An alternative to creative and worldly rationality

Viktor Trublenkov took the photogaphs published in this album between 1976 and the early 1990s in Klaipėda. Chronologically, this delineates a clear context of this part of the artist’s work: in the late 1970s, young Vilnius-based photographers were cultivating a brand of photography that distanced itself from the earlier Lithuanian humanist photography school, a brand that today is often referred to as “the aesthetics of boredom”[1]; Kaunas of the early 1980s saw the emergence of “the predator section”, which also assumed an alternative stance in relation to the established tradition of Lithuanian photography; in Klaipėda, too, creative photography took a similar course, albeit without direct influences from the other big cities’ photographic trends – like other then-young authors of the port town (Arvydas Stubra, Petras Malūkas, Algimantas Maldutis), Trublenkov developed an “individual touch based on personal intuition”, which “became a certain form of protest”[2].

In Klaipėda and Lithuania’s other cities alike, the new photographic stream stood at the time not merely for a protest against the dominant Lithuanian photographic tradition, but also a “quiet”, often latent resistance to the Soviet regime and a critique of the stagnation of its last decade. Photography conveyed this resistance through everything that was traditionally conceived of as meaningless: inexpressive visual form, technological defects, capture of insignificant moments and dreary places.

On the one hand, Trublenkov’s photography belongs to the same discourse of creative work and representation of reality as the works of fellow-minded colleagues from other cities. The principal focus of this author’s photographs is on subjective emotional states which are hard to put in words and impossible to convey through clear photographic plots. What photography is unable to capture is just as important in Trublenkov’s works as that which is depicted. The lack of a decisive moment or an implied narrative is fully compensated for by “aposiopeses” filled with meaning. Blurred human silhouettes wander into the photographs from the impersonal everyday, traces of human activity emphasize the absence of people themselves, allusions to probable events point to lost opportunities, and various objects highlight the immense empty space. Perhaps the students of Arūnas Kulikauskas, one of the members of the “predator section”, captured similar views when the latter instructed them to go to the city’s vacant lots and photograph them in a way that it would be obvious “there was nothing there”. Photographers who lived different cities shared a similar perspective on the reality of the time and the creative practice which expressed that perspective: their works mutely conveyed the absurdity of the existing regime and visualized the authors’ impalpable, subjective experience of reality.

On the other hand, links with the context of Lithuanian creative photography of the time and the political circumstances can explain Trublenkov’s work only to a certain extent. The author’s works are not limited to the characteristic traits of the 1980s “avant-garde” photography, and the relevance of their content does not depend solely on the situation of a particular period. The expressive or even dramatic form of some of Trubenkov’s photographs goes beyond the confines of “the aesthetics of boredom”, and the decorative quality of a portion of his works sets them apart from the photography that rejected any “beautiful philosophy”[3] in the 1970s altogether. Details of the urban environment or fragments of nature’s forms turn into nearly abstract compositions in Trublenkov’s photographs, while another element that separates them from familiar reality is toning. Dynamic, expressive landscapes also clearly distinguish his work from the photographs by his contemporaries from other Lithuanian cities, in which monotonous, “grey” cityscapes dominated.

Although the author himself does not arrange his works into series and treats every photograph as an autonomous, complete work, images of various mundane objects nevertheless form a separate genre of peculiar still-life compositions in Trublenkov’s oeuvre. These works showcase the attention to detail and the subtle ability to detect reflections of extraordinary, almost metaphysical experiences in banal objects, which characterize the artist’s photographic practice as a whole. In a sense, the still-life works reveal the creative method which the author employs in other photographs as well – the everyday environment, various objects, plotless instants, apparently aimless movements all seem separated from their usual context and purpose, just like the objects in still-life compositions. Particularities in Trublenkov’s photographs look detached from our transient everyday life and rediscovered in the mist of eternity, where they acquire a completely different meaning – here, they only underscore the estrangement of the familiar reality and the frailty of the rational worldview.

This is why the relevance of Trublenkov’s photographs is not exhausted by the period which had spawned “the aesthetics of boredom” in Lithuanian photography, as well as its social and political circumstances. To be sure, the nature of photography itself closely ties it to the reality and a particular time captured in the image – the fragments of reality depicted in the photographs undoubtedly existed. Yet the meaning of the photographs does not belong exclusively to the context of a concrete period. The author allows the viewer to recognize existential experiences in mundane details, and conveys existence itself through metaphors of a journey, eternal motion without a starting point and a destination. Hence, Trublenkov’s works are not merely a critique of the Soviet regime during its final decade, but also a kind of photography that addresses more universal, existential issues.

Such creative work, regardless of the particular period, can forcefully reflect the conflict between an individual perception of the world and a regime that seeks to squeeze human existence into rational and utilitarian schemes. Trublenkov himself later switched to aesthetic experiments in the sphere of colour photography, yet characteristic traits of his earlier works live on and remain relevant in the photographs by other Lithuanian authors. Vytautas Pletkus discovers “gaps” in the everyday which lead to existential experiences in the independent yet shrinking new Lithuania[4], while Vytautas V. Stanionis spots them in the images of parting with the Soviet-formed, yet already vanishing social reality[5]. The intuitive brand of photography cultivated in the 1970s–80s by Viktor Trublenkov and other young photographers resounds in the creative principle formulated by Vytautas V. Stanionis in the beginning of the new millennium: “Photograph what cannot be explained with words. Do not take a photograph where a verbal explanation suggests itself”[6].

Photography created in this way is not a political or social manifesto that loses its currency as regimes change, because it shows human existence from a very personal perspective. From this point of view any kind of societal model based on conventional rational principles and an illusion of purposeful activity, as well as a scheme for an individual’s functioning in it (whether it matches socialist utopias or “the American dream”), appears unviable or even absurd. This is precisely why Viktor Trublenkov’s photographs, taken several decades ago, still retain critical potential and relevance today, under different circumstances. The subjective worldview intuitively conveyed by these images becomes an alternative to the artificially constructed political and social reality, and convinces the viewer with its authentic creativity itself, irrespective of the changing interpretations of photography.

Tomas Pabedinskas

[1] Agnė Narušytė. Nuobodulio estetika Lietuvos fotografijoje. Vilnius: Vilnius Academy of Arts Press, 2008.

[2] Danguolė Ruškienė. „Nespalvoto gyvenimo estetika“. In: eds. Darius Vaičekauskas. Arvydas Stubra. Kasdienybės šviesa. Klaipėda: Klaipėda Branch of the Union of Lithuanian Art Photographers, 2013, p. 6.

[3] Agnė Narušytė. Nuobodulio estetika Lietuvos fotografijoje. Vilnius: Vilnius Academy of Arts Press, 2008, p. 18.

[4] Vytautas Pletkus. Tuštėjimas. Kaunas: Kaunas Branch of the Union of Lithuanian Art Photographers, 2015.

[5] Vytautas V. Stanionis. Lietuva. Atsisveikinimo vaizdai. Alytus: Erdvės, 2008.

[6] Agnė Narušytė. “Tarp tuštumos ir tuštumos. In: Vytautas V. Stanionis, Lietuva. Atsisveikinimo vaizdai. Alytus: Erdvės, 2008, p. 6.

 The exhibition opening 5 p.m. 30th October 2015. 


Darius Vaičekauskas
LFS Klaipėda department‘s chairman
LFS Klaipėda department
Tomo g. 7, 91247 Klaipėda,
Tel. 8 615 49470