Through Time. An Interview with Tadas Kazakevičius
by Maya Hristova·
Written by Maya Hristova
"In Between Two Shores" is the latest series by Tadas Kazakevičius describing a piece of land between the shores of the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon, the Curonian Spit.
From "In Between Two Shores"
Lithuanian photographer Tadas Kazakevičius is self-taught but you would not think that by looking at his work. His approach to photography is classic. Most of his images are too graceful, too cinematic to be real and yet we have to believe them because they are so sharp, so focused.
This is one of the cases when you need to wonder at the extraordinary ability of the medium to trace fragments of reality through time. I have to ask myself how much one would have to experiment in order to reach that level of sophistication and technical perfection but Tadas quickly surprises me with his modesty and a healthy dose of self-criticism. "What I photograph is always real, but I very often think my images are only half as good or at least not as perfect as I was initially hoping. Using film can be quite frustrating and I am constantly questioning my process. This struggle pays back in some ways, especially when among several exposures you find that 'almost perfect' one."
Tadas shares that analog photography has taught him everything he knows about the beauty in an image. I feel I need to stay there and ask him a bit more about it "I love documentary photography and I live for this process. Though I also need pauses, I need to miss it."
It is Corona time, time has slowed down incredibly, the air has cleared, human connection although interrupted has in a way resurged and Tadas’ work resonates with me even stronger than when I first saw it. I point out my fascination with his ability to create an image of the present which feels like the past. "In photography, I often long for the past. At the beginning of my career, I often looked for something timeless, as I guess any photographer does. Almost all my themes touch on it in one way or another."
Beyond the lightness and delicacy of his visual language and his obvious flair for the past, I discover something else. A sensibility and perhaps an inner longing for harmony of humankind within nature, a concept which I discover, is present all throughout his work. In the introduction to his latest series "In Between Two Shores", we read "Maybe it is not a coincidence that humans always choose to stay close to the water as water works as an energy source."
In it, he tells the story of an unfamiliar Lithuanian landscape. A piece of land between the shores of the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon, the Curonian Spit is an area where one is never too far away from the water, where people are neither too close nor too far away from each other. "If you share the land evenly to each person living there you would get a number very close to π (3,14159), that somehow supposes the golden ratio of human and his space." A connection he discovered by chance. It all started during an art residency in the area during spring. Curonian Spit which in summer is a tourist resort busy with people becomes "mystical, almost sacred" during the colder months.
One of the most haunting images of the series is of a middle-aged man in his car. There is an imagined movement and yet the moment described remains perfectly still. "I met this man on one of my trips to that place during the year. I saw this wonderful car and I had to find who was driving it. So it happened that I met Arunas and we became both very enthusiastic about meeting again for his portrait a couple of days later. We met in the early morning close to the only gas station in Curonian Spit and went together to meet the sun by the lagoon."
Tadas obviously has his ways about setting a subject at ease I think, but then I ask myself if it is necessarily true. "For me, the most important thing is to tell the story. It is almost never easy to make the subject feel calm and relaxed, but it is a process, some sort of a dance between the two. I would agree that it is possible but not necessary. You paint your work with the images you make. So what you need most is a vision of what the overall work needs to be."
Surprised, I hear that despite being a World Press Photo, Leica Oskar Barnack, ZEISS, the RPS finalist he has not yet had a solo show. A fact I find quite curious as his vision as an artist is noticeably consistent. In "Soon To Be Gone" for instance, he thematizes the dramatic consequences of emigration which are leading to the disappearance of life in the Lithuanian countryside and are resulting in a steady decrease in Lithuania’s already small population of 3 million. Following in the steps of photographers such as Dorothea Lang and Jack Delano, he captures the spirit of a landscape and its people which is disappearing unnoticed as we are speaking.
From "Soon To Be Gone"
Another project of his also focused on migration, "Diverse Lithuania" consists of a growing series of portraits of foreigners living in Lithuania. "154. This is the number of different nationalities living in Lithuania… I feel a great responsibility to make every single nation in Lithuania visible." Not only this, but he has created an interactive website containing all the portraits he has taken together with handwritten notes by each subject giving a little insight into their relationship to their newly chosen homeland. It is a body of work that becomes an example of an immense effort undertaken by a contemporary photographer to document the society and culture he is a part of.
From "Diverse Lithuania"
Knowing a bit about his personal life sheds light on the themes he chooses to depict in his practice. Tadas was born in 1984 in Šiauliai, the fourth largest Lithuanian city, and in 2007 graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture. Soon after, he moved to London where he worked as a graphic designer. He considers living abroad and coming back to Lithuania the "miracle" which made his work possible and completely transformed his vision of home, "It gave me new eyes and made me excited about something I was previously so used to."
Slowly, I realize that Tadas’ approach is deeply dedicated not only in each aspect of his practice as a photographer but in everything he does. I wonder what all the recognition and awards he has received mean to him "No question, it motivates me a lot. It makes me happy to see that my work is interesting to someone, that it makes someone feel the same I was feeling." As an admirer of the Lithuanian School of Photography, I cannot resist asking him about it. "I am a true believer in the Lithuanian humanistic school of photography and I believe my work carries the same values." If he had to choose just one author - "Antanas Sutkus for sure."