Thursday 15 September
Today’s first lecture is Images of Vilnius in Lithuanian Press Photography during the Polish Occupation; Tools, Symbols, Significance. This is 1920s and I want to find this interesting. It is inevitable that the cuttings are faded but the paper was read rather too quickly for the translator who was reduced to embarrassed giggles again, and it was all over in 20 minutes.
Rasa Antanaviciute, co-director of Nida art Colony finds me in a crowded room. How did you know it was me? It was obvious, you look British. I didn’t dare ask how or in what respect. We head for the Art Colony again to do the Resilience interview. I have a full and detailed questionnaire from MD and it takes an hour or so to go through it in a worthwhile manner, and Rasa is very patient. The Colony is a brand new operation and has not completed its first year. Residences for visiting artists are a key activity and are also interesting to StreetLevel so there are opportunities there.
We finish abruptly as there is a lunch for overseas speakers – a reward for contributions I have not yet made. The mayor is here again, telling how he joined the priesthood to avoid five years in the Soviet army and then discovered women.
My show is in the Artists’ House, a resource for visiting artists’ residencies. It’s a nice space though a little small; what can be hung looks splendid, to me at least. I have to say a few words and people laugh at the appropriate places and I even get some questions. Back to the Art Colony for an Open Studios evening. The work is interesting and the artists from diverse backgrounds, Sweden, Slovakia, USA and Japan, seem to have made rapid progress. They are there for 1 or 2 months so they must work and develop fast or it is all over before they have settled in.
Friday 16 September:
Today is the last day. Rather unexpectedly, as I enter the seminar venue at ten o’clock, an energetic and enthusiastic Lithuanian version of Jimmy Shand and his Band of Renown are giving it their all, and have gathered a substantial audience who are clapping, singing along and looking as if they would like some room for dancing. A remarkable way to start the day.
Sculpture and Photography is the morning’s only lecture. Interesting, the main point seems to be that, especially in the early days – Daguerre et al – sculpture was an ideal subject for long exposures because it didn’t move. Now there is plenty of time until 18.00 for me to worry or, to look at it more positively, build up the necessary adrenalin for my lecture.
My lecture, the last of the whole event, is in the afternoon just before the Photograph Nida competition results and the party. Immediately before me the two-lecturer team hand out bags of books and then run through images of what seems like a definitive list of great 20th century street photographers: Atget, Weston, Kertesz, Brassai, Frank, The New Topographics, Meyerovitz, Freedlander, Shore, on and on. A hard act to follow. The topic I chose, some weeks ago now, of Photographing Glasgow, Then and Now seems a touch parochial as I sit down at the laptop and tap the key for the first page of my PowerPoint. At the end, I receive to same applause as everybody else has had, which is a relief. One friend I’ve made this week says “You say funny things with a straight face. Very amusing, very British.” I wonder what things they were?
The party – Nida smoked fish, beer and traditional dance music – is a good way to end the week.
Looking back, out of nearly 20 lectures, the one I recall most clearly and whose photographs made the greatest impression were Igor Savcenko’s poignant and beautiful images in Alphabet of Gestures. Igor Savcenko’s poignant and beautiful images in Alphabet of Gestures, which can be found here: http://dironweb.com/savchenko/framese.htm.
Saturday 17 September
Looking back it’s been a great week and a huge learning experience for me, an opening of horizons in a country which embraces what they call art photography with enthusiasm and financial support.
by Keith Ingham