“Generation ’74” 11 European Photographers born in 1974


“Generation ’74”
11 European Photographers born in 1974

“Photo festivals organized by photographers probably differ from those planned by art critics or people with a background in social sciences, or by bureaucrats or cultural managers – as the prerequisite is a different one. For me as a photographer, the exhibitions shown within the festival programs in most cases highlight works that I would myself only dream to have created. From here rises the intention to pay respect to the artists who have created them, and to share the enthusiasm and joy of discovery with the audience. Behind the images I choose to exhibit in the KAUNAS PHOTO festival, I see and appreciate the actual people who have created them. Needless to say, I have always felt a special connection to other photographers and curators born in the same year as I, in 1974.

By launching the “Generation ‘74” project – its series of exhibitions and the book – I am fulfilling one of my dreams: to pay a modest tribute to alike-thinking people, born and raised in different countries but in the same decade – who, incidentally, have never met as an entire group, yet are connected through this collaboration. I am sure that their pictures and stories – charged with timely testimonies, feelings and experiences – are slowly but surely finding their place in the minds and hearts of other generations. The importance of their photographic oeuvre goes well beyond the “Generation ‘74” project.” - Mindaugas Kavaliauskas, Founder and Artistic Director of the KAUNAS PHOTO festival.

Photographers: Simon Roberts (UK), Nick Hannes (Belgium), Kirill Golovchenko (Ukraine/Germany), Przemyslaw Pokrycki (Poland), Tomáš Pospěch (Czech Republic), Mindaugas Kavaliauskas (Lithuania), Vitus Saloshanka (Belarus/Germany), Gintaras Česonis (Lithuania), Borut Peterlin (Slovenia), Pekka Niittyvirta (Finland), Davide Monteleone (Italy)

The new publication in the shape of a retro-styled book, “Generation ’74”, profiles eleven European photographers born in 1974. The book, published by KAUNAS PHOTO festival, premiered at the Vilnius International Book Fair in February 2015.

The book's introductory texts begin with the conception of the idea for the joint project of the '74 generation in European photography, and go on to reveal the photographers' similarities, differences and unique features.

Every photographer’s work is presented in sections that are 10 to 12 pages long, and start with a childhood picture of the artist. The sequencing of the photographers in the book is based on their date of birth in 1974. The book ends with questions posed by Irina Chmyreva, and each featured photographer's answers to them; this aids in revealing each artist's individual, transformative path through the labyrinthic medium of photography.

We invited Mindaugas Kavaliauskas, one of the book's creators, to answer a couple of additional questions regarding the publication of “Generation ’74”.

This is an interesting approach in how to choose artists for an anthology. How did you come up with the idea to focus just on artists born in 1974?

Often times projects are curated on the framework of a theme, a social issue or a method. Having curated for more than a decade, I had run across a number of great photographers whose CVs, of course, I would read during the preps. I was naturally drawn to remembering those outstanding creators, especially of documentary photography, that were born in the same year as I. I started to consciously collect their CVs in 2008.

Originally, “Generation '74” was an exhibition, part of the 11th KAUNAS PHOTO festival program at the M. Žilinskas Art Gallery of the National M. K. Čiurlionis Art Museum.

How would you describe the mood that prevailed in photography at the time that the generation of '74 began their creative activities?

Today, every one of those 11 photographers is well known in their respective countries and beyond. Some are globally renowned and celebrated figures of photography, but before they became what they are now, they, too, experienced some historical milestones. They turned 15 in the year that the Berlin Wall came down; the guys from the ‘Eastern Bloc’ were between 16 and 18 years old when their countries regained independence; and in 2004, when they were in their thirties, they experienced the expansion of the European Union. “Generation ‘74” accommodated the Internet and digital photography at a mature age, without discarding fundamental ideas about life and photography. They all have created long-term projects based on the notion that the world has been transitioning from analogically unique to uniformly global. Their attitude towards taking pictures has been imprinted by a sense of civic, social, and personal duty to make honest statements about their countries of origin, their countries of residence, and the countries that they visit on project trips. Their photographic works do not pretend to be fashionable or flashy, and are by no means superficial or glossy. Instead, they are humane, thoughtful, bitter, ironic, humorous and critical; they resonate with what people feel deep down inside, rather than what they say out loud.

Does the nationality of the photographers play a role in how their works differ from, or resemble, each other?

Sure, it does. This is the interesting part. Simon Roberts (UK) and Nick Hannes (Belgium), who originate from post-colonial countries, are real globe-trotters. They both have done titanic works on Russia and the post-Soviet area, respectively. The Italian Davide Monteleone, both in the work presented in the book and in his overall creative body of work, has never “fit” in with Italy. So, these are the ‘Western’ guys.

The Ukrainian Kirill Golovchenko, the Belarusian Vitus Saloshanka, the Czech Tomas Pospech, and the Lithuanian Gintaras Česonis all look towards the countries in their part of the word. These are just a few examples. An interesting case is the Finn Pekka Niittyvirta, whose overall work bounces between home and the bigger world – similarly to the work of the Slovenian Borut Peterlin and myself.

Well, unfortunately, I did not find (at least among my friends) a Latvian photographer born in '74. Alnis Stakle has been the most visible one at the KAUNAS PHOTO exhibitions since 2007, but he was born around 1979; and then there's a whole army of guys like Andrejs Strokins, Reinis Hofmanis, etc., who are a decade younger... There was one Estonian artist on the initial list, but his work has gone too far into conceptual spheres to feel at home in this book.

Could you describe the aesthetics of the book – its design, content, structure, etc.?

We wanted to make it a little retro... When I called Ángel Luis González (director of the PhotoIreland festival in Dublin, and a great book artist) for editing and creating the design of the book, I wanted an overall beautiful object with the flavor of a time that is both contemporary and that comes from our childhood. While addressing this very issue to another invited editor, Irina Chmyreva (director of the PhotoVisa festival in Krasnodar), I explained that I wanted to have an insight not only of works that translate the state of Europe in the first decades of the 21st century, but also an insight into the personalities and characters of the photographers. So arose the idea of sequencing based on their dates of birth. Irina proposed the idea of including interviews of the photographers (everyone answering the same questions), and a childhood picture – instead of the contemporary portraits that start every photographer's portfolio.

The orange gilded cover – that was something that we came up with in tandem with Angel. I think that at first glance, it does not look serious, just as the seventies were not...

Editors: Ángel Luis González (Spain/Ireland), Irina Chmyreva (Russia). Assistant editor: Claudi Nir (Germany)
Design and layout: Ángel Luis González
Text: Mindaugas Kavaliauskas (Lithuania), Irina Chmyreva (Russia)