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rene & margaret

Our inspiration today, we found it on the 4th floor of a small apartment building, just around the corner.  We had the incredible privilege to visit the studio of Romualdas Požerskis, one of Luthania’s most outstanding photographers of the past 40 years. Together with his three friends (Antanas Sutkus, Aleksandras Macijauskas and Romualdas Rakauskas) they were a band of four that (against the state), worked extremely hard to put their country on the map by means of their photography.

Going through his images one couldn’t be more impressed by the crafts of the man who all his life had done his own developing and printing. So incredibly beautiful and technically perfect, it reminded us that we (and digital) still have a long way to go.

Especially true when you realise that all four of them more or less used the same approach, yet with completely different outcome. Sometimes for 20 years, they simple went with their subjects and photographed them. Day in, day out. Until they had a body of work that was immens and could only be shown when the time was right. Romualdus showed us his work for the ‘Catholic holidays’, which he started to shoot in 1974 and could only publish it in 1988. We seriously doubt whether there is one contemporary photographer able and willing to put so much time in their projects.

We are only one month on our way in this project…. pfff by his measures still an immense long way to go 🙂

inspiration

In our lives, we humans sometimes just run on and on in our search for more and bigger.
In this way we miss out on a lot of things and often forget that we can’t take everything that happens in our lives just for granted.

During WW-II it was the Jews who couldn’t take anything for granted and could only show deep gratitude for Mr. Philips Radio and Mr. Siguhara writing them the visa’s to safer shores. Perhaps an extreme example?! Nowadays things are not so very much different with refugees from i.e Syria who desperately hope that there will someone able and willing to grant them a future. For themselves and their family.

Not taking things for granted also means more awareness.
You are much more aware of what’s happening around you and who is there for you. Even today, when we had a meeting with the printer Kopa here in Kaunas, you can notice the friendliness and enthousiasme that they gave us in helping to realise the most beautiful books.

Just likt this Artist in Residence from Kaunas Gallery was for us a gift.
Something we never expected but are intensely grateful for. For the people we met, the students we worked with, the things we learned and the millions of impressions the city and its people gave us. It strengthens our belief that empathy is something we can’t take for granted. That we need to use it at every occasion and in every encounter we have. To let people experience that when you don’t take things for granted, when you are aware of your own perceptions, we can you feel empathy for the other, the world becomes just that little bit more beautiful and worthwhile!

Ačiū Kauno ir jo gyventojai

granted

This weekend is our first free weekend, free for some reflections on the past two weeks. We decided to go to Nida on the West coast and simply took the bus to get there. The weather grey and drizzly, perfect for some in-house reflections while looking out over the waters in front of our B&B.

In the past weeks, we walked the streets of Kaunas.
Over 155.000 steps, took us well over 122 km’s through the various parts of this town. Step by step and image by image, it created some strong reflections in our minds.

We felt the decay as well as the old grandeur.
Over a beer we discussed with three generations Lithuanians, the divide between young and old, between Russian romantics and European realists. Between the days when Lithuania stretched from the Baltics to the Black Sea and the sometime bleak days of the present. We felt the awkward history in the old Jewish getto and saw the pictures of mass murder. We were inspired by the human empathy felt in the museum of Mr. Sugihara and are puzzled about the grim presence of the people in the street. The city as such still holds promises and dreams for some, and a lot of disillusions for many others.

European money has done its best to lighten up the city, making it more beautiful by adding modern elements. Yet, literary next door are the sigs of old and bygone times because with a minimum wage of only € 300,=, a lot of Lithuanians still face poverty. Everyday the struggle for existence when your neighbours have raised an all shiny new house, is hard to do.

Kaunas in our minds is multiculti, yet it’s more of a difference in beliefs than in religion. Beliefs that are driven by the romanticised Russian history versus progress through the membership of the EU. Kaunas -and perhaps Lithuania as a whole- still has some generations to go to truly create one common identity in which there is room for all. Via our son, we came across the work of Estonian Madli Maruste (Phd Visual Sociology at Goldsmith Dept of London University) and she has said it very beautiful;

When someone`s roots are cut, then the routes in his life are disrupted as well. The city becomes a place to hide, but at the same time a place that haunts. The city is like a labyrinth of all the memories of people, who used to live there, but it is also a lost love letter to hopes and dreams that never materialised. When one ethnic group loses the places in the city that used to be the cornerstones of their identity, they might always feel homeless. Is it possible to fill this void in the soul? Can the city give them shelter and understanding, or is it hostile towards people who are the reminders of the layered history and sad secrets of a nation?

reflections

Perhaps this is also why we feel that our Art of Empathy has potential to go beyond just pretty images and nice words. Via the work with our students we connect to the new generation Lithuanians and use their process to rekindle the power of empathy. Much needed when trying to build that one identity over various groups. At the same time, images are such a big part of the history of this country that we feel we have the means to reach older generations as well. With the help of the people of Kaunas Photogallery we feel we can help start this journey in these sensitive times and needless to say but we feel extremely privileged to be a part of it.

 

reflections

Yesterday, after we did our own lesson, we had the privilege to be part of the reviewers team for the final exams of the first years students photography at the Faculty of Art at the Vytautas Magnus University. Under the direction of Romualdus Pozerskis, Tomas Pabedinskas and Laima Penekaite over 20 students faced their first semester exam, now had two additional foreigners to deal with and to do a presentation in English as well.

DNA

For us it was a great experience and surprisingly enough, our ideas and that of the teachers didn’t differ al that much. Another insight was the level of work we had to judge. In most cases simply very good and after three hours of continuous reviewing and a nice beer, we concluded it had to do with the fact that in Lithuania photography is a big part of everyone’s DNA. It appears to be simply engrained in the education of the people. Something we witnessed as well when we pas Kaunas Photogallery on our daily walks; always were people of all ages inside, looking and discussing the exhibition.

The people in Lithuania are now 25 years independent. After having suffered Russian occupation and before that German, Polish etc., they are now creating their own future. Which is no small task to do, even if you are part of the EU. We see it everyday on the streets. It feels like a divide between the older generation, who (to our taste, represent more or less the old Russian traditions), whereas the youth is distinctive Western. This divide goes even further, right into the homes of the people.

Currently, all youth is being educated in the Lithuanian language, with English as a good second language. Almost everywhere there is somebody who speaks English and if you listen to the younger generations, their English is by all standards excellent. Their parents however are a different case, they simple refuse to speak Lithuanian let alone English. They stick to their Russian or even Polish language. That’s why when you are in a shop, you can here all these languages being spoken. And although we in the Netherlands also have our local dialects, still all of us are able to speak understandable dutch. It might therefore take another 25 years for Lithuania to reach that same goal and mostly so because the older generation by that time has passed away.

divide

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