The photography exhibition of the Baltic countries has opened in Tokyo

  • 2024-05-30

This week, on May 27th, a Baltic photography exhibition titled HUMAN BALTIC opened at the prestigious Spiral Garden Gallery in Tokyo. The joint Baltic humanistic photography exhibition in Japan showcases prints from the Baltic photography treasure trove – from the 1960s to the 1990s, including the works of such Latvian photographers as Andrejs Grants, Aivars Liepiņš, Gvido Kajons, Gunārs Binde, Zenta Dzividzinska and Māra Brašmane.  

The exhibition of Baltic humanistic photography in Japan includes more than 120 works from the Baltic treasure trove, created in the period from the 1960s to the 1990s. 16 important artists of the period participated in the exhibition - Latvian: Aivars Liepiņš, Andrejs Grants, Gvido Kajons, Gunārs Binde, Zenta Dzividzinska, Māra Brašmane; Lithuanian: Algimantas Kunčius, Algirdas Šeškus, Aleksandras Macijauskas, Violeta Bubelytė, Romualdas Požerskis; Estonian: Arno Saar, Ene Kärema, Kalju Suur, Peeter Tooming, Peeter Langovits.

Despite the photographers working with different techniques and themes, they are united by a humanistic photography approach: capturing everyday life, sometimes mundane and boring, other times romanticized. "What may seem mundane and too simple to us can evoke interest in the Japanese, allowing them to get to know the character of the Baltic people," summarizes the exhibition producer Sergej Grigorjev.

The practice of humanistic photography in the Baltic States represented a constant struggle for freedom of expression, identity, and memory. This is what determined the selection of photographs for the exhibition, including critical, ironic deviations and examples of the genre of nudes, which were negated during the Soviet era.

The final stop of the exhibition is an interactive app inviting Tokyo residents to learn about the Baltic Way, which united two million people. The app offers a route around the gallery through Tokyo's streets and alleys, presenting unseen photographs, rare video material, historical commentary, and new media content. 

The collection was curated by Dr. Agnė Narušytė (Lithuania) along with curators Iveta Gabaliņa (ISSP, Latvia), Toomas Järvet, and Kristel Aimee Laur (Juhan Kuus Documentary Photography Centre, Estonia). Together, they selected over 120 works by 16 internationally renowned photographers from the Baltic States.

The exhibition will be open to June 9 at the multifunctional art centre Spiral Garden in Tokyo. 

The exhibition works bear witness to Soviet restrictions on freedom and resonate with the current situation in Ukraine. Therefore, a boutique auction is being organized for Tokyo art lovers, with works donated by the exhibition's photographers, and the proceeds will be used to support Ukrainian refugees in Japan.

More about the initiative:

Organizers: NGO "Cultural and Organizational Ideas," ISSP, Latvia, Juhan Kuus Documentary Photography Centre. Sponsors: Baltic Culture Fund, Tokyo Arts Council, Toshiba International Foundation, Lithuanian Council for Culture, EU-Japan Fest, SIGMA, Artglass, UPS, "Printing Department." Partners: Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Japan.