University: Middlesex University
Artist Statement: This body of work is an attempt to portray absurd dynamics between my family members. A wedding, numerous fights followed by divorce and then remarrying, is not an expression of unconditional love but rather a result of constantly seeking comfort. It is a choice of assiduously earned material possessions over possible, more fulfilling, emotional relationships.
The place previously called ‘Home’ now brings suffocating feelings of stagnation and sensation of something broken rather than worth embracing. It is a response to things that matter but cannot be changed without the willingness to let go. The project is still ongoing.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? The standout moments for me were guest photographers' talks. It was just surreal to be able to listen to Tim Walker, Tom Hunter or Martin Parr talking about how they all began their careers, what fears they had to face, how much hard work they had to put in and so on. I could relate to them so much and even though I now see that the path I chose is not easy but it‘s something I want to pursue.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? I am mostly fascinated by people, I think we are truly interesting creatures. Especially the ones who decide to live an unconventional life. Or relationships, and how they affect individuals in long term. As well as identity and how much influence childhood has on it, how much you can shape it as an adult and in what ways.
We could name some obvious photographic influences to your work, but can you also name a few? Were you influenced by any theory? There are too many to name but specifically for this project I would say Lydia Goldblatt or Larry Sultan. Theory wise Susan Sontag‘s ‘On Photography’ explained a lot about why I was taking photographs of my parents.
What does 'home' mean to you? It‘s a complicated one. I always find myself coming back to places where I grew up and feeling sentimental about them. But recently I realised that these places doesn‘t feel like home anymore. Surely, I have some nice memories there but every time I go visit my parents, I feel as if I am teleporting myself to the past, to my early teenage years when I was so full of expectations and ready to move away from that small town and chase my dreams. The only way I can survive in that town now is to experience everything photographically – that‘s what I‘ve been doing for the past year. So coming back to the question, home means a lot, a safe place where I can be with myself, reflect on what‘s going on in my life and do things, just progress. I don‘t feel that way in my hometown anymore.
How are you planning on progressing with this body of work? Since I don‘t go to my home country very often, the progression will certainly be slow, but I am not in any rush so I will just go with the time flow about it. I feel like I‘ve missed so much already before I got into photography that I don‘t think I can ‘afford‘ to miss any more. I feel like our ability to remember is rather limited and memories we make fade away very easily, especially if there aren’t any evidence backing them up. For this reason, I have this urge to record my experiences and photography is like a super power enabling me to produce these proofs in the way I choose to.
What equipment did you use to make this series and why? I used medium format Bronica Etr-si, as I jokingly say every time someone asks this question, it was the only one I could afford from my student’s budget at that moment. On a more serious note, using film allows me to slow down and talk to a person I am photographing before, which gives him/her time to loosen up a bit and even forget about the camera sometimes. Also, editing becomes easier and less time consuming since you have less photographs to choose from. The whole process just feels more enjoyable, organised and controlled.
Why have you placed your work under the Documentary genre? I placed my work under documentary genre because I record my family’s dynamics while documenting their daily life. Even the portraits, they happen almost naturally, by that I mean I don’t stage them, I just wait for the right moment, place or mood. In a way I view this body of work as the continuation of a family album which my family stopped making once my brother and I grew up.
How would you like for your viewer to engage with your work when it's so personal to you? It is indeed very personal to me because it’s about my family, on the other hand, the idea behind it is very universal – it’s about relationships and the choices we make in order to be happy or to be comfortable – in this situation these two don’t go together.
What made you use photography to express your interest in your family and subsequent relationships?I think it was my inability to view the situation from the outsider’s point of view therefore understand what and why was actually happening. I was used to seeing them behaving like that since I was young, so it became ‘normal’ to me. In addition to that, as an old Lithuanian proverb says: ‘Nėra namų be dūmų’ meaning that every family has its own issues but not everybody sees that - this made think that there were no issues. Photography allowed me to stand back, come ‘home’ and act as if I was an outsider, someone working on a project, which wasn’t about them, I was just lucky enough to have the access.
What would be the biggest achievement for you during your future photographic career? It depends on how far in the future we are talking about, as for now, my biggest achievement would be to successfully publish my own book that somebody would be interested in and never stop learning, I think all the other things would just come as by-products.