition space in Latvia dedicated to contemporary photography.

Organizers

NGO Kultūrinės ir organizacinės idėjos (KOI)

(

Lithuania

)

Main project coordinator. KOI is a Lithuanian non-profit that focuses on building cultural bridges between East Asia and the Baltics. KOI is one of the leaders (and original pioneers) of the Japanese cultural movement in Lithuania. Every year, KOI hosts nowJapan, the biggest Japanese cultural festival in the Baltic region. KOI also runs Creative リトアニア, a multi-genre festival in Japan celebrating Lithuanian creativity. Since 2008, KOI has completed over 45 projects, launched 6 ongoing initiatives, hosted 120+ international artists, and attracted 82,000+ visitors.

ISSP

(

Latvia

)

ISSP is a platform for contemporary photography, art and education. ISSP organizes local and international education and exchange programmes, produces exhibitions, publications and events and has gathered a thriving community of artists in Latvia and abroad, while exploring the connections between art and society. The ISSP Gallery is the central exhibition and events space for contemporary photography in Riga.

Juhan Kuus Documentary Photo Center

(

Estonia

)

The Juhan Kuus Documentary Photo Centre supports appreciation for and the development of documentary photography in Estonia as well as the showcasing of Estonian documentary photos around the world.

Head curator:

dr. Agnė Narušytė

Co-curators:

Toomas Järvet, Iveta Gabalina, Kristel Aimee Laur

Producer:

Sergej Grigorjev

COORDINATORS:

Ieva Meilutė-Svinkūnienė, Hiroko Harada, Yuichi Kawakami

Public relations:

Hiromi Kikuchi

SNS Manager:

Shinichiro Dodanuki

Production:

Ieva Meilutė-Svinkūnienė, Hiroko Harada, Yuichi Kawakami, Hiromi Kikuchi, Shinichiro Dodanuki

Design:

Head designer – Sergej Grigorjev

Digital designer – Justina Ogurkis

Catalogue design – Raminta Ramoškaitė

Exhibition design consultant – Vladas Suncovas

App programmer – Martynas Beržinskas

Texts:

Translations to Japanese – Ekotumi, Hiromi Kikuchi, Hisashi Shigematsu

English editing – Markas Aurelijus Piesinas

Japanese editing – Hitomi Sakamaki, Hiromi Kikuchi, Hisashi Shigematsu

About

First-ever joint Baltic art project in Japan. It presents more than 200 photographs by 17 authors of the golden age humanist photography of 1960-1990 and The Baltic Way in one of the most prestigious galleries of Tokyo - Spiral Garden.

What is Humanist Photography?

The humanist photography movement, born from the aftermath of World War II, highlights the importance of individual humanity over war's anonymous horrors, aiming to foster peace. Baltic humanist photographers, working under severe state censorship and a backdrop of hostility to their global perspective, employed visual metaphors, hidden messages, and "Aesopian language" to navigate and challenge these constraints. The exhibition focuses on the importance of everyday human life, freedom of expression and social responsibility of art. With the spread of fake news and the ongoing war in Ukraine, these topics are relevant and resonating with audiences.

Algirdas Šeškus

(

b. 1945

)
(

Lithuania

)

likes to say: 'but the impression that an image is not necessary for a photograph is completely accurate.' When Šeškus started participating in exhibitions in the late 1970s, few understood his works. It was difficult to justify their obvious banality, monotony, and fake amateurism: incorrect composition, overexposure, scratched negatives, crooked frames, or in other words, 'the aesthetics of boredom.' For Šeškus, a photograph is a membrane between the one who perceives and the reality: one should listen to its vibrations, instead of naming what they see. Šeškus worked as a cameraman in Lithuanian television, filming the 'correct' version of reality from 1975 to 1985. Meanwhile, he also photographed people getting ready for their performances. We see the presenters, the gymnasts, or the dancers, caught in the artificial space-time of the studio, radiating their longing for a different life. Šeškus also had a different life as a painter and participated in the avant-garde art movement. In the early 1990s, he withdrew from art until 2010, when he started publishing photobooks. In 2017, he participated in the exhibition documenta14 in Kassel and Athens. His work is included in important public collections, including the MoMA at New York and the Museo Nacional Reina Sofía in Madrid.

Aleksandras Macijauskas

(

b. 1938

)
(

Lithuania

)

prefers to get as close as possible to his subjects and capture the rough texture of their skin. 'A work of art, like a person, must contain everything – from swear words to the subtlest notes,' he says. His father was executed by the German army in 1944, and his mother was deported to Siberia by the Russians. Thus, Macijauskas was raised by his grandparents. He started his career as a reportage photographer working from 1967 to 1973, and soon became the leader of the Photographers’ Society in his hometown, Kaunas. His first photographic series 'Rural Markets' (1968–1980) documented the disappearing trade culture. Macijauskas then focused on the treatment of animals in 'Veterinary Clinics' (1977–1984). Despite the Iron Curtain, Macijauskas became known abroad, where his series would be exhibited alongside works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brassaï, Robert Doisneau, and others. Back home, the authorities often ordered the removal of his works from exhibitions because he depicted somewhat startling content, like people in their mundane clothes, a cow’s body covered with manure, or dirty wrinkled faces. The authorities blamed Macijauskas for 'deforming' and 'tarnishing Soviet reality.' But the photographic community appreciated his work for the expressive treatment of human-animal relationships with a touch of laughter and absurdity.

Romualdas Požerskis

(

b. 1951

)
(

Lithuania

)

and his friends liked to travel around Lithuania on motorbikes. In 1973, they stumbled upon a religious festival which felt a deep impression for Požerskis: 'a wooden church, a green meadow and trees lit up by sunshine, girls dressed in white, church flags, ribbons, a slowly moving procession, men and women in their Sunday best… It was a wonderful theater, a vision, which seemed like it had descended from another reality.' Next year, he began his series 'Lithuanian Pilgrimages' and continued this project until 2001. Photographing a forbidden religious subject was not the first time when Požerskis disobeyed the authorities. He had already been arrested for documenting the crowds after the self-immolation of Romas Kalanta, who committed this ultimate act as a sign of protest against the Soviet occupation. Požerskis was kicked out of the Kaunas Polytechnic for these photographs, but continued photographing people who gathered at church festivals all around Lithuania. He also documented the national revival movement and the restoration of independence during 1988–1991. Despite the prohibitions, 'Lithuanian Pilgrimages' were shown at The Rencontres d’Arles festival in 1977, where Požerskis won the critic’s and the audience’s awards. In 1990, his series was published as the book Pilgrimages in Chicago, USA.

Algimantas Kunčius

(

b. 1939

)
(

Lithuania

)

grew up in Kaunas and moved to Vilnius to study music and law, which he never finished because photography became his passion. He photographed portraits of artists for the cultural press and captured the newly discovered city: 'The sun was my guide – I followed it as much as I could.' During the summer, Kunčius would move to countryside and photograph people going to church for his series 'Sundays' (1963–1984). He would then find the same villagers enjoying their time on the beach by the Baltic Sea. His whole series 'By the Sea' (1965–2015) looks like a snapshot of a happy day which lasts for four decades as the culture of sunbathing and relaxation changes. The sea tosses the broken shards of the goddess Jūratė’s mythical amber castle onto the sand. And Jūratė herself emerges from the waters as a cardboard prop for the photographer. In the evening, everyone walks on the Palanga pier to bid farewell to the setting sun. The shimmering water elevates the transient human spectacle against the sky, sand, and water. The quality of the prints is irreproducible – the subtlest of undertones and its 'molecular' resolution animate distant expanses.