Interpreting the world through a pinhole

  • 2007-01-17
  • By Karina Juodelyte-Moliboga
VILNIUS - Will this rain ever stop? It seems that all of us in the Baltics are asking this question lately. But don't despair, there are still plenty of indoor venues 's at least in Vilnius - where you can escape this dreary weather.

If you get caught in a downpour while strolling through the Old Town, a particularly cozy refuge is the Vilnius Photo Gallery. Nestled away in the warm brick interior of a beautiful Baroque dwelling, the gallery is currently showing photographs by Gintautas Trimakas and Paulius Raciunas. The exhibit, "Nonformat: Between tradition and modernity," celebrates the simplistic form of pinhole photography.

For those who've never heard of the term "pinhole camera" perhaps the name "camera obscura" (though pinhole was accurately described by Leonardo da Vinci in 1485) rings a bell? If you're still drawing a blank, I'll explain: the pinhole camera is any box - from a carton of cereal to a windowless bedroom - with a tiny hole at one end and photographic paper at the other.
Believe it or not, but this simple invention 's the origin of the modern camera - can produce clear and detailed photographs. All you have to do is lift a flap covering the hole and let the light filter in, creating an image on the photographic paper. Voila, a photograph is made.

But just because this photographic device is primitive, doesn't mean it can't be used to create art. Clearly, photographers Trimakas and Raciunas have discovered the childlike fascination behind the pinhole camera, capturing people and objects with their simple little boxes.

The exhibit is far from conventional, from its set-up to the photographs themselves. The most striking feature is that the black-and-white photographs, rather than being mounted on walls, dangle from fishing wire throughout the room. This creates a maze-like atmosphere where you can wander in and out of the pictures, gazing down at them rather than straight-on.
In particular, six photos of Paulius Raciunas caught my attention. The images of his body, a sort of self-portrait, dangle from each other like a human puzzle. There are six additional photographs of a person standing alone in an empty Old Town (how on earth did the photographer find vacant streets in the middle of the day?!) The sequence creates an almost chilling atmosphere of solitude.

Other images are printed on wooden tablets. The ghostly faces peer out from the wood, transparent and faded as if the boards had just washed ashore. The faces are barely visible, their expressions frozen in time on the wooden canvas.
Trimakas, on the other hand, takes you on a bicycle expedition through the streets of Vilnius with a pinhole camera attached to the seat. The photographer takes a picture at every place he stops, documenting his urban expedition. Yet it's quite difficult to figure out his route, as most of the shots reveal little more than the seat of a bicycle, city walls and the sky. Nevertheless, these little hints create a wonderfully abstract image of the Old Town - a shoe repair shop here, a cafe there…

One could almost lose oneself among the dangling photographs, which float from strings throughout the gallery with no clear beginning or end. Not only is "Nonformat" the perfect escape from the rain, but it's also an escape from realism.

Vilnius Photography Gallery
Stiklu St. 4
Through Feb. 5