Two days in Latvia

  • 2008-03-19
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

TOP NOTCH: A select few of the numerous photos taken during the two historic events are now on display. The photos express a deep sense of pride in everyday Latvian life.

RIGA - On August 28, 1987, a little piece of photographic history was made in what was then Soviet ruled Latvia. Seventy professional photographers from all over Western Europe and the Soviet Union came together to work on a joint project documenting everyday life in the country. The project, which spanned a mere 24 hours, was titled appropriately enough "One day in Latvia."
At the time, the event's organizers 's under heavy government pressure 's refused to release the photographs to the general public in printed form. Instead, the 30,000 magnificent negatives were condemned to a storage room in the Riga History and Navigation Museum.

Exactly 20 years later, the two main organizers of the historic event, Janis Krumins and Gunars Janaitis, teamed up with two more prominent Latvian photographers to recreate the massive photo session. They named the new event "One day in Latvia, 20 years later."
They were met with an incredible amount of enthusiasm. More than 200 professional and special guest photographers, many of them able to boast award winning pictures, and more than 6,000 amateurs from all over the world traveled to Latvia to take part in the event.
The result was an incredible half million photos of Latvian life ranging from the ordinary to the monumental. A select few of these pictures are now on display along with some of the best shots from 1987 at the "Imagine Art Gallery" in Andrejsala, Riga.

Getting to the gallery is a Baltic experience itself. "Imagine" is housed in an old factory 's soon to become a contemporary arts center 's which is only accessible by walking through the graffiti-laden artists quarters known simply as Andrejsala (Andrej's Island).
The stairs leading up to the gallery are cramped and dilapidated, with long cracks running up the concrete walls. The gallery itself, by contrast, is a spacious well-maintained room with comfortable leather couches. The walls are lined with pictures snapped during the two historic days.
The photos themselves are awe-inspiring. Each one manages to achieve the goal that every photographer strives for 's each one finds a sublime beauty in everyday life.

The exhibition was officially supported by the Foreign Ministry, and it is easy to see why. The photographs, even those taken by foreign artists, convey a deep sense of pride in the country that can't  be matched even by the expensive tourism advertisements splashed across international television channels.
Both new and old pictures span nearly every conceivable aspect of Latvian life. They were taken in the countryside and in the city, they show people hard at work and people relaxing.
Some of the most touching photos were those which showed the profound changes Latvia has gone through in the past 20 years. Pictures of old ladies in crumbling, empty meat shops in 1987 stand side by side with vibrant supermarkets filled with bargain hunters and wide-eyed children.

By the same token, there are photos of things which haven't changed at all. One picture shows an old man preparing "kandza" (Latvian moonshine) using a recipe which has been passed down through the generations. Another shows two young girls in traditional dress collecting berries in the countryside.
By powerfully combining the results of these two historic photographic events, Imagine Art Gallery has managed to paint a brilliant picture of life in Latvia, spanning 20 years in two days and an entire country in one large room.

Imagine Art Gallery
Andrejosta 4a
Open till the end of March
12:00 's 18:00 on weekdays.