Travel to the Baltic Sea region was certainly given a boost recently at the United Nations headquarters in New York City when the UNSRC Photographic Society presented a photo exhibit by Ann Charles in the south lobby of the Secretariat Building. The exhibit consisting of 80 colorful photos focused on the nature, culture, art and history of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and Finland-all part of the Baltic Sea region. The exhibit - the first of its kind at the U.N. - ran for two weeks (Jan. 19-30) and will be hitting the road as a traveling exhibition later in the year.
Due to its strategic location at the U.N. headquarters (adjacent to the institution's cafeteria) in the same building where Secretary-General Kofi Annan has his office, thousands of people passed the exhibit every single day. However, it was the colorful images and curiosity about this part of the world never before on view at the United Nations that attracted people to discover the Baltic Sea region.
Getting star billing at the U.N. show was the Baltic Sea Tourism Commission, which promotes the region's identity and awareness to the media, the tourist trade and independent travelers. The Baltic Sea region as a model of regional partnership for sustainable development - Baltic 21, was also emphasized. In addition, photos of the magnificent medieval five-star Hotel Schlossle in the Old Town of Tallinn, as well as the Silja Line (Serenade) from Stockholm to Helsinki, and the Scandic Hotel Ariadne in Stockholm were featured. Several photos on display were from the BTC conference held in October 2003. For example, the Latvian director of the Sigulda Tourist Information Center was photographed en route from Helsinki to Tallinn with BTC colleagues aboard the Silja SuperSeaCat, and her photo was later included in the Beauty of the Baltic exhibit at the U.N., as well.
The photos of the exhibit highlighted numerous Baltic tourist attractions, including scenes from Trakai, the ancient capital of Lithuania, the Estonian House (Eesti Maja) managed by Viido Polikarpus in the Old Town of Tallinn and the sculpture called "Sorrow" by Juozas Zikaras in Kaunas. Pictures of Baltic personalities on display captured a joyous Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga holding a bouquet of red roses at Columbia University and basketball legend Lithuanian Sarunas Marciulonis celebrating his team's victory as a bronze medal winner at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics at Mickey Mantle's in New York City. The exhibit also included photos of the Sea Fortress of Suomenlinna and the Sibelius monument in Helsinki, the Nobel Museum and other historical buildings in Stockholm, and Balts in traditional costumes sharing their culture at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.
Photographs of the artwork of Baltic artists Sirje Okas Ainso (Estonia) and Gintaras Jocius (Lithuania) were also on view at the show.
Gintaras Jocius first introduced his paintings of Medieval-inspired creatures from the sea at an art/music/fashion show organized by Vaiva Zaroba and produced by Zev London in New York City. His artwork was photographed by Ms. Charles, and as a result, it was later showcased at the United Nations, as well.
According to Saulius Haroldas Geniusas, representative of the United Nations Association of Lithuania at the U.N. headquarters, the pictures succeeded in portraying the spirit of the Balts.
"Looking at these photos I see that there's a lot of uniqueness that [the exhibit] managed to capture so well. It's a pleasure to see so many people being attracted to them."
Members of the media, including Lithuanian photographer Algis Norvila and Audrone Macunaite, a journalist for the Lithuanian American weekly Amerikas Lietuvis, also attended the exhibit.
Ann Charles studied photography under French photographer Jacques Hutzler, head of the photography department at the Fashion Institute of Photography, and completed a course in travel photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.